by Maj Gen Jacob Tharakan Chacko

A predator's tail helps it balance itself in its chase to get meat between its teeth. Skyscrapers stand tall on foundations, that run deep, unseen. Marketing departments can script success stories only if back-offices work hard. Organisations, likewise, thrive on non-glamorous, yet, inevitable tails.

Teeth To Tail Ratio

Indian Army plans to enhance its 'Teeth to Tail Ratio' (T3R) by redeploying 57,000 personnel in accordance with the Shekatkar Committee Recommendations. This redeployment does not envisage moving soldiers from its 'tail' to the 'teeth,' but intends to wind up organisations which the committee feels are dispensable.

Inability to execute 'obsolescence replacements' and the penchant to suspect anything related to procurement, have already made Army logistics extremely complex, sensitive, difficult and plagued by 'non-availability.'


The committee, however, is silent on credible, tested-and-tried alternatives, to the 'vanishing' supply chain nodes, abolition of the logistics requirements or how the resultant client clutter could be resolved. This can have serious repercussions in war.

The Idea

What triggered the proposed restructuring of logistics? Was it necessitated due to a revised operational doctrine? Was it to improve logistics reach and stamina?

Revised Doctrines

If revised operational doctrines necessitated change, transformation should have commenced with re-engineering of combat organisational structures, with restructuring of service elements being a consequence. Information, in the public domain, suggest that restructuring is confined to closure of certain logistic installations, outsourcing of some activities, and closure of some departments.

If, operational relevance defines 'Teeth,' then, much of the army, including various headquarters and departments, though not physically involved in combat, is teeth. Service organisations, by virtue of the role assigned, is also teeth. Ruthless manpower cuts have already reduced supply chain units to bare skeletons. With nothing else to cut and under pressure to save manpower, it seems that the committee recommended closures, that too without declaring existing logistics redundant.

The current operational logistics requirements would have to be serviced either by organisations created for the purpose or by augmenting existing ones with personnel and infrastructure. Why should an existing organisation, functioning efficiently and much beyond its capabilities, be closed, to create another and to do the same job? Change for change sake, probably. If, 'contact' with the enemy is the sole determinant, the existing 'Teeth' has an inherent 'Tail' too. The entire integral logistics elements of combat units are tails that function with no expertise in logistics. All controlling headquarters in the chain, too are 'tails.' Would they too face closure?

Beyond the commonly known, 'two fronts', Army is perpetually committed to counter-insurgency, its 'third front'. The geographical dispersion of its deployment is a logistician’s nightmare. Attempts to 'copy - paste', Western T3R' to Indian conditions without serious 'what -if' analysis could have disastrous consequences. While Defence Forces offer great opportunities for fiscal conservation, reductions or changes in equipment profile, organisational structures, process and practices must further the 'Doctrines of War', not dilute it. Shekatkar Committee Recommendations, sans credible alternatives, if implemented without serious deliberations, would compromise logistics reach and stamina besides curtailing flexibility and redundancy. The incapacitated teeth may lack a bite.

Jacob Tharakan Chacko is a retired major-general with 36 years of experience at various managerial and directional posts. He is a recipient of the Sena Medal