Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who got the additional charge of the defence ministry a week ago, has given the green light to widespread military reforms.
The reforms are based on a report by the Lt General (retired) DB Shekatkar committee, which made recommendations on enhancing the combat potential of India’s three armed forces, rationalising the defence budget, and improving the teeth-to-tail ratio.
The committee set up by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar in 2015 submitted its report on December 21 last year.
Sources at the defence ministry headquarters in South Block said Jaitley reviewed on March 18 a presentation on a new strategic partner policy, plans to create a chief of defence staff (CDS) post, and restructuring of higher defence structures along with the Shekatkar committee report.
Two days later, he approved about 90 key recommendations of the Shekatkar committee.
“The Shekatkar committee had apparently exceeded its brief with some 200 recommendations. The defence ministry whittled it down to 120, of which some 90 were approved by Jaitley. The ministry expects all the proposals to be implemented in the next two years,” a senior official said.
Defence secretary G Mohan Kumar has written to the three services headquarters to implement the proposals.
The ball park figure of Rs 25,000 crore is expected to be saved if the committee’s proposals for rebalancing military expenditure are implemented.
The panel wants the military to move out of non-core areas such as the National Cadet Corps (NCC), remove duplicity among the three services, and make institutions such as the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and ordnance factory boards more accountable through project audits and by shelving outdated concepts.
“For instance, an entire Signals unit was tasked to listen to radio broadcasts from the 1962 war. This unit will be disbanded with the troopers redeployed into other tasks. The recommendations are not aimed at cutting jobs but making the military lean and thin,” the official said.
The Narendra Modi government is expected to clear soon the creation of a CDS post and the strategic partner policy, which will boost the “Make in India” campaign in the defence sector.
A major recommendation is that the defence budget should be 2.5% to 3% of the GDP. The committee called for redefining the revenue and capital heads in the budget.
In broad terms, revenue means money required to maintain the military, while capital is spent on acquisition and modernisation.
The army, with 1.3 million personnel, could get the major chunk of the budget — above navy that has around 55,000 men and women, and the air force, which employs around 150,000.