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Integrating Quality Assurance Agencies in Defence

Integrating Defence Quality Assurance Organization is need of the hour; the restructured single entity to work directly under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deal with the Quality and life cycle issues of Defence product range. The organization need to have accountability and transparency with a mandate to manage services delivery within the agreed Performance, Cost, Time and Risk.

Recently Government has created the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as head of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), within the Ministry of Defence and function as its Secretary. In addition to other functions the Department of Military Affairs will be dealing with the procurement exclusive to the Services except capital acquisitions, as per prevalent rules and procedures and promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services through joint planning and integration of their requirements besides promoting use of indigenous equipment by the Services. With above development there is need for restructuring some organizations associated of Product Quality and Life Cycle issues for greater organizational effectiveness to meet the future challenges posed by problems of rapid obsolescence, greater user awareness, cost consciousness and brisk technological advancements in various fields.

The quality function encompasses all functional areas from customer's perspective to product assurance, service consumption during the complete life cycle and satisfaction. The current system of Quality Control function of defence equipment is mainly based on production shop floor level activity and is a miniscule sub-set of overall Quality Assurance (QA) activities. In the changed scenario, the Quality Assurance function has to have inherent capability to redefine/transform itself from controlling function to a facilitating function by being associated with identification of requirements, mapping existing knowledge of the platforms, identification of the gaps, fill the knowledge gaps, and continually expand the base to meet the requirement. This requires a closer and intimate association of QA with organization associated with the product life cycle, hence the need for restructuring the present set up.

Quality and Risk Assessment
The process of procurement and management of material resources directly affects the quality of the final product and the ultimate Users always place a great premium on quality and reliability of systems under procurement/acquisition. The main role of QA agencies is typically visible only during the production processes and the Acceptance Inspections.

Multiplicity of QA Agencies within MoD
India is, undeniably, known to have a complex, multifarious and multilayered agency based control system, and especially so in the matters of defence acquisition and production. Take an example of Quality Assurance in defence - there are number of QA agencies existing within the MoD, with different cadre structures and each having different reporting channels and each having different work processes, procedures & ethos. Beside there have been some issues from Users relating to lack of User interaction in post production services or life cycle association, no single point of contact, delayed response to industry testing or sharing and induction policy officers and their orientation etc.

Various QA agencies and organizations are:
(a) Under DDP
• DGQA, which is the largest of all Defence QA agencies, provides QA to all equipment used by the Army and the Navy (except Naval Armaments).
• DGAQA, which provides QA to all Aeronautical and Airborne stores including the Air Armaments.
• MSQAA under DGAQA, in tandem with SSQAG, providing QA to full range of missile systems.

(B) Under Service HQ
• DGNAI, which gives QA cover to all Naval Armaments stores.
Note: -1. Directorate of Standardization of standardization under DDP

2. User Maintenance Agencies, which are the MRO Organization with each users for in-service QA cover.
A look at the graphical depiction of the inter-se status of each of these QA organizations will reveal that the Users, Defence R&D, Government Production Units, the PSUs, the QA agencies and the other allied/related organization etc., all are individually operating not only under different Controlling Agencies, but also working exclusively within their own domains. Each QA organization has its own set of departmental SOPs and Ministerial/Govt. orders, governed by a plethora of own/international standards and specifications. Hence, besides having wide diversity and non-uniformity in QA functioning across the range of defence fighting machine, a very elaborate bureaucratic system comes into play, which sometimes preclude effective mutual interaction on common issues of an equipment in totality viz from the Cradle to the Grave.

Conflict of Interest
While product quality is a production function and Quality Assurance ought to be independent of the organization to be checked. Organizationally, this is a weak area as in our defence production set up as most of the QA agencies are under Department of Defence Production i.e., the department responsible for domestic production of military assets. So, there is a clear case of conflict of interest. The monopoly of Department of Defence Production has been recently in news for all the wrong reasons. Performance of the Govt. units in Defence Production can well be gauged by going through several reports of Parliamentary Standing Committees report (2018) and the CAG reports of 2007, 2010, 2014, 2015 etc. over the last decade. The common thread of all the findings was the DPSUs inability to deliver on several fronts, time and cost overruns, defects and quality issues. These resulted in accidents, grounding and unservice ability of platforms for a long period, affecting the operational preparedness. The accidents and adverse observations regarding defective platforms or ammunition and the functioning of the DPSUs and OFs is well documented. The recent serious lapses have been providing fresh fuel to the fierce debate over the state-run manufacturers on quality, productivity & innovation and work ethics. In the existing environment the issue of product liability & the terrible consequences of hardware not being subject to product liability coverage from the production agency is not discussed as per developed countries norms. To highlight the issue recently a Foreign OEM refused to take responsibility for product made by DPSU as the OEM “could not risk its global reputation”.

Need to Create Single QA Organization
Therefore, there is need to integrate the QA organizations into one cohesive entity, without affecting their individual charter of duties and mandated responsibilities, outside the purview of DDP for improved efficiency and accountability. Such an unified umbrella organization will not only have an advantage of removing/minimizing duplicity and redundancy in quality levels and quality management practices across all agencies, but also result in synergizing and reinforcing the Best Practices of each other, which would be of a great advantage to all stakeholders and saving the nation to the tune of Rs 100 Crores every year. Simultaneously, various QA activities also need to be standardized, which could be achieved by making Directorate of Standardization integral to restructured unified QA organization. DGQA, by virtue of its wide-ranging and deep core competences, could be the nodal agency of the new amalgamated unified QA entity.

Integrating QA Agencies
The concept to have a Unified QA, fully in conformity with the practices as followed by many militarily advanced developed countries and to integrate it with the Defence Procurement Organization (DPO) needs to be given a serious consideration. Model of ARMSCOR, the Armament Corporation of South Africa or like DGA of France would be an ideal model to follow. This single and fully autonomous organization is mandated to carry out all functions on behalf of the their Armed Forces as well as their DoD viz. R&D, Indigenous Production, Exports, Full QA (including during pre-procurement, trial evaluations, production, in-service e.g. failure analysis, operation of T&E facilities including firing ranges etc., and right upto disposal stage), in-service upgrades, etc. Such a single window concept is also followed globally by many other countries, where the QA is an inbuilt entity in the procurement management. The suggested unified QA organization as integral part of unified services could be as shown in Fig.

There is an undeniable need to have a fresh look at the Defence QA System to keep up with the prevailing trends and contemporary Best Practices all over the world. It is now opportune time to re-organize/re-vamp the whole gamut of QA organizations and QA activities, with a view to attain parity with the best of emerging trends the world over. All QA agencies being inherently second Party QA agencies, and removing the conflict of interest would also fully be in-line with the recommendation of the CAG that QA agencies need to be suitably distanced from production organizations.

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