SQR in DPP 16 : Many A  Pitfalls That Need To Be Avoided By The User

VK Saxena

DPP 2016 provides multiple dimensions especially in the domain of SQR, while these dimensions are opportunities, these can also become nightmares, if due care is not exercised......

Euphoria Catching Up

Ever since 28 Mar 16, when the Honble RM released the part copy  (Chapters 1 to V)  of DPP 2016 in soft form at the Defexpo, a mixed euphoria of the same is catching momentum in the informed circles. While the subject matter experts of all genres are analysing the fine print for their interpretations on hits and misses, the User is trying to come to terms with the territory that is heretofore uncharted and in that, trying to get to the grips of new provisions and procedures. I wish to offer my inputs in the domain of SQR which in my opinion, has become more challenging in its DPP 16 avatar, simply because, it offers more goodies for the 'knowledgeable taker'; and a doom for the gullible.

SQR - What to Say?

There is hardly a need to rub home the cardinal importance of the SQR. If this one brick slips, the house built over 5-7 years just comes crumbling down. With my experience, I can quote few snapshots:-

  • In the era when RFI was not a must, a vendor confirmed of a particular characteristic in the operational capability column. It later turned out to be a false claim. The case doomed on single vendor.
  • During a GSEPC, a member (connected only very remotely to the system being procured) recommended for dimensions of the system to be included instead of the generic capability statement of the system being capable of rail transportation. This became a crippling factor later, and condemned a fine case to a resultant single vendor with all its attendant hick-ups.
  • Bitten by the bug of exactness and over-specification, a SQR went to the extent of specification of vehicle configuration to the last detail. When faced with realities of actual availability of vehicles types, the case got bogged down.
  • On a possible trial abroad case, one of the worthy commentator on a GSQR insisted on adding the word 'terrain like India' instead of 'terrain similar to India'. Thankfully the confusion was not allowed to prevail and procurement ultimately happened.
  • A case started as a single service SQR, somewhere down the line, it was decided to convert it to JSQR. Once on this track, the tri-service reps continued to add 'my specific requirements' till the time the 'common minimum format' lost its identity and became so unwieldy, that it crumbled under its own weight.

New Challenges

All these were simple woes which related to a unitary dimension of SQR. DPP 2016 provides multiple dimensions.  While these dimensions are opportunities, these can also become nightmares, if due care is not exercised.

New Dimensions

The current format of SQR has the following two parameters:-

Essential Parameters - A (EP-A) — Parameters that are a part of the contemporary equipment available in the market and form the core of the SQR. These are to be tested and validated at the FET stage itself.

Essential Parameters - B (EP-B) — Important attributes of these parameters are as under:-

  • Not available (NA) originally in the equipment fielded for the FET.
  • Can be developed and achieved by the vendors using available technologies.
  • May also be included in the SoC for provision of partial quantities of items being procured.
  • These are meant to meet different/higher specifications for specific operational requirements.
  • Need to be tested and validated within a specified time frame, as stipulated in the Contract.
  • Above tests must validate that (by having essential Parameters B) there is no adverse effect on any of the Essential Parameters A.
  • The vendors should be able to substantiate (provide evidence to support) the EP-B.
  • Vendors need to provide an undertaking (by way of an additional Bank Guarantee between 5-10% of contract value) at the bid submission stage that they will develop and meet EP-B.
  • AoN according authority to decide on the percentage of Additional Bank Guarantee.
  • Failure to meet EP -B in the stipulated time frame will make a vendor loose ALL bank Guarantees (Performance, Additional and Advance, if any).
  • EP-B is non-negotiable requirements to be met by the vendor prior to the commencement of equipment delivery.
  • EP-B to be incorporated only when required
  • To be approved by DAC
  • Not to be included if two or more vendors possess (the capability) at RFI stage or in an ab-initio single vendor case.

Points of Caution

Following points come to mind:-

  • When exactly will a user require using EP-B? To my mind, more of an exception than a routine, and for good reason. The litmus test to be passed is- "This is something that I essentially require to meet my operational requirement. Presently, it is NA across board but it is my (User's) conviction that the current technology can achieve it. This conviction is also to be substantiated by the vendor, upfront".
  • Even before the vendor substantiates (or otherwise) the conviction of the user, the later better be sure that the 'stretch' (implying currently NA) capability is something, that is 'essentially' required. This will mean by implication, that the contemporary products in the market do not meet the operational requirement (though a little stretch can meet it). Such situation is indeed rare because my take on the evolved (evolving) defence market today tells me, that products that meet the essential requirement of fighting today's wars and the ones in the foreseeable future, are more 'there' than 'not there'
  • Taking it forward from here, EP-B will then essentially relate to the technologies that are in the process of realisation. Part realised in the form of products that meet the essential 'core' requirement and a part as 'work-in-progress, essentially realisable in a finite and an assessable time frame.

Some examples from my domain of core-competency:-

  • Here is an AD Gun-Missile System (ADGMS) which features terminal guns and a VSHORAD missile (Fire and Forget Type) on one/separate platform.
  • While the above meets the 'core' requirement of the SQR, the user will like to have the following:-
  • Equipment essentially configured on one chassis.
  • The VSHORAD missile should also get a cue from the Fire Control Radar (FCR) during target lay.
  • The vendor(s) had been working on both the above parameters. While the single chassis is nearing realisation, the FCR cue requirement is a work-in-progress and will be realised in not later than six months.
  • Another one:-
  • A Low level Light Weight Radar (LLLR) is being procured. While a bulk of this equipment is to be employed in the plains/semi dessert sector, a miniscule number is also to be deployed in the High Altitude Area (HAA) / extreme HAA.
  • None of the equipment currently available is capable of HAA/ Extreme HAA requirement.
  • Vendor/vendors are otherwise confident that the environmental hardening /modification required to operate in the HAA is well within their technological reach. This can be completed in the finite time and they would be able to achieve it.
  • EP-B for a miniscule requirement is quoted.

The above examples are cited for the sake of citing examples. Most of the time, an EP-A based SQR will be able to meet the operational requirements. As a matter of fact, the world-wide market evolved/evolving products are available for a wide continuum of operational canvas.

Remember, with EP-B there are other very important requirements:-

  • It is not only the user but the vendor also has to substantiate, that the requirement is supported as true (substantiate).
  • He has to confirm that it is possible to achieve the capability being sought in some finite time frame.
  • He has to provide Bank Guarantee related to substantiated EP-B to be realised.

Points of Caution:-

  • The vendor needs be very sure on what he substantiates and what time-frame he commits towards its realisation.
  • He be well advised to note that the failure to meet the non-negotiable EP-B will not only make him loose the Additional Bank Guarantee but also the Performance Guarantee.

In the above context, without sounding negative, I just want to state that Technology development is not a Geometrical Theorem that smoothly proceeds from the statement of problem  to the QED, there are many a slips in this slow evolution process which need to be appreciated a-priori, and catered for accordingly.

Both the user and the vendor must also appreciate one another fact and that is, that EP-B realisation is hooked to the commencement of equipment delivery. A non-realisable EP-B ( for whatever reason, even unforeseen)  will translate into continued equipment void for the user due to non commencement of delivery and inventory holding cost of realised equipment for the vendor that cannot be delivered. Yes, things will be kick-started forward in the fait-accompli mode, once a lot of money slips out of the hand of the vendor.

Another point of importance is the fixing of percentages between 5-10% for different parameters of EP-B. The DPP assigns this responsibility to the AoN according authority. My take is, that it is highly professional task and will demand high calibre subject matter experts (related technically and operationally to the vertical of the equipment being procured), as well as financial experts. While the latter are available in the AoN according authority, inputs from the former need to be taken comprehensively and evaluated properly.

Essentially, the above will be an exercise of weighing in each of the EP-B parameters and assigning it comparative weightage on a common reference scale so as to state how important is a particular EP-B feature in relation to the overall SQR requirement.

With the above comparative inputs at hand, the financial experts will then be able to decide on the percentages for parameter(s). The pool of experts in the now evolving Army Design Bureau (ADB) and similar other outfits already in existence with the other services could be a good source to seek inputs.

On the flip side, I feel that the current taboo on putting in EP-B in an ab-initio single-vendor case needs a re-think. There could be a perfect case that a technology actually required in the SQR may just be at the tipping stage and in the capability domain of the single vendor. With controls of Bank Guarantee and more in our hand, I feel, we can swing in EP-B in this case as well, without being fleeced or delayed inordinately.

Enhanced Performance Parameters (EPP)

First the Whites:-

  • EPP enhances the capability of the equipment vis-a-vis Essential Parametres (EP)
  • SQRs may not contain EPP in all cases.
  • Inability to meet the EPP not a disqualification for bidding/bid Evaluation
  • Details of EPP to be provided (upfront) at the time of submission of technical bids.
  • To be tested for compliance at FET.
  • EPP to attract a credit score by cost up to a max of 10% with any of the individual virtues not exceeding 3%

Examples of EPP are easy to fathom:-

  • In a SRSAM procurement case the SQR range is 15 km. Here is an equipment that offers a higher range which actually enhances the capability of the SRSAM vis-a-vis the EP-A.
  • While the SQR specifies a minimum Single-Shot Kill Probability (SSKP) of 85%, here is a product that offers a much higher SSKP.
  • EPP is actually a very important provision which actually addresses a long-standing anomaly. It goes like this:-
  • The SQR states some parameter which is given out in minimum terms (min range xxxx/ minimum altitude coverage xxxx/ etc).
  • In this, the equipment that just qualifies the minimum threshold used gets to be in, while better equipment with higher capability had no chance because it could never match the LI quote of the minimalistic entry. Simple logic of cost -for- quality.
  • This is aimed to be addressed now as the higher capability weapon system which actually enhances the EP-A also gets cost compensation in L1 calculus.
  • The net gainer will be the user.

The only issue in the EPP is the task of assigning credit scores to the individual EPP parameters.  Something which will require a very high degree of technical and domain expertise. As I said earlier, the AoN according authority will have to make it bear heavy on the proposal.

At the end, I wish to reiterate the four Mantras of the SQR, namely, Detailed, Realistic, Achievable & Verifiable and if these are not lost sight off , the rest will fall in place.

The author is the Ex-Director General of Army Air Defence. (The views expressed in this article are those of the author in his personal capacity.)

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