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Opinion | With This Defence Budget, Forces Will Have Serious Problem in Modernisation: Lt Gen DS Hooda

Even if we do clean up our processes and streamline the organizational structure, with these allocations and the size of the military, there will be serious issues with modernisation as well as with infrastructure building.

Lt Gen (Retd) DS Hooda |

Updated:February 2, 2018, 10:33 AM IST
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Opinion | With This Defence Budget, Forces Will Have Serious Problem in Modernisation: Lt Gen DS Hooda
Indian Army's road show during the Republic Day parade. (Image: REUTERS)
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There are three things that a government has in mind while structuring the Defence Budget. The first is the procedure that needs to be made smoother. The second is the organizational structure. However, the 2018-19 Defence Budget raises one major concern in this regard.

Somewhere down the line, the organizational structure of the forces will have to be looked at and Thursday’s Budget presentation raises a question: Can we really afford to spend so much on routine affairs that constitute the day-to-day functioning of the forces?

The third part is the total allocation made by the government in the Budget. Now, even if we do clean up our processes and streamline the organizational structure by making manpower cuts, I still think that with these allocations and the size of the military, there will be serious issues with modernisation as well as with infrastructure building.

We will continue to fall behind on modernisation. We can keep saying we will enhance our infrastructure at the borders, but with this allocation, we will not be able to attain the speed at which we want it to happen.

However, there are still some ways out of the paradox. One way is to cut pensions. But it would not be fair to do that to people who have spent 30-40 years in service. The defence pension budget (Rs 1.08 lakh crore this year) looks huge, but if you see the per person pension, you will see that the civil services spend 3-4 times on each person as compared to the Armed Forces.

The other option is to overhaul the structure to cut on revenue expenditure for routine functioning of the Armed Forces and an increased capital expenditure for modernisation.

This year, however, the revenue expenditure at Rs. 1.95 lakh crore is almost double that of the capital expenditure, which is around Rs. 99,500 crore. For that, we have to give up our obsession with numbers.

We are more concerned with the number of personnel and the number of divisions. For example, for the Navy, we say we want a certain number of ships in the fleet and for the Air Force, we say we want these many squadrons. We need to shed this emphasis on numbers because capabilities have increased enormously.

The capability of one aircraft in today’s times is not the same as that of an aircraft 10-15 years ago.

A squadron of Rafale is not the same as a squadron of MiGs. There is a tremendous difference in capability between an artillery gunner today and an artillery gunner from the Second World War. The same is true for Navy ships as well.

But our systems are still outdated. So, if we update those technologies, do we really need everything in large numbers? As capabilities get better, the size of the military will automatically come down. We need to bring in more technology, focus on capability rather than numbers.

As an overview, I believe that this level of allocation and funding is very low and is going to impact modernisation.

(Lt. Gen. (retd.) DS Hooda served in the Indian Army for 40 years from 1976 to 2016. He is the former General Officer Commanding of the Northern Army Command and was involved in the planning and execution of the Indian Army’s surgical strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in September 2016)

As told to Uday Singh Rana
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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