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CDS to be secretary of new Department of Military Affairs, no impact on defence secy post

The new Chief of Defence Staff will be a secretary in the Ministry of Defence, just like the secretaries of defence procurement and ex-servicemen welfare.

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New Delhi: The Modi government Tuesday announced the creation of a new Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the defence ministry. The new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will serve as the secretary of this department, but this will have no bearing on the power and position of the secretary of defence, ThePrint has learnt.

The DMA, headed by the four-star CDS, will look after the affairs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, but will have no operational control over individual organisations, which will remain with the respective service chiefs.

As news about the new department came in, sources said matters “exclusively pertaining to military matters will fall within the purview of the Department of Military Affairs”. This led to speculation in various military groups and civil service circles about the “changing role” of the defence secretary. The confusion was increased by sources saying the DMA will have the appropriate mix of civilian and military officers at every level.

However, defence sources later clarified to ThePrint that there would be no impact on the role and powers of the defence secretary.

“The CDS will be focusing on tri-service issues and will be streamlining procurement. It will be a secretary in the Ministry of Defence like other the secretaries in charge of defence production and ex-servicemen welfare,” a source said.

“Even now, the three service chiefs used to report to the Raksha Mantri (defence minister) on operational matters and issues specific to their services, and they will continue to do so, including the CDS, who is the principal adviser and not the single-point man,” the source said.

Asked what the role of the defence secretary will be if the CDS is in charge of procurement, the source said: “The CDS will look at the budget at hand and the optimal utilisation. For example, the Navy might want to add, let us say, 10 new ships, while the Air Force wants another 36 aircraft, and the Army wants one lakh guns. The CDS will prioritise what and how it will be done.”

The source added that the secretaries of defence production and ex-servicemen welfare are secretaries in their own right, and the CDS will also be one such post.

Also read: PM Modi’s CDS announcement leaves IAS fraternity anxious about seniority

Role of the CDS 

The CDS, apart from being the head of the DMA, will also be the permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

A statement released by the Ministry of Defence Tuesday evening said procurement exclusive to the services, except capital acquisitions, according to prevalent rules and procedures, will come under the CDS.

Sources said the CDS will focus on structural changes that need to be made in the services for greater cohesion and training, among others things.

“Earlier, when the three services had issues among themselves, the defence secretary used to get involved. Now, the CDS will look at it and if any of the service chiefs continue to have a difference, the matter will go to the Raksha Mantri,” a second source said.

The ministry’s statement sums up the CDS’ role as:

1. The CDS will administer tri-services organisations. Tri-service agencies/organisations/commands related to cyber and space will be under the command of the CDS.

2. The CDS will be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by the Raksha Mantri, and the Defence Planning Committee chaired by the National Security Advisor.

3. Function as the military adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.

4. Bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance etc. of the three services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office.

5. Ensure optimal utilisation of infrastructure and rationalise it through jointness among the services.

6. Implement a five-year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan, and two-year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans, as a follow-up of the Integrated Capability Development Plan.

7. Assign inter-services prioritisation to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget.

8. Bring about reforms in the functioning of three services aimed at augmenting combat capabilities of the armed forces by reducing wasteful expenditure.

Also read: Modi gives India CDS, its biggest defence reform — what it means & how it’ll work

What the DMA will deal with

According to the ministry’s statement, the following areas will be dealt with by the new DMA:

1. The armed forces of the Union, namely, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

2. Integrated headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, comprising Army headquarters, Naval headquarters, Air headquarters and Integrated Defence Staff headquarters.

3. The Territorial Army.

4. Works relating to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

5. Procurement exclusive to the services, except capital acquisitions, according to prevalent rules and procedures.

The statement adds that the DMA’s “mandate” will include the following areas:

1. Promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the services through joint planning and integration of their requirements.

2. Facilitation of restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.

3. Promoting use of indigenous equipment by the services.

Also read: General Rawat is front-runner for CDS but all he talks about is cosmetic changes in military


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  1. Quite a hybrid arrangement. For CDS to be one of the Secretaries in MoD, like those in charge of ex servicemen welfare and defence procurement, means he is one notch below Defence Secretary, analogous to Secretaries in MoF who are a shade junior to the Finance Secretary. So the three service chiefs should certain not grudge the Defence Secretary his preeminent position. 2. It will take time for the new arrangement to prove its utility. One would expect the three service chiefs to guard their turf zealously, vis a vis the CDS.

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