The newly formulated 'Defence Planning Committee (DPC)' will facilitate a comprehensive and integrated planning for defence matters. The defence planning process is expected to become more rational and will provide a much needed boost to defence preparedness.
In a significant defence policy reform, the government has revamped the existing defence planning system by establishing a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under the chairmanship of the National Security Adviser (NSA). This new institutional mechanism, set up as a permanent body, is intended to “facilitate a comprehensive and integrated planning for defence matters” a vital ingredient in defence preparedness. The Committee has a cross-section of members drawn from the higher echelons of the civil and military services. Besides, the NSA is empowered to co-opt other members as and when required. This strategic level body will report to the Defence Minister. The committee will have members as under:
- Principal Secretary PMO
- Foreign secretary
- Expenditure secretary
- Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee
- Three service chiefs
The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman of the Chief of the Staff Committee (CISC) will be the member secretary of the committee and the HQ of the Integrated Defence Staff will be the secretariat of the DPC.
Four sub committees would created with specific mandates under DPC include:
- Policy and strategy: Focus on military and national security strategy. Prepare draft reports on “national security strategy, international defence engagement strategy and prepare military doctrines and, in turn, define Indian military objectives for the future.
- Plans and capability development: To create a Capability Development Plan (CDP) and monitor timely implementation while helping secure budgetary support.
- Defence diplomacy: To evaluate foreign policy needs and identify foreign acquisitions.
- Defence manufacturing ecosystem: Focussing on R&D and indigenization while working on a structural framework to boost defence exports and priority capability development plans.
The charter of duties of the DPC is of two fold.
- It is tasked to analyse and evaluate all relevant inputs relating to defence planning, which includes, among others, the “national defence and security priorities, foreign policy imperatives, operational directives and associated requirements, relevant strategic and security-related doctrines, defence acquisition and infrastructure development plans, including the 15-year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), defence technology and development of the Indian defence industry and global technological advancement.”\
- To prepare different sets of drafts including: “national security strategy, strategic defence review and doctrines; international defence engagement strategy; roadmap to build defence manufacturing eco-system; strategy to boost defence exports; and prioritised capability development plans for the armed forces over different time-frames in consonance with the overall priorities, strategies and likely resource flows.”
The formation of the DPC is likely to bridge a key gap in the existing defence planning mechanism, which, for long, was thought would be met through the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as the ultimate arbitrator of all requirements of the Armed Forces including the planning aspects. With the DPC in place and the NSA assuming the role of de facto CDS for all practical purposes other than in operational matters, the defence planning process is expected to become more rational as well as will provide a much needed boost to defence preparedness.
The committee will factor in everything from foreign policy imperatives to operational directives to acquisition and infrastructure development plans. The intent is to enable faster decision making as now all decision making bodies, the Prime Minister's Office, the defence ministry, the finance ministry and the three services are part of the same committee, decisions on military purchases could happen faster. The DPC could have the following plus points:
- Holistic approach to national security planning, enabling a combination of diplomacy, defence and economic means to be deployed in managing threats like a two-front war, or a naval blockade of Indian ports.
- The inclusion of civilian planners into the formulation of military doctrines and objectives. Currently, this is entirely left to military planners.
However, we will have to wait & watch whether the intent and objectives of India's national security strategy and policy making will be backed by the political will of the Government. Besides the architecture mainly drawn from existing structure will function as a base for providing inputs in the policy making on national interest and national security strategy, enhance the philosophy of “JOINTNESS”. Need to watch its functioning and hoping it may not follow the way Strategic Planning Group of the NSC. The committee would work toward overhaul of management of defence by developing national security objectives and strategy and evolving planning guidelines for developing military capability.
The first meeting of the Defence Planning Committee held on 03-May-2018 and said to have deliberated upon:
- Geo-strategic landscape and agreed to chart a time-bound action plan in keeping with its broad mandate.
- Leaner, meaner and restructured Armed Forces ready for future threats to national security in the immediate and long term enabled by proper use of budgetary allocations.
- Empowerment of the Defence Forces by decentralising decision-making and increasing financial powers.
- Covering the gap in Ammunition shortage.
The DPC has a huge responsibility of bridging the gap between the existing bureaucratic bodies. It is imperative for this new institutional set-up to create a mechanism in which representatives of the ministries, defence services as well as intelligence agencies will work in close coordination.
The new mechanism is to undertake a strategic defence review, prepare a draft national security strategy, and formulate an international defence engagement strategy. The adhoc and arbitrary defence-planning without considering factors like threat assessment, resources requirement neglected self-reliance and capability gap. The issues like civil-military integration, 'jointness' and, CDS, from the Committee's charter are missing in the agenda.
The formation of the DPC may have a negative impact on the existing 'one-on-one' interaction between the prime minister and the service chiefs.