Home Restructuring Management of Defence Value Chain – Finding Match for Frank Kendall’s Job Profile

Restructuring Management of Defence Value Chain – Finding Match for Frank Kendall’s Job Profile

Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) reached a major milestone on January 25th, 2015, approximately three years after the initiative was conceived. US and India renewed their expansive defence framework for another 10 years, and decided to kick off joint manufacturing of four relatively ‘modest’ military products and explore the development of two more high-end technologies. The DTTI is being operationalised with four pathfinder projects since India wants to first ascertain how these not-so-complex technologies actually materialize on the ground. The four products to be co-produced are the next-generation Raven unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ‘roll-on, roll-off’ intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance modules for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, mobile electric hybrid power sources and ‘uniform integrated protection ensemble increment-2 (chemical, biological warfare protection gear for soldiers)’.[i] There is much acclaim and excitement on both sides. The US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a statement applauding the "ground-breaking" agreements and has described the DTTI pathfinder projects as the beginning of realisation of the enormous potential of the US-India defence industrial partnership[ii].

Notwithstanding the excitement, the agreed deliverables are rather tiny when compared to the big things that were probably on the platter at the discussion stage. Recent media reports have indicated enough on the US enthusiasm to hard-sell a score of transformative defence technologies for co-development and co-production under the DTTI, ranging from the next-generation of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters to long-endurance UAVs and 127mm warship guns[iii]. The reason for reduction in scale and scope of agreement has been guessed by many as scepticism and inhibition on part of the Indian establishment[iv]. Since leaders of both countries have pledged to take the DTTI co-operation to the next level, it would be only prudent to examine and address the causes of such scepticism.  Has the ‘modesty in scope’ to do something with reliability of US as a long term defence partner or is it the inability to appropriately gauge the nature, content and outcome of what is packaged as transformative defence technologies?  

The answer to the above question is not really very difficult to guess. The phrase ‘path-finder projects’ says it all. The country’s defence establishment apparently has an end-state in mind, but it is not sure of the path that it needs to follow and hence the hesitation. Why we are unable to predict the path to the desired end-state is also not a very tough question. The nature of DTTI engagement, and the profile of its lead participants in the last three years, gives enough clues regarding our inabilities to find true value in what is being offered. The DTTI on inception was co-chaired by US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, and by the National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon. Exclusivity of job profiles of the personalities co-chairing the initiative is absolutely baffling. Ashton Carter at that point of time was equivalent to something like the Rajya Raksha Mantri or even more in the Indian context. Specialists dealing with acquisitions, technology and logistics were right in the hierarchy below him and he was deeply involved in such issues. But the same cannot be said about the NSA who may have been an equal in protocol but is by far much less acquainted with the nuances of functioning of the Office of the Secretary Defence Production, or the Secretary Department of Defence R&D, or even that of the Director General of Acquisitions. Meaningful and result-oriented dialogue between such co-chairs with such incongruent job-profiles is just not feasible.

The latest set of DTTI co-chairs are Frank Kendall and G Mohan Kumar. Frank Kendall is the US Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)) and is the principal staff assistant and advisor to the Secretary of Defence and Deputy Secretary Defence for all matters concerning acquisition, technology, and logistics. His responsibilities include supervising defence acquisition, formulating policies for acquisition, procurement of goods and services, research and development, developmental testing, and contract administration. He is also into making policies for logistics, maintenance, and sustainment support and even those for maintenance of the defence industrial base of the United States[v]. Mr. Kendall has over 40 years of experience in engineering, management, defence acquisition, and national security affairs in private industry, government, and the military. He has been a consultant to defence industry firms, non-profit research organizations, and the Department of Defence (DoD) in the areas of strategic planning, engineering management, and technology assessment[vi].

On the other hand, the Indian co-chair is the Secretary Department of Defence Production since Sep 2014[vii], and his present charter is restricted to development of a comprehensive production infrastructure. The Indian co-chair’s job profile is a small subset of what USD(AT&L) deals with. Therefore, whenever Frank Kendall comes to India, he needs to meet three counterparts, who head three different departments. He calls upon the Defence Secretary in whose domain rests the acquisitions functions, than meets the Secretary of Defence Production who controls the defence industrial base, and also interacts with the Director General of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development. The proposals for so called transformative defence technologies are than interpreted by three different Departments mostly independent of each-others and sometimes may be in consultation with the Service Headquarters.       

The convergence of ‘Acquisition’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Logistics’ that exists in the US DoD is at the level of USD(AT&L), who is two levels below the Secretary of Defence (Cabinet Minister equivalent). However, in India it happens only at the level of the Raksha Mantri. Such convergence at the level of officials is a must for interpreting the package of transformative defence technologies from the systems perspectives of ‘Acquisition’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Logistics’. Moreover single-point co-ordination of the defence value chain is also essential for ensuring that turf interests remain secondary to what is in the best interests of the armed forces. Convergence can be achieved either through collegiate decision making or by restructuring the departments and creating an equivalent of USD(AT&L) who is fully responsible and accountable for the defence value chain. The advantages of the Frank Kendall’s job profile are very obvious. It enables systematic and strategic co-ordination of entities that form the defence value chain, starting right from technology development to acquisition to production and finally sustenance till discard. Such co-ordination is the very essence of Supply Chain Management and its time we take measures to implement it.          

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

[i]  “India, US to kick off joint production on 4 defence projects” retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-US-to-kick-off-joint-production-on-4-defence-projects/articleshow/46016217.cms 

[ii] “Hagel Praises New Defense Cooperation Agreements With India”, DoD News, Defense Media Activity. Retrieved from http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128033

[iii] ibid i

[iv] There may be misgivings on the part of US as well, but the author chooses to restrict his views to the Indian defence establishment.

[v] Retrieved from http://www.acq.osd.mil/index.html

[vi] Webpage of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics retrieved from http://www.acq.osd.mil/bio_kendall.html

[vii] Retrieved from http://persmin.gov.in/ersheet/MultipleERS.asp?HiddenStr=01OR019400


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