Home Rebalancing and Resizing the Army

Rebalancing and Resizing the Army

Two committees have been formed in the past few weeks to recommend policy reforms specifically relating to manpower issues of the Armed Forces. The first one is Defence Minister appointed committee headed by Lt Gen DB Sheketkar which will recommend measures to “Rebalance” defence allocation between revenue and capital expenditure and specifically recommend cutting down manpower without impacting the operational preparedness.The second committee ordered by Chief of Army Staff relates to “Right Size” the Army. As the name states it aims to study the teeth to tail ratio of all organizations and recommend rationalizing of manpower to achieve savings and balance revenue and capital expenditure.

The Seventh Pay Commission in its report to the government brought out comprehensive data pertaining to the expenditure related to manpower which needs to be looked at seriously to introspect on the state of manpower in the Army. Following aspects are important:

  • The total strength of Defence Forces is 13.86 lakh, which constitutes 29.49 percent of a total Central Government manpower of 47 lakh.
  • Army, being man power intensive, comprises a strength of 11.64 lakh which is 85.25 percent strength of Defence Forces.
  • Defence pay and allowances as percentage of Defence expenditure is 41.12 percent of  budget, while Operations and Maintenance expenditure and Equipment Procurement and Infrastructure Construction expenditure was 15.26 percent and 43.62 percent of Defence Budget respectively in FY 2012-13.In case of the Army, expenditure on pay and allowances during FY 2012-13 was 65 percent of its revenue expenditure. The corresponding percentages for the Air Force and Navy were 46 percent and 43 percent respectively.
  • The percentage of expenditure on pay and allowances out of the revenue expenditure would rise substantially once the recommendations of Seventh Pay Commission are implemented in the near future, severely impacting the availability of funds for Capital Expenditure.
  • The need to ‘Rebalance’ and 'Right Size’ couldn’t be more necessary and timely, especially from human resources perspective. Equally important is the need to introspect on the necessity of current hierarchical structures and organization which have been largely the legacy of British era and in existence over decades.
  • As per statistics brought out in the Seventh Pay Commission Report the current officers sanctioned strength of the Army is 44727. The shortage of officers as on June 2014 was approximately 23 percent, indicating that Army continued to operate with approximately one fourth less officers sanctioned strength.

As is known the Army has a steep hierarchical pyramid where bulk of officers strength serve in lower and middle ranks upto Lt Col. Beyond this the career progression of officers is based on vacancies and selection.  While the government has been carrying out a periodic review of cadre structure, the same has failed to meet the aspirations of a large number of officers due to non availability of vacancies in select ranks. The problem is more acute in services and technical arms. Resultantly, there is a bulge in the middle with most officers stagnating at Lt Col/ Col (Time Scale) ranks relatively early in their career with a residual service of more than 15 years. These officers move on to man numerous appointments in formation headquarters and other establishments which over a period of time have become over staffed. This leads to frustration and impacts the overall well being of the Army.

The two Studies ordered would need to focus on the structures of organization and review necessity of having such a large officer’s cadre whose aspirations cannot be met when compared to their counter parts in other services They could introspect as to how the Army has continued to function with shortages of officers and explore the feasibility of abolishing appointments which can be tenanted by subordinate ranks of JCO’s where there is an equal necessity to carry out reform.        

The next area of focus for the committees should be the structure of our rank profile at subordinate and lower levels. The bulk of the Army comprises of over 11 lakh personnel in JCO’s and other ranks. The rank of JCO’s is peculiar to the Indian sub continent or in armed forces with a colonial past. The strength of JCO’s is approximately 15 percent and  has increased steadily over a period of time, more as a welfare measure to meet the aspirations of other ranks, specifically in combat arms. JCOs, with the exception of religious teachers, rise through the ranks, having served long years as other ranks and are able to reach the rank of JCO mostly at the end of their careers. The education standard of most JCO’s is class X and VIII for Group X and Y respectively which is woefully inadequate in current environment, although some of it can be offset by experience gained through the number of years served in respective arms/services.

The need to carry out reforms at level of JCO’s needs to be seriously considered beginning with direct recruitment of a part of JCO’s through an all India competitive exam. There is an abundant supply of educationally and professionally qualified manpower available for direct recruitment at subordinate levels. This could herald a major reform and provide a professional impetus with young JCOs manning crucial appointments as directly recruited platoon commanders/ troop leaders and GPOs in combat arms. Similarly, induction of technically qualified JCOs would bring about a quantum change in the profile of technical arms/services. The move to directly recruit at the subordinate levels needs to be seen from the perspective of bringing about a revolutionary change in the cadre of JCOs as also transferring a part of responsibility away from officers who should essentially be groomed to tenate leadership roles at higher ranks. The directly recruited JCOs career progression over 30 years should elevate them to the rank of an officer midway to take on staff appointments in units and headquarters. The move will bring about a revolutionary change by inducting young JCOs to lead men. This could also ensure a craving amongst other ranks to enhance their education qualifications to match up to the newly inducted subordinate ranks.

The education standards in the country have witnessed a paradigmatic evolution over the last few decades. Yet we continue to recruit young men into the army with lower education qualifications.  There is a requirement to harness this trained manpower into the army by enhancing entry level educational qualifications and through multi tasking of appointments at lower levels across all combat arms and services. The beginning needs to be made by reducing redundancy in all arms through supplanting technology with manpower and doing away with non essential elements.

The appointment of two Committees has come at an appropriate time. We should not shy away from crucial reform to make the Army a leaner fighting force.


Brig NK Bhatia,SM(Retd) was the chief Instructor at Military Intelligence School.

 

 

 

 

References

http://7cpc.india.gov.in/pdf/sevencpcreport/pdf

http://www.thehindu.com

http://www.business-standard.com

 

 

 

           

           

                                                         
 

 

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Brig NK Bhatia

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