Delay in defence procurement: Expert panel wants restructuring of acquisition wing

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said that India will finalise orders for defence procurement of Rs 2.8 trillion by 2016.

To overcome the ongoing problems of delayed acquisition of military equipment, defence ministry has instituted an expert committee for ‘Restructuring of the Acquisition wing to make it more effective’. The committee, headed by former director general (acquisition), Vivek Rae, is supposed to submit its report in three months.

Earlier this year, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said that India will finalise orders for defence procurement of Rs 2.8 trillion by 2016. He had also said that defence ministry has already decided on orders worth Rs1.57 trillion, while procurement plans worth Rs1.38 trillion will be finalised shortly.

“This expert committee is an outcome of the Dhirendra Singh Committee report and the names of the members were deliberated upon by us. The aim is to streamline the acquisition process and make it timely and responsive,” a defence ministry official explained.

Beside Rae, the nine-member committee has former financial advisor (acquisition) in the defence ministry, Amit Cowshish, Air Marshal (retd) NV Tyagi, Lt General (retd) AV Subramanian, Pritam Pal, N Sitaraman and IIM Professor Pritam Singh. Two officials from the defence ministry — JRK Rao, officiating director general (Acquisition) and Sanjay Garg, joint secretary, Defence Production who will also be the Member Secretary — are also part of the committee.

“The mandate of the experts committee is to create a procurement organisation which can function with speed and efficiency, promote Make in India and incorporate best international practices,” said Air Marshal (retd) NV Tyagi.

Two meetings of the expert committee were held in the ministry on May 2 and 3, where the committee members also met the defence minister Manohar Parrikar. The minutes of the meeting record that the defence minister was “by and large in sync with the thought process of the committee members”.

In its meetings, the expert committee “discussed various drawbacks of the present set up having acquisition wing, defence production and DRDO, all three working on different tracks without any alignment and sharing of information with each other.”

The committee members have proposed various alternatives to the current model. Any alternative, they contend, has to mean creation of a “centralised”, “self-contained organisation” which is adequately integrated with department of defence production and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Ideally, the committee members believe, the acquisition wing of the defence ministry has to be merged with the department of defence production and DRDO.

“The new system has to be designed to make it workable in a manner that causes least disturbance and interference in the power dynamics of the defence ministry, mainly in terms of the balance of powers between the defence secretary and secretary (defence production),” a committee member explained.

In its report submitted in July 2015, Dhirendra Singh committee had recommended the creation of a dedicated procurement organisation. It had suggested that such an organisation could be created outside the structure of the defence ministry.

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