Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) & Department of Military Affairs (DMA)

General Bipin Rawat took over as the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) a new structure is being created in the Defence Ministry.

The idea of CDS was first mooted in 2001, by a Group of Ministers (GoM), in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict.

The decision to appoint a CDS is a huge step towards achieving seamless coordination and greater effectiveness in higher defence management structures by creating an enabling architecture that permits fuller expression on the part of our professional armed forces.

CDS is a ‘dual-hatted role’

The dual-hatted role refers to the dual set of responsibilities

  1. Military role as the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which has the three service chiefs as members,
  2. Government role as the head of the newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the ministry.

Work exclusively pertaining to military matters will fall within the purview of the DMA while the Department of Defence will deal with larger issues pertaining to defence of the country.

Salient features of the post

  • CDS will be of a rank of a four-star general (or equivalent) with salary and perquisites equivalent to that of a service chief. This is the first time in the history of independent India that a uniformed individual will head a government department.
  • The CDS will now have a tenured appointment up to the age of 65 years.
  • He will be empowered under the Allocation of Business Rules to run his department. The highest form of supervisory mandate that can be delegated to him is at the level of a secretary.
  • Both the defence secretary and the CDS will report to the Defence Minister.
  • The CDS has the status of a Cabinet Secretary, but functionally will head a department headed by a Secretary. Also, he will be under a ministry where the Defence Secretary is in charge of the ministry.
  • The CDS is not a ministerial position.

Main roles of CDS and DMA

  1. With creation of the DMA, headed by CDS, the Armed forces will, for the first time, be admitted into the central edifice of the GoI and become a participant in policy-making. Designation of the CDS as Principal Military Adviser (PMA) to Defence Minister will enable unhindered access to MoD, accelerating the process of decision-making and accord of approvals.
  2. The armed forces i.e.the Army, the Navy and the Air Force which used to come under the Department of Defence so far, but will now fall under the ambit of DMA in the capacity of Attached officeswill have an appropriate mix of civilian and military officers at every level further increasing the cohesion and integration between Bureaucracy and the Armed forces
  3. A key military body, the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), has, for decades, been dysfunctional because its chairmanship is held by one of the three chiefs on a part-time, rotational basis. With the CDS now being designated “permanent chairman COSC”, he will be able to devote undivided attention to the administration of tri-service organisations and take measures to engender jointness amongst three services.
  4. A crucial function of CDS will be prioritising the capital acquisition proposals (or “wish-lists”) of individual services. He will have to ensure that the “defence rupee” is spent judiciously; on warfare-capabilities considered vital for national military power
  5. The designation of CDS as PMA to the Nuclear Command Authority as well as its administration of the Strategic Forces Command, will go a long way in enhancing the credibility of our nuclear deterrent.
  6. The mandate of the DMA includes facilitation of “jointness in operations” through establishment of joint/theatre commands. Although a successful template for joint operations was created in the Andaman & Nicobar Command (at the mouth of the Malacca Strait), 19 years ago, lack of political direction and indifference of the COSC has led to stasis. With the new DMA such lacuna will be be quickly dealt making the Theatre Commands operational at the earliest
  7. The CDS will also be a member of the Defence Planning Committee and the Defence Acquisition Council, besides functioning as the military adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority. He would ensure optimal utilisation of infrastructure, facilitate restructuring of military commands including establishment of joint/theatre commands, promote indigenisation and work on “out of area contingencies”.
  8. The CDS, will reconcile the viewpoints of all the three services and provide impartial advice.He will also be responsible for capital acquisitions, defence land, defence accounts, cantonments, border roads, coast guard and a host of other important areas.

Further suggestions

  • To ensure adequate availability of expertise, civilians will need to be inducted into DMA and military personnel into Department of Defence. This will require the CDS to vigorously pursue enabling amendments to GoI Business Rules and the Central Staffing Scheme.
  • The military ethos requires that CDS retains his professional independence and upholds his oath of allegiance to the Constitution.
  • Creation of integrated theatres would need staff with the knowledge and experience to deploy land, maritime and air forces. Given the disruptive impact of each of these measures, they would best be implemented by the CDS, in a phased manner.
  • The designation of CDS, a four-star general in the pay-grade of cabinet secretary, as head of DMA, may create issues of equivalences, since the other four departments of MoD are headed by secretary-rank officers. One alternative would be to delegate the financial and administrative powers of CDS to his 3-star chief of staff (deputy) and designate him as secretary DMA. The other alternative would be to emulate the British and bring the defence secretary on par with the chiefs and CDS.
  • Since the service chiefs will be members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the DMA, headed by the CDS, the promotions, postings and disciplinary matters of three services fall under the DMA, it will give the CDS extensive influence over the three service chiefs. This must be carefully dealt with so as to avoid apprehensions of the part of the Armed forces.

The establishment of the Defence Space and Cyber Agencies, the Special Operations Division, Make in India initiatives aimed at ensuring an “India First” policy coupled with the new CDS mechanism can help realize India’s aspirations to fulfill its destiny as a major power in the 21st century

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