Home Strategic Manpower Planning in the Armed Forces

Strategic Manpower Planning in the Armed Forces

Statistics tabled by the Raksha Mantri (RM) in the Rajya Sabha recently indicate that the Indian Armed Forces are short of 9,845 officers at the level of Majors / Lieutenant Colonels and equivalent. These figures as of July 2014 indicate that the Army was short of 7,899 officers, followed by the Navy with 1,499 officers and Air Force with 357 officers. The situation of other ranks is comfortable given the unemployment situation in India where the number of aspirants exceeds thirty lacs for a requirement of sixty thousands[i]. Why is there a shortage of officers? What is the reason for inadequate training infrastructure in the forces? Why are there impediments to lateral induction of  service personnel into paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies which are presently grappling with a crisis of management[ii] ? How can the Services provide better promotion avenues or reduce its alarming suicide rates[iii] ? All these issues directly or indirectly concern the realm of ‘Strategic manpower planning’.

Manpower needs of the Armed forces the world over are different and generally more complex and taxing than the corporate world. The requirement of the Armed forces to knowingly and willfully commit soldiers to a certain fatality necessitates a deep understanding and knowledge of human capital management. Manpower is the most important constituent of ‘force structure’ the other being military hardware. An ideal force structure should be so designed that it can support the prevalent doctrine with state of art technology in pursuit of the military objective derived from the existing conflict environment. Although in contemporary military thought one does not doubt the primacy of the human element however over the years in strategic planning, manpower aspect has been relegated to the rear echelon and has disassociated from the overall strategic calculation.

HR Dimension in Perspective Planning

Higher Defence Planning for the Armed forces is a complex iterative process involving a large number of agencies. National Security Strategy (NSS) articulated by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is the starting point for the process of formulation of long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) of which strategic manpower plan is a component. NSS however is too broad based to identify or enable any real capability development. Hence the most important document which would provide the basic guidelines for formulation of the LTIPP is the Strategic Defence Planning guidance (SDPG) which articulates the contingencies that the Armed forces may be called upon to respond in a fifteen year time horizon. The contingencies would be prioritised and fund availability duly earmarked for the same time span. The SDPG would be the key input for formulating the Defence Capability Strategy prepared by Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) which would enumerate each type of capability required for each type of contingency laid down in the SDPG. Thereafter, it would establish the gap in these capabilities and prioritise bridging of such gaps. The next stage would be the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) prepared by the IDS which is the government plan for investment in equipment for development of future capabilities in the Indian Armed Forces. This plan too would have a horizon of fifteen years and would list the capability required with associated time frame along with options for achieving those capabilities envisaged with broad nature of each project and impact of each project on the budget. This along with the funds as indicated in the SDPG would facilitate the formulation of a meaningful and achievable LTIPP. The DCP would be reviewed annually to cater to the changing strategic environment, improvement in technology and adjustments if any in priorities.

The LTIPP would flow out of the DCP and would essentially list out programmes and projects required to be taken up to achieve the capabilities listed therein. The three services would prepare their respective Long Term Perspective Plans (LTPP) which would be compiled by IDS under the Chief of Defence Staff after the force levels, force structures and force accretions have been studied and inter services priorities have been accorded. The LTIPP would be approved by the defence planning council headed by the RM and finally by the CCS with specific reference to force structures and equipment profile of the three services. Acquisition will be affected based on the Services Capital Acquisition Plans (SCAP) and Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP) which will flow out of the LTIPP.  All this is a very complex process and involves identifying the capability needs of the Armed Forces establishing inter se priorities, examining options for meeting these capabilities, managing projects/ programmes that flow out of the plan and provide life time support and by its nature would be rigorous, time consuming and resource intensive.

LTIPP contains a number of components e.g. research and development and infrastructure development plan, equipment procurement plan, and strategic manpower plan. The infrastructure development plan primarily aims at keeping the existing forces suitably equipped as required to ensure desirable technology profile of platforms, equipment and systems. The force structure development plan includes planning for schedule and meeting the cost restructuring the forces through additional military platforms and systems and through raising, conversions and disbandment of units, formations and establishments. Strategic manpower plan aims at projecting qualitative and quantitative requirement of manpower as necessitated by the previous component plans, forecast the qualitative and quantitative availability of the military manpower during the plan period and subsequently the annual wastage and annual intake plan so as to ensure the timely availability of right numbers of the desired quality.

Army’s Existing Manpower Planning

Owing to the constraints of a developing economy and given the Indian strategic culture, Indian Army at present is not carrying out strategic manpower planning based on the capability based model described above as LTIPP formulation does not follow the mandated top down process. The maintenance of ‘forces in being’ or accretions is worked out on a standalone basis albeit through a consultative sequence at the Service Head Quarters and form part of the five year defence plans. An assessment at a tri service level is not carried out to ascertain whether Capability A is more desirable than Capability B [iv]. Such analyses were at one time being a mandate of the erstwhile Defence Planning Staff before its merger with the IDS in early 2000’s.  It is only when we adopt capability based manpower planning models, can we plan on a holistic personnel planning viz compensation planning, lateral mobility planning to include postings and assignments, vertical mobility planning to include promotions, training planning, and finally medical and health planning which is the need of the hour.

The author is Senior Fellow at CLAWS. Views expressed are personal.

[i] Rajat Pandit, Forces battle shortage of 'fighting rank' officers ToI, 01 Dec , 2014. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ Forces-battle-shortage-of-fighting-rank-officers/articleshow/45329628.cms.

[ii] Pravin Swamy, India’s spy agencies more toothless than ever, Indian Express, New Delhi, 01 Dec. http://indianexpress.com /article /india /india-others/indias-spy-agencies-more-toothless-than-ever/.

[iii] PTI , Welfare steps for armed personnel to be fast-tracked: Manohar Parrikar, 30 Nov 2014, 04.26PM IST, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-11-30/ news/56582865_1_welfare-measures-welfare-steps-defence-personnel

[iv] Raja Menon, A mountain strike corps is not the only option, The Hindu, July 29, 2013 00:16 IST, http://www.thehindu.com  /opinion/  lead/a-mountain-strike-corps-is-not-the-only-option/article4963979.ece


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Vikram Taneja
Senior Fellow
Contact at: [email protected]
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