In a major move, the Narendra Modi government has delegated “substantial” financial powers to the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force to strengthen perimeter security at sensitive military installations across the country, the defence ministry said today. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has fixed strict timelines to ensure that the works are undertaken on priority and in a time-bound manner to ensure full security at the critical defence assets, it said. The vice-chiefs of the three services have been empowered to place orders, procure equipment and carry out civil works without seeking approvals of the defence ministry.
“In an unprecedented move, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has decided to delegate substantial financial powers to the Armed Forces for undertaking works for perimeter security of sensitive military installations,” the ministry said in a statement. Official sources said following the decision, each of the three vice chiefs will be able to spend at least Rs 800 crore annually in strengthening perimeter security at the sensitive bases. A total of 3,000 sensitive bases, including 600 highly sensitive installations of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force were identified by the forces months after the daring attack on Pathankot air base last year.
The decision came at a time when Indian army is locked in a face-off with the Chinese army at Dokalam and confronting rising incidents of cross border attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. The defence ministry said the move to give financial powers is aimed at expediting the decision-making process involved in the modernisation of the security apparatus of airbases and defence installations. “The financial delegation represents a significant jump in the powers currently exercised by the services,” the ministry said.
A security audit of defence bases was carried out on the recommendation of a committee headed by Lt Gen Philip Campose which was set up after the terror attack on the forward Pathankot air force base last year. The committee was asked to recommend measures to beef up security at the military bases. The armed forces had together sought Rs 2,000 crore to strengthen security infrastructure at all “highly sensitive, sensitive and moderately sensitive bases” during the current and next financial years. The sources said following the security audit, revised standard operating procedures (SOPs) were sent to the commands of all three services to revamp their security management, including putting in place a multi-tier security structure.
A parliamentary panel had in March come down hard on the defence ministry for failing to take any concrete measures to beef up security at frontline military bases, and said the scenario is as “vulnerable” as has been “exposed” during the Uri and Pathankot terror attacks. The Campose Committee had submitted its report to the defence ministry last May. The parliamentary panel had said security arrangements at military establishments were dynamic in nature and called for maintaining a robust and strong response mechanism to emerging threats.