Blue Ribbon Commission FAQ

In an article for Dainik Jagran of Februaray 3, 2008, venerated defence analyst and head of the Kargil Review Committee, Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam had asked for a Blue Ribbon Commission for the Indian armed forces .

While the politicians and the Government have been paying lip service to the armed forces in the last sixty years since Independence there has been no concerted effort on the part of the government  to look at the problems of the armed forces in a comprehensive way as is normally done in other democratic countries.  In US at regular intervals Blue Ribbon commissions are appointed to look into the problems of the forces.  Similarly in UK there are Royal Commissions which go into the problems of armed forces from time to time and suggest remedies.

…All these issues could be referred to a high powered commission headed by an eminent personality who commands high credibility, like Ratan Tata or Narayanamurty, including retired chiefs of staff from three services, retired chairman of the Joint Intelligence, retired defence  and  foreign secretaries, eminent management specialists and others.  At the same time it should be clear to the government and Parliament that once such a commission submits its recommendations there will be no further nitpicking by the committee of secretaries but the report  should be accepted and implemented as is done in US or UK.

As no such commission has been established  in India so far, it is time to take a deeper look at the concept of a Blue Ribbon Commission.

Q – What is a Blue Ribbon Commission?

A – It is an independent and exclusive commission of non-partisan statesmen and experts formed to investigate some important governmental issue and to develop the optimum kind of structure to address policy issues and concerns of national importance. The term generally connotes a degree of independence from political influence or other authority, and such panels usually have no direct authority of their own. Their value comes from their ability to use their expertise to issue findings or recommendations which can then be used by those with decision-making power to act.

Q – Why is it called a Blue Ribbon Commission?

A – The “blue-ribbon” aspect comes from the presentation of the panel as the “best and brightest” for the task, and the appointment of such a panel, is meant to signal its perspective as outsiders of the usual process for study and decisions. In that sense, it is different from an internal study group, a judicial commission, a JPC, a committee of secretaries or a group of ministers.

Q – Who are the members of a Blue Ribbon Commission?

A – It might be composed of independent scientific experts or academics with no direct government ties to study a particular issue or question, or it might be composed of citizens well known for their general intelligence, experience and non-partisan interests to study a matter of national interest. The call by K Subrahmanyam for a commission in India headed by Ratan Tata or Narayanamurty is in the same vein.

Q – What are the necessary characteristics of a Blue Ribbon Commission?

A – A Blue ribbon commission has the following characteristics:

  • a predetermined life span
  • eminent individuals from a variety of backgrounds
  • staff and funds to assist in fulfilling its charge
  • a charge to investigate and/or to recommend changes in structures, functions, origins, or processes.

Q – What makes a Blue Ribbon Commission effective?

A – The following factors contribute to the effectiveness of a Blue Ribbon Commission:

  • attainability of commission objectives
  • adequacy of the amount of time allotted for the study
  • number of times commission meets
  • accessibility of commissioners to persons wishing to comment
  • sufficiency of the number of staff
  • selection of staff on the basis of merit alone
  • depth and breadth of background research conducted by staff
  • consideration of testimony from public hearings
  • favourable media reaction
  • repeated use of experts other than commission members and staff
  • ample substantiation of commission recommendations in the final report
  • consideration of the political potency of major affected interests in the implementation process
  • activity of the majority of commission members in the implementation process.

Q – When are the Blue Ribbon Commissions useful?

A – Military organisations traditionally rely upon its members to come together in ad hoc study groups to attempt resolution on important issues. However, there are occasions when outside assistance is helpful and a Blue Ribbon Commission can then contribute significantly. For example, the three services themselves or the military and the civil bureaucracy can become deeply divided over certain issues, and a bi-partisan view may be required to resolve the problem in a manner that will settle the immediate question and reduce (or eliminate) the level of rancour, so that the national defence setup might be united again. Another situation in which a Blue Ribbon commission might be appropriate occurs when the government seeks to establish a planning agenda to create an optimum organisation for national defence by undertaking a root-and-branch reform of the defence organisations.

Q – Are there any criticisms of the concept of a Blue Ribbon Commission?

A – Most of the criticism has been levelled at the approach of a Blue Ribbon Commission towards planning and problem solving. Some critics allege that such commissions tend to exaggerate the problems they address and they draw broad and general conclusions rather than specific and bold conclusions. At times, their recommendations are beyond the financial means of those who would implement them and they fail to spell out the clear details of their proposals. Moreover, the designation “blue-ribbon” is often made by the appointing authority, and may be disputed by others who might see the panel as less independent, or as a way for an authority to dodge responsibility.

Q – When was the last such commission on defence established in the US? What was its mandate?

A – In July 1985, the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense(1986), also known as ‘The Packard Commission’ was charged by President Ronald Reagan, Executive Order 12526, July 15, 1985, to conduct a defence management study of important dimension, including:

  • the budget process,
  • the procurement systen),
  • legislative oversight, and
  • the organizational and operational arrangements, both formal and informal, among the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Unified and Specified Command systems, the Military Departments, and Congress.

Q – Did Indian government not appoint a similar panel consequent to the Kargil Review Commitee Report?

A – As a follow up of Kargil Review Panel’s recommendations a group of Ministers was appointed, which, In turn appointed four task forces. As a result of these deliberations, they were able to make a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the decision-making process. However, the implementation of these recommendations has been sketchy at best and the decision making procedures in respect of national security have remained same since they were formulated by Lord Ismay in 1947.  Although it was close to the concept of a Blue Ribbon Commission, it was not a bipartisan group and did not comprise eminent individuals from a variety of relevant backgrounds.

Q – What establishes the need for a Blue Ribbon Commission for defence in India?

A – The current animosity generated between the defence services and the civil bureaucracy over the SCPC have raised substantive questions in India over civil-military relations in general and higher defence setup in particular. These questions arise from a dissonance between the current and future requirements of national security and the resources available — in the form of the archaic defence services and a ham-handed defence ministry. This need for a complete reform and restructuring of the defence services and the national security setup is best explained in the words of K Subrahmanyam:

Modernisation of the armed forces does not mean only acquisition of modern equipment but modernization in organization, management, thinking, human resource development, operational methodologies etc. …there has been no thought devoted to the future requirement of armed forces in the light of changes in the international strategic environment, the revolution in military affairs, enormous technological  changes in the equipment of the three services and radical changes that have come about in monitoring and surveillance. While all over the world there have been radical organizational improvements in the structure of forces, the Indian Army still continues to be structured on the pattern that was prevalent during World War II. Though the Prime Minister in his successive addresses to the Combined Commanders’ Conferences has pointed out the need to modernize the armed forces in the light of the international and sub- continental strategic developments there has been no attempt to plan to meet the long term security challenges.

Q – But why only a Blue Ribbon Commission?

A – No one can deny that the national security institutions, policies and  processes created 60 years ago are  inadequate for the increasingly complex, dynamic and interdependent security threats of the future. The need to adapt the way the nation pursues its security goals is pressing. Genuine national security reform is a difficult process that requires change far more profound than shifting the boxes in a wiring  diagram.

Real reform entails profound and fundamental change, not just in management and organisation, but across many other dimensions—in attitudes and mindsets, leadership and culture, operations and execution, tools  and procedures, human resources and financial support. True national security reform demands a whole new way of thinking and a different way of doing business. Reforming the national security system involves changes not just to one department but to the entire system of government. Achieving reform in the way  the Indian government conducts its national security business, therefore, requires significant, focused, dedicated, sustained and bipartisan commitment and effort, which can ideally come only from a Blue Ribbon Commission.

The choice is upon the Indian nation and its government. Either the political executive can display the will to institute a Blue Ribbon Commission for Defence now or they can wait for a national crisis to establish that need.

[References : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

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39 Responses to Blue Ribbon Commission FAQ

  1. Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd) October 27, 2008 at 6:52 am #

    Dear Pragmatic,
    Thank you for publishing a detailed account of the need, structure, methodology and possible gains from setting up a Blue Ribbon Committee to take a dispassionate look at the concerns of the Services. You have involved in ‘completed staff work’, a rare compliment paid by military training institutions to an officer who provides holistic , synthesized information rather than in bits and pieces. Thank you.
    Raj Mehta

  2. Pragmatic October 27, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    @ Raj Mehta:

    Thanks a ton for your “rare compliment”. I accept it in all humility.

    However the more important issue is to get this subject into the public debate and force the Indian political masters to institute such a commission at the earliest. That is where the real challenge lies — firstly in letting the government appoint such a commission and second, in getting the services, the bureaucracy and the politicians to accept its recommendations, once a Blue Ribbon Commission is established.

  3. Raj October 28, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    Its a shame that such an excellent post by Pragmatic received only one comment.. come on brothers, do we bother only about our pay and controversial posts..

    Pragmatic this is an excellent idea.. but still just an idea.. how to progress it further???

  4. Pragmatic October 28, 2008 at 11:16 am #

    @Raj:

    Thanks. I’m perfectly fine with the number of comments.

    About the idea, what was that Victor Hugo said — “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come…” The idea can only progress further once the political class is convinced of the need to reform and restructure our national security apparatus. And they display the political will to act… Previous examples of such display by the political leadership include Economic reform, nuclear tests and Indo-US nuclear deal.

  5. maverick October 28, 2008 at 12:05 pm #

    @ pragmatic
    remember what i said in one of my previous posts – people are commenting in big numbers only because of the current scpc issue. no one is serious/inclined on reforms

  6. menon October 28, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    @ Pragmatic
    Theoretically the Blue Ribbon stuff is quite promising, but what about its implementation in the spirit that it is initiated. Hunky dory on paper.
    We have the RTI, but what direction has the RTI moved to. People (you know who) have subverted the spirit and the RTI has become a waste of time and effort for the person who moves an application. Some of the replies are hilarious and puts you into a morass.
    To cite a case in point if I were to quiz for reasons why an SAI regarding status of Rank pay has been initiated at this juncture long after the 4th & 5th Pay Commission, the reason will be more confusing than a whirlwind and the issue will be sidetracked by why most Army officers wear VIP underwear rather than other brands. The politicians have no time for Governance and do not understand the nuts and bolts of their respective ministries. They just know how to walk on their knees before the elections begging for votes.
    Therefore the need of the hour is a Public Audit Committee (PAC) constituted in true democratic style by the people for the people.
    In the same vein as a Blue Ribbon Commission, I would recommend the installation of a Public Audit Committee wherein every citizen can apply for a Public Audit of any alleged misgovernance.
    For example if I feel that the local civil administration has unduly delayed processing my application I can ask for a Public Audit Committee wherein three members will be of my choosing and two will be nominated by the State Govt. My members may or may not be from the same state but should be retired Govt. officials/ people of Managerial stature in Public Sectors, Professionals and such like.
    Also the PAC should be vested with legal powers and on proof of default should have powers of deductions from the official’s salary/property. Otherwise they will just not be bothered and this will be like any other commission. Take the case of Maj Dhanapalan where court orders have been desecrated or the NFSG issue where the min of personnel instructions has been violated. Civil administrators care two hoots for the law of the land or the Nation.
    Some examples are:

    If I feel that civil servants misuse lower grade staff as house help then I should be able to be able ask for PAC where if proved right then the civil servant will salary cuts (one of the possible punishments).

    If any Indian feels that the boy gunned down by the Maharashtra police was not given a chance and the action by the Police was heinous then a PAC can be requested and if proved wrong the Policemen including the Senior people who directed the operation should be liable for punishment as applicable for murder.

    @ maverick
    scpc first —– reform later.

  7. maverick October 28, 2008 at 2:42 pm #

    @menon,
    thats exactly what i was trying to put across to pragmatic. the scpc issue has to be resolved first.

  8. ANSHUJ October 28, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    Who is this Maj Gen Raj Mehta? Never heard of him.
    Where from you have managed him Prag?

  9. Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd) October 28, 2008 at 6:24 pm #

    Dear Anshuj,
    Maj Gen Raj Mehta is a retired Army Officer who spent almost 39 years in uniform living out life on a bed rock of Values and Ethics. Just in case you did not understand what I said, I feel setting up a Blue Ribbon Commission is an idea whose time has come. The Armed Forces are much too valuable for the country to disrespect or cause hurt to, because they command lives on trust. That is something that is above all other challenges in nation building and commands deep, heartfelt respect – not in words but by deeds.
    Many before me gave their all for something as difficult to comprehend for the skeptics, as amorphous as love for country. I lived (and still do) in a culture where there is no balance sheet except doing ones duty without wondering whether this breaks news or not. It was (and is) more important for me to earn the trust of the man or woman who has given me his/her life on trust and live life in a world where honour and character is everything, even if I am paid peanuts for it.
    Pragmatic puts across many inputs that I read and disregard. The Blue Ribbon input falls in the category of an idea whose time has come. I compliment Pragmatic again for daring to put it across.
    I do hope you now know who this General Mehta is. He is a man you could trust your life with. Try it.
    Raj Mehta

  10. menon October 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm #

    @ Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd)

    I lived (and still do) in a culture where there is no balance sheet except doing ones duty without wondering whether this breaks news or not. It was (and is) more important for me to earn the trust of the man or woman who has given me his/her life on trust and live life in a world where honour and character is everything, even if I am paid peanuts for it.

    Is this where the Armed Forces are out of sync with the civil society? Things are okay as long as you are in uniform, but what happens when you hang up your boots. Here I am not referring to the minuscule of personnel who make it to the Star ranks. A study of retired service officers in most stations indicate that they are not living the best of lives even after having sacrificed a decent living style whilst in service. Déjà vu with bashas, bunkers and desolate railway platforms. I do not wish to talk of sacrifices or honour or code of conduct. These have no meaning or place in the civil world and as such are seen as ‘rants’ by an Armyman. Gauge the posts by non Service personnel on this blog. It is humour for them. For them it is ‘Free rations’ that we get.
    Are we trying to live on past glories? We have had many a regal heir in the Armed Forces for whom peanuts would suffice because they could afford to buy their own Scotch & caviar. The old order changeth and no more do you get people to work for peanuts. They need greenbacks and plenty for they would also like to live up to the Joneses.
    That the Army must inculcate values is where I concur with Pragmatic on the reforms idea. But, peanuts! – you can’t make a monkey of the Army no more.

  11. Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd) October 28, 2008 at 8:27 pm #

    Dear Menon,
    I’ve no desire to involve in a slanging match with you, Anshuj or anyone else. My response is simply that we are creatures of what we experience and feel in life whether in or out of uniform. Logically, therefore, you and I are bound to see an issue differently and need to respect our differing view points. The fact that some non uniformed fraternity might find my views amusing is a function of their maturity and world view and does not rile me. To each his own.
    You somehow appear to have formed a conclusion that I am happy with the soldiers penury. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not, however, have to make public how or why and in what manner I feel for a soldiers dues. You have your methods; I have mine.
    What I feel – and I am coming back to the topic – is that a properly appointed commission can identify what has gone wrong in the 61 years that have passed since we attained Azaadi and suggest a way out in the supreme National interest.
    I repeat again that I value your differing perceptions and hope you may respond likewise.
    Raj Mehta

  12. Stray Barks October 28, 2008 at 11:09 pm #

    Reforming the Military:

    Others who could be appointed to a BRC on the basis of their knowledge of the great game or special abilities and drive – Dalmia, Sharad Pawar, Zinta, Cho chweet Sachin Pilot MP, General Rodrigues, Adminstrator Chandigarh, currently in the news for interesting reasons, General JJ ( see that silly photo of him, all roly poly, in New York, being arm escorted by a 6? 6? model in a mini at a ‘community’ function this month – Asian Age front page), Soren, Bata, the HLL ( or whoever ‘commands’ the market in toothpaste and cotton unmentionables ) honcho, the Pepsi Lady, the manufacturer of India Gate Basmati Rice, the free publicity sponsor of the Chandigarh memorial Guptaji ( remember the reply President Kalam gave him ? ), The stainless steel bus shelters contract winner Delhi industrialist cum MP, both the Reliance brothers, RK Laxman, Shobha De ( she has a better market value as a writer than a distinguished General who wrote the Book on the Indian Army ‘Fidelity and Honour’ – they have the same publisher – and the lady once wrote a sneering column on army recruitment – seems her cook could not enlist – how dare they ), Khushwant Singh – why not ? He likes his scotch and his brother was military brass, the Chandni Chowk SHO, Swami Ramdev, the Shahi Imam, the SGPC Boss, Menaka Gandhi ( a colonel’s daughter and well connected sort of ), Ritu Beri ( another Colonel’s daughter) and at least Sunny Deol.

  13. sham October 29, 2008 at 5:28 am #

    @ Raj Mehta

    I could not agree with you more. It seemed like you took my words. Being young, I can not but hold back my anger at these ppl who are forcibly trying to represent service ppl. As long as they had ex serviceman league/party/ or anything else, it was OK.
    Now they come on TV and make it appear that somehow by virtue of the last rank held by them, some one has given them the auth to represent us. I strongly resent this behaviour and conduct of such ppl.
    What the govt provides us is a matter entirely between the employer and the employee. Who are these ppl and who gave them the authority.

    Pl excuse me if I have written too much out of my turn.
    My respects,
    Shyam

  14. Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd) October 29, 2008 at 6:06 am #

    Dear Sham,
    I value your remarks and your old world courtesy, at a time when the phenomenon of blogging seems to give license as well as anonymity to a set of people to use the platform negatively to air their frustrations – with the life they have lived as well as with their environment.
    I personally support responsible ideas and people, not rabble rousing bent on reaching out for the Booker prize in soul destroying, negative “rants” or diatribes against every possible happening.
    I served with pride and honour and find no reason to revisit my stance in retirement. I also have no doubt that the serious problems we face with Governance on correct emoluments and position-in-society issues will get resolved, as no nation would knowingly want to weaken one of the pillars on which its foundations are based.
    I am, with this response, out of this debate.
    Regards,
    Raj Mehta

  15. maverick October 29, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    @ maj gen mehta
    would appreciate, if all these are kept for discussions post resolution of scpc issues.

  16. menon October 29, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd)
    I also have no doubt that the serious problems we face with Governance on correct emoluments and position-in-society issues will get resolved, as no nation would knowingly want to weaken one of the pillars on which its foundations are based.
    These problems will get resolved when we present the case after negating all arguments. Shying away will not achieve much. We accepted all PC recommendations in good faith till the dissent erupted. Why wait till the bang, couldn’t we been more pro-active? The Army is responsible to the people as much as is the bureaucracy.
    If the Army fails then those who permitted the decay advertently or inadvertently are to blame.
    Of course you have your views and they should be respected but why wait under a fruit tree waiting for the fruit to fall when you can select your pick and pluck.

    PS: at a time when the phenomenon of blogging seems to give license as well as anonymity to a set of people to use the platform negatively to air their frustrations – with the life they have lived as well as with their environment. IMHO that maybe blogging is a platform where each one is permitted to speak his mind one on one. Whether it is accepted as a ‘rant’, ‘harangue’, and ‘negativism’ depends on the acceptance level of the receiver.

  17. cs October 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    @ Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd)

    Dear sir, It is very easy to speak after your retirement a lot of thigns which you wanted to do but you could not do while serving.I had the opportunity to serve in your command and dont want to dwelll much on what ever u expressed in your views above…and did on ground…………it would have been better had you expressed your views on occassions where you did not like the bloggers veiws or where you think that bloger is doing an exercise of defaming the armed forces.

  18. BeeCee October 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    @ Pragmatic

    Blue ribbon in place of red tape may be a change, at least pleasing to the eye till the novelty wears out.
    One more Commission of unemployed/ otherwise unemployable persons wasting the tax-payers money won’t alter things either way till you get the fundamentals resolved ‘a priori’. It is not the SCPC, but what has been thrown up by the SCPC imbroglio.
    Should there be accountability and transparency for GOI decisions?
    Do we need Armed forces at all? CPOs/ CPMFs headed by part-timers seem to be an alternate by many. If you need them, should they have any say in matters that affect them and in national security?
    Why aren’t the armed forces part of the ‘permanent executives’( not my term), albeit specialised, as in other democracies?

    If not it will be another waste of time like the KRC report.
    Mr. Subramaniam had his chance heading the KRC, which was like a Blue Ribbon and blew it. Was anybody held accountable for Kargil? Even in ’62 the Def Min and the Army Chief lost their jobs. Kargil would have been worse if not for the sacrifices of the younger lot.
    The report on Task Force on Defence Management, the less said the better. It appears to be a much diluted version of the CDE report of 1993, though by the same author under a different govt.
    The clubbing of the JCS in the US with CDS elsewhere showed how little they understood the nuances. Even after the Goldwater-Nichols Act of ’86, strengthened the JCS, he’s still no CDS.
    The Def Sec to be ‘Principal Defence Adviser’ to the Govt. Heard that term anywhere else in the world? In UK, from where it was supposedly borrowed, it is only ‘Principal Civilian Adviser on Defence’. More importantly, in UK, he needs to have some background on defence. Here it could be any Tom, Dick or Tiwary who happens to have qualified in an entrance exam 30 years earlier, and may be defended his turf against transparency.
    All that was required is to define the role and responsibilities of the Service HQs in the ‘Rules of Business of the GOI’ and ‘The Manual of Office Procedure’. the rest will fall in place.
    When this was pointed out the reaction from some Task Force members reportedly was, What’s that?
    Which brings us actually back to the real problem in the country, which is right people and accountability.
    The SCPC and the Cabinet have said that you don’t need good people in the armed forces. The KRC said much earlier that accountability for lapses in national security can be glossed over. Whether the nation deserves better is a moot point
    But you may have a point there, as the maxim in South Block goes, all big deals need a Commission.

  19. Pragmatic October 30, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    @BeeCee:

    Should there be accountability and transparency for GOI decisions?
    Do we need Armed forces at all? If you need them, should they have any say in matters that affect them and in national security?

    Yes, obviously yes.

    Why aren’t the armed forces part of the ‘permanent executives’( not my term), albeit specialised, as in other democracies?
    Because the military brass in India has to separate their command and advisory role. In no other democracy are the military commanders part of the ‘permanent executive’. That should happen, but are the services ready for integrated theatre commands and real “chiefs of staff” as part of the government setup.

    The clubbing of the JCS in the US with CDS elsewhere showed how little they understood the nuances. Even after the Goldwater-Nichols Act of ‘86, strengthened the JCS, he’s still no CDS.
    If you have read the report in full (and I am sure you’d have), you know why they preferred the Chairman JCS over the CDS. They didn’t want all the military power and advise concentrated in a single institution. They have Chief of staff of individual services under civilian secretaries and the Chairman JCS directly under the DefSec. The combatant command heads report directly to the DefSec.

    In UK, from where it was supposedly borrowed, it is only ‘Principal Civilian Adviser on Defence’. More importantly, in UK, he needs to have some background on defence.
    Let me quote from the UK MoD website to clarify matters:
    The Defence Ministers have two principal advisers: one military, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), and one civilian, the Permanent Secretary (PUS). Neither of these is subordinate to the other. They share responsibility for much of the Department’s business, reflecting the input that both military and civilian personnel make to policy, financial, administrative and operational matters.

    CDS is the professional head of the Armed Forces and the principal military adviser to the Secretary of State and the Government. PUS, as the Government’s principal civilian adviser on Defence, has primary responsibility for policy, finance and administration in the Department. As MOD’s Principal Accounting Officer, the Permanent Secretary is also personally accountable to Parliament for the expenditure of all public money provided for defence purposes.

    The PUS for defence is the equivalent of our defence secretary, and has no such requirement of military service. Check out the bio of the current PUS here.

    Which brings us actually back to the real problem in the country, which is right people and accountability.
    And structures and processes that are 60 years old and not suited to a modern, democratic society.

    But you may have a point there, as the maxim in South Block goes, all big deals need a Commission.
    Great line, loved it. Maybe, I am more of an optimist than you are.

  20. chitravini October 30, 2008 at 6:21 pm #

    I do agree, that it is high time that our MoD, does get revamped (not in terms of paint and polish) with firstly a Minister who knows ‘something’ about Defence and secondly, only those civilian counterparts who have undergone NDC or at the lowest level, the Staff Course at Wellington. Like in UK, there should and must be a parallel structuring in MoD, directly under the Def Min, one civilian counterpart and another from Army/AF/Navy on rotation for atleast the duration of the Minister himself! (am I asking for more given the coalition ruling?)

  21. menon October 30, 2008 at 9:59 pm #

    For more info on BRC pl visit here.
    When you read this please remember that the Americans have a Presidential form of Govt. and Secretary of Defense is actually like our Raksha Mantri and NOT repeat NOT Defense Secretary
    Excerpt from Interim Report to the President . February 28, 1986 Current law should be changed to designate the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as the principal uniformed military advisor to the President,
    the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense
    (equiv our Raksha Mantri), representing his own views as well as the corporate views of the JCS.

    See very much in variance from what we (our Babus) are trying to push.

  22. Pragmatic October 30, 2008 at 10:39 pm #

    @menon:

    The BRC link you put forth is the reference number 4 on my post. There is other stuff available as well on the other references.

    IMHO that you confusing the issue as the comparison between a parliamentary form and Presidential form is inexact.What is the US equivalent of the Indian defence secretary then?

    None. Because there are no exact parallels between the US system and the Indian system.

    Is the US DefSec elected or nominated? Nominated, because it is a Presidential form of government. Like the minister nominating a bureaucrat as defence secretary here. But then there is no minister. So let us understand it a little better.

    Even 70% of the undersecretaries in DoD are nominated; only 30% rise up the chain from the civil services. The US DefSec is thus a unique mixture of our bureaucratic defence secretary and political defence minister. Once approved by the congress, he is not answerable to them (unlike our minister) but only to the President (like a bureaucrat).

    Remember that even their Chiefs of Staff of services come under the secretary of the respective services. And the combatant commands don’t come under the chiefs of staff or the Chairman JCS, but directly under the DefSec. And the Chairman JCS is only the principal “military” advisor, neither commander as in a C-in-C nor “defence” advisor as in the UK or Indian defence secretary. That should help make things clearer about the US model and why we can’t draw exact parallels.

    A more apt and exact comparison is with the UK model, which also has a parliamentary form of government. The British defence secretary = our raksha mantri and British permanent under secretary for defence = our defence secretary. And the CDS is equal to PUS and the roles are clearly defined.

  23. menon October 31, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    @ Pragmatic
    Once approved by the congress, he is not answerable to them (unlike our minister) but only to the President (like a bureaucrat). How?
    A more apt and exact comparison is with the UK model,

    Just look at that too:
    MINISTERS All MsP
    Secretary of State for Defence
    Rt Hon John Hutton MP
    8 Oct 08
    Minister of State for the Armed Forces
    Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP
    7 Oct 08
    <b.Minister for International Defence and Security
    Rt Hon Baroness Ann Taylor
    15 Oct 08
    Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Equipment and Support
    Quentin Davies MP
    8 Oct 08
    Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans
    Kevan Jones MP
    7 Oct 08
    NEXT IN LINE
    CHIEFS OF STAFF
    Chief of the Defence Staff
    The professional head of the UK Armed Forces and the principal military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence (our RM) and the Government.
    10 Dec 07
    Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
    Deputizes for the Chief of the Defence Staff and has responsibility, with the Second Permanent Secretary, for running Defence business, principally through the Central Staff.
    18 Jan 08
    First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
    Professional head of the Royal Navy.
    12 Aug 08
    Chief of the General Staff
    Professional head of the British Army.
    15 Sep 08
    Chief of the Air Staff
    Professional head of the Royal Air Force.
    25 Apr 08

    NEXT IN LINE
    SENIOR OFFICIALS
    Permanent Under Secretary
    Sir Bill Jeffrey KCB (appointed 21 November 2005)
    6 May 08
    Second Permanent Under Secretary
    Ursula Brennan
    24 Oct 08
    Chief of Defence Materiel
    General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue KCB CBE
    1 Jul 08
    Chief Scientific Adviser
    Professor Mark Welland FRS FREng – (appointed April 2008)
    23 Oct 08
    Finance Director
    Trevor Woolley CB
    9 Jun 08

    That’s the British MoD for you. & we still want to hang on to the Colonial system where the Civil servant thinks the Raj has appointed him whereas even the Raj has changed its skin. They have a more professional command control. As head of state, the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. However, as in our case de facto executive authority is with the PMO and the Cabinet. The Ministry of Defence is the Government department and highest level of military headquarters unlike our Integrated Service HQ where Service men have been thrown out.. Responsibility for the management of the forces is delegated to a number of committees: the Defence Council, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Defence Management Board, and three single-service boards. The Defence Council, composed of senior representatives of the services and the Ministry of Defence, provides the “formal legal basis for the conduct of defence”. The three constituent single-service committees (Admiralty Board, Army Board, and Air Force Board) are chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence.

  24. Pragmatic October 31, 2008 at 8:04 pm #

    @Menon:

    Next in line

    Any authority or explanation for this, is it inter-se seniority or WoP or what — as the facts on the UK MoD website dictate otherwise. Let me quote with authority instead.

    …from the UK MoD website to clarify matters:
    The Defence Ministers have two principal advisers: one military, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), and one civilian, the Permanent Secretary (PUS). Neither of these is subordinate to the other. They share responsibility for much of the Department’s business, reflecting the input that both military and civilian personnel make to policy, financial, administrative and operational matters.

    CDS is the professional head of the Armed Forces and the principal military adviser to the Secretary of State and the Government. PUS, as the Government’s principal civilian adviser on Defence, has primary responsibility for policy, finance and administration in the Department. As MOD’s Principal Accounting Officer, the Permanent Secretary is also personally accountable to Parliament for the expenditure of all public money provided for defence purposes.

    The PUS for defence is the equivalent of our defence secretary, and has no such requirement of earlier military service. Check out the bio of the current PUS here.

    In the UK, the PUS and the CDS are equal in status. In India, the Chiefs are equal to the Cabinet Secretary. If we had the British model here (with a CDS), the Chiefs would come two notches down from their present equivalence.

    That should settle the debate for now.

  25. menon October 31, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    @ Pragmatic
    Quote — Within the MOD Headquarters – but sitting outside the Central Staff – are the three single Service Chiefs of Staff: the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff. They are members of both the Defence Council and the Defence Management Board. As the professional heads of their respective Services they are part of the top management team within MOD Headquarters, representing the interests of their Single Service but taking decisions at the highest level on a corporate basis with their other senior colleagues. They are also responsible for their own Service’s fighting effectiveness, efficiency and morale. The individual Service Chiefs and the CDS have the right of direct access both to Secretary of State and to the Prime Minister.
    The effectiveness, efficiency and morale and the Service Chiefs and the CDS having right of direct access both to Secretary of State and to the Prime Minister is what our Babus will subvert. Since their knowledge is limited to their tenure in the MoD the Babu will try to subvert the system so that everything goes through them and is forwarded in a slanted manner. Even in the present SCPC case there has been a lot hullabaloo about the Chiefs going direct to the RM/PM. Nothing wrong with this. This will give the Chiefs more say in matters of morale, efficiency and efficacy. For e.g you want to compare the Armed Forces with forces which are established for auxiliary military tasks yet an equation is being propogated to undermine the morale and efficiency of the Armed forces since the Service Chiefs have limited access to the RM/PM.

  26. Pragmatic October 31, 2008 at 9:25 pm #

    @Menon:

    You didn’t answer the “next in line” bit and the equivalence of CDS and PUS on military and defence matters respectively.

    The effectiveness, efficiency and morale and the Service Chiefs and the CDS having right of direct access both to Secretary of State and to the Prime Minister is what our Babus will subvert. Since their knowledge is limited to their tenure in the MoD the Babu will try to subvert the system so that everything goes through them and is forwarded in a slanted manner.
    This is your opinion, with no relation to facts brought out in your previous comments or otherwise. BTW, the service chiefs have direct access to the Defence Minister in India. You can check the facts on this — about the weekly meeting etc.

    Even in the present SCPC case there has been a lot hullabaloo about the Chiefs going direct to the RM/PM. Nothing wrong with this.

    I also agree that there is nothing wrong in going directly to the RM/ PM in matters that concern their respective services. I want to see a single commentator who has questioned that. The gravest objection (and even I support that case) is with the Chiefs declining to follow a decision of the Union Cabinet, citing the larger interest of the services. That was the real issue that raised the hackles.

  27. menon October 31, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    You didn’t answer the “next in line” bit and the equivalence of CDS and PUS on military and defence matters respectively.

    Later.
    At an opportune moment.

  28. BeeCee November 2, 2008 at 5:02 pm #

    @ Pragmatic
    Much of the discussion here may be more appropriate in your blog on higher defence organisation, but I’ll put in my bit here for continuity’s sake.

    Permanent Executives – In a democracy, if the armed forces are not part of the legislature or the judiciary, they have to be part of the executive, there is no other option. Of course in countries like Turkey there is also an added constitutional role for the armed forces(a model that Pak army has been trying to achieve for themselves).
    If they are not part of the executive, then which arm of the govt do they belong to?
    The Executive can be transient( political – elected or nominated) or permanent(career civil or military). In the Parliamentary system, most of the political executives are elected. In the Presidential system they are picked by the President from anywhere including the permanent executive.
    RAdm John Poindexter and Maj Gen Colin Powell both served as NSAs in the US. In fact if I remember right Colin Powell’s promotion to 3-star was delayed to avoid the congressional confirmation required for a Lt Gen. They continued military service,but for the tenure as NSAs they were part of the political executive, not the permanent.
    The place of the US Def Sec or the Service Secretaries(similar to our Ministers of State or Dy. Ministers) are also political not bureaucratic like in India or the UK PUS. I have also sometimes heard our Secretaries being described as Vice-Ministers to foreigners. The vice may be there, but the minister is a bit presumptuous.
    The point I raised on JCS or CDS was not about their suitability for India(which can be discussed separately), but the inability of the Task Force to see the difference.
    I do agree that we must adapt a model suitable to us, Whether it is the US, UK or another model can be debated, but we need to understand the models and their circumstances first. But do understand that the current UK model was made for a country looking to reduce its military commitments. But that again is not the issue. The issue is that the only part of the UK model that has been proposed is the elevation in protocol of the DefSec and no change in the position of the Services. A few examples;
    The DefSec will to head the Dept(unlike in the UK). In effect he will also head the military because no dept has been created for the military. In the UK his main function is what has been farmed off to create posts for other civilian secretaries viz -Def Finance, DRDO and ESM affairs.
    Organisationally if you are looking at the UK model, the first step is to merge the four depts currently in MOD into one under the DefSec and propose a separate one under the CDS.
    Designate the DefSec as ‘Principal Civilian adviser on Defence’ not ‘Principal Defence Adviser’.
    Most important amend the Rules of Business of the Govt to define what is the role and function of the Military. Till this is done reforms will remain cosmetic and personality driven
    Rest in due course

  29. Pragmatic November 2, 2008 at 9:26 pm #

    @BeeCee:

    There is no doubt that the military should be an integral part of the real executive, political – as in the US may not be possible here; but certainly permanent. As C Uday Bhaskar also says here, this can only happen once the services agree to separate the command and advisory roles. Why is there no call for this when everyone laments about the civil services ruling over the military? This perplexes me no end.

    The model has to be our own, suited to our context and to our times. It should, ideally bear no resemblance to an archaic WoP and other outdated legacies of our not-so-glorious past. What should be inter-se relationship between the top military advisor and top civil bureaucrat in the defence ministry, the number of departments, institutions, processes, systems et al — the complete thing needs a de novo look? Once the right philosophy for the national security framework is in place, the details can be worked out.

    IMHO that a Blue Ribbon Commission is best-suited for this task. I know you differ with my views and I respect that difference in opinion. Primarily because the bottomline remains that the military and the defence setup in India needs reform and restructuring, whichever way we look at it.

  30. BeeCee November 3, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    @Pragmatic
    There is little difference of opinion on the end-state. It is on the approach to it that we may differ.
    We have an MOD that cheekily wrote to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, ‘not having a stated defence policy is a policy by itself’. Anywhere else in the world someone would have lost his job for it, but not here.
    While I agree that policies and processes should change with the times, my sense is that more of our problems are from what has changed, than from what has remained. In particular I refer to the quality/ attitudes of the people involved(civ/ mil) and reduced accountability. The two are of course inter-related.
    I also feel the final resolution of the SCPC problem is important, not just to say that the military needs to be as well paid as the civil -services. more importantly to demonstrate whether the political executive has the will to bring some accountability to the civil services.
    Have seen Uday Bhaskar’s views and I too have my views on Higher Defence Orgn. We could discuss it some time, also the need if any, to separate the C in C and COS roles.

  31. prabhakar bedi February 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    Yes dissent along the lines above is something expected and must be indulged in..that is the essence of democracy to those aiming at true nation building rather than scoring browny points in a debate…extremely shameful to insult the intelligence of Gen Raj Mehta.

    For starters, the General comes from a strong lineage where the brothers and their sons have honored the family traditions of upholding the honor of this country at serious perils to their own lives.

    I hope the readers have heard of Gen Shammi Mehta, who was Director General of CII..a person who energised the Indian Defence Industry despite all the political and bureaucratic bungling. Even after retirement from this post the generals continues with his efforts at skilling the employable and making education available to the deprived through all his endeavors for which he does not get paid. Though extremely wealthy, this generals son continues to serve the Army.

    General Raj Mehta’s intellect, commitment and depth of knowledge is unparalleled in the Indian diaspora, forget about just the armed forces. Please do attend some of his discourses and well articulated papers on all aspects of nation building. An intellectual, a brave and committed soldier whose foundations rest on pillars of moral courage and sense of patriotism to take a bullet even as a commander in higher ranks.

    He should be revered not insulted by the ilks of those es consed behind their desktops..think tanks and blue ribbon commissions are to be domain of such committed people..well I need to say much more but that’s where I sign off from PE for some time till the Blue Ribbon comes in and I my dear will be somewhere there to make a big difference

  32. Sandeep February 27, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    @ Prabhakar Bedi

    Sir,
    I had heard that in 2002, the DSSC exams were cancelled because of Gen Shammi Mehta and instead an ACR based approach was taken to select ppl into DSSC.
    I also heard that it benefitted his son also. Is it true.

  33. Karthik March 3, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    @ Prabhakar Bedi, Sandeep

    For heaven’s sake, Sandeep, you have defeated all known standards of irreponsibility in posting. Truly, your intellectual prowess remains in suspended animation. What else have “you heard”? ever heard of Op Parakram? Grow up. Maybe some lessons in mature thinking and common sense would do you good.

    @ Prabhakar , I fully endorse your views. it’s painful that such remarks can be posted at such a distinguished soldier. He is one rare General who is standing up for what is correct. May truth prevail.
    @ Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd), Sir, It’s an honour to address you directly. A lot of people atand with you on your honourable views. It is hoped that the BRC actually comes through and reforms that are mandated fall through.
    Can I contact you?

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