If an organisational design is needed to fulfil the need of “integration”, we must design a de-novo organisation to achieve the aim of the Armed Forces to apply military force in an integrated manner

by Group Captain Johnson Chacko (Retd)

If it is hurtful to be told that one is ignorant, then the solution is to acquire more knowledge about a domain that one is not familiar with before suggesting how organisations in that domain should be structured. The prime focus of any organisational design is on the task that organisation is required to perform. Unless the views of those who perform that task are taken into consideration tinkering with the organisational design should never be attempted, even by an organisational design expert. Any problem that is projected to the College of Defence Management (the institutional experts to suggest solutions for problems, especially in the Armed Forces) for a solution starts with analysing the “Presented Problem”, then the “Problem as Understood” by the research team after due interactions at desired user levels culminating in the “Problem to be Solved”. Then serious work starts on solving the problem and the team members would include officers from all the Armed Forces. Interaction with the stake holders continues throughout the process. Recommendations are shared with all the stakeholders and are generally accepted. If this process was diligently followed then we would not be in the current state with the Future Force.

As stated in the article I have tried to project in as simple a manner as possible, how the IAF functioned in the past to achieve its tasks based on facts. How it will function in the future will be based on technological advances and its impact on the doctrine.

Any management of change is based on the objective of the organisation, how it has been functioning so far, analysis of the strengths, weaknesses & areas of ineffectiveness, ideation and formation of a plan to address these, analysis of the effect of these changes on other branches of the organisation and external linkages and addressing them to ensure minimum disruption while maximising effectiveness. The root cause that necessitated the change is addressed so that it does not recur. If this does not provide the required results then we must re-design the organisation de-novo focussing our attention on the stated objectives and maximising its effectiveness. If an organisational design is needed to fulfil the need of “integration”, we must design a de-novo organisation to achieve the aim of the Armed Forces to apply military force in an integrated manner. Then we need to plan the change over from the current organisation to the new one, addressing issues that may emerge. If neither of the approaches enhance effectiveness in its domain and integration with other services, then we need to maintain status-quo. Change for the sake of change destroys an organisation. Unless we approach this in a wholistic manner we cannot come to a conclusion that Air Defence Command with Theatre Commands is the only solution.

I appreciate Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma’s article published by the VIF after painstaking research. However, this is known to all those who track organisational structures of militaries the world over. The examples of Russia and China reorganising its armed forces were driven by the needs of those countries with large geographies and large economies. USA being the predominant super power with the largest economy, has its own compulsions and dominates the world. These are large countries compared to India and they have the necessary resources for this kind of re-organisation of their military regions. They talk about an Air Force/Army/Navy being assigned to a region so that the region is self-sufficient for military purposes. Even in these regions the air war is fought by the air component commander of that region.

The current resources of the IAF can barely sustain one Air Force. To have an Air Force each based on the cardinal directions of North, East, West and South would be the dream of the IAF. The GOsC-in-C are colloquially called Army Commanders. I doubt if they are self-sufficient to fight a war on their own without allocations from the reserves held by AHQ. IAF does not have the resources to allocate to one such region for their self-sufficiency at present and we should not attempt to fritter away these resources as it would prove counterproductive.

The book “Unrestricted Warfare” by three Chinese Colonels is revealing as to how future wars will be fought. Even now there are non-military wars being fought be it trade wars, economic wars, (through Sanctions), cyber-attacks etc. Future wars will be multi domain. What needs to be integrated for military application of force needs to be integrated with the Armed Forces.

The philosophy of the Police Forces and Armed Forces are poles apart. While one is focused on providing internal security to law abiding citizen thereby maintaining harmony, the other specialises in application of brute force to neutralise those who intend to breach our territorial integrity. I wonder how the CAPFs can be amalgamated with the Armed Forces as they are wide apart doctrinally.

The prime Minister has never used the words “Theatre Command” or “Jointness” in his address to the Combine Commander’s conference on 06 March 22 at Kevadia, Gujarat. To quote the PIB release, “Prime Minister stressed the importance of enhancing indigenisation in the national security system, not just in sourcing equipment and weapons but also in the doctrines, procedures and customs practiced in the armed forces. He emphasized the need to optimise manpower planning in both military and civilian parts of the National security architecture. He also called for a holistic approach, focused on breaking down civil-military silos and on expediting the speed of decision making. He advised the Services to rid themselves of legacy systems and practices that have outlived their utility and relevance.

Taking note of the rapidly changing technological landscape, Prime Minister highlighted the need to develop the Indian military into a 'future force'. There are historical lessons that we learn from Blitzkrieg as to how integration of the German Air Force with the German Army through network centricity succeeded in the fall of Poland in a day and France in 3 days without a Theatre Command. The Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific theatres etc. came in much later.

Formation of a separate Air Defence Command or Theatre Command with inadequate resources for its functioning is pre-mature at this juncture for India. Jointness through integration and network centricity is a must. We need to have a National Doctrine on how to achieve Comprehensive National Development as stated in our Constitution. To achieve that we need to have adequate security from external threats. A National Security Doctrine needs to be framed. National Military Doctrine needs to flow from that and then individual service doctrines. To do all these we need to define “Where” India is now, “Where” India needs to be – say - 50 years hence and “How” to reach there. Unless the aim is defined, scenarios cannot be forecast and strategies in each scenario cannot be worked out. National Security Policy needs to flow out after all this is done and it should be congruent with the Strategy we need to follow at that time. Strategy and Policy will change depending on evolving Scenarios. There should be no short cuts for this.

Not withstanding the above, I have published a suggested solution on how best we can re-organise in the present circumstances, for a “Future Force” limited to the Armed Force. It will provide for the control of air assets, whether offensive or defensive through an Air Force Component Commander under the IFC (Integrated Force Commander) in times of war. The authority/chain of command for centralized planning and decentralized execution remains undisturbed. In addition, it is suggested that the IFC should not be service specific and needs to be in rotation from the services as any officer from the Armed Forces should be able to man that post if he has risen to those ranks, provided he is moulded to the idea of integration.

Air Defence is a war time as well as peace time activity. In peace time the Air Force Commander of the region needs to control it. In war this same Air Force Commander moves in as the Air Force Component Commander under the IFC and continues to do that function. Integration of AD would mean being part of a common AD grid, to enable maximum freedom of action to every user to intercept every intruder, ensuring deconfliction between users and avoidance of fratricide. With true integration, individual silos will dissolve.

There is a perpetual debate on the subject of “Guns Vs Butter”. This issue was settled by Chanakya a long time ago and that Empire had the largest Indo-centric land area under its control. He had stated that one sixth of the Kingdom’s Revenue/Expenditure needs to be spent on its protection. There were no pensions at that time. Have we ever spent that kind of resources (without pensions) on our Defence? If we had spent that kind of money we would not be in this sorry state. This issue needs to be resolved by the Military leadership before we can embark on grandiose plans of Theatre Commands so that we have adequate resources.

Re-organisation of the Armed Forces is a herculean task. It needs to be done with adequate planning and foresight to enhance effectiveness. If it is not done with due diligence then the effort will be counter-productive. Future wars will be multi-domain and true integration is essential while retaining the present operational principles of individual services as they depend on the medium of operations.

Gp Capt Johnson Chacko is a former IAF fighter pilot who was instructor at DSSC,CDM,AFA & NDA