What are the responsibilities of India's Chief of Defence Staff?
On Monday, General Bipin Rawat stepped into the role of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The appointment came a day ahead of General Rawat's retirement as the 27th Chief of the Indian Army, after serving a rare full three-year term. However, since General Rawat is India's first CDS, the duties of the position are not as familiar. Let's understand what the role entails.
The Chief of Defence Staff will serve two main roles:
One would be that of the permanent Chairperson of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), which has the three service chiefs as members. Till now, the committee was chaired by the senior-most chief by rotation. While this is more of a military position, the CDS will also have a role in the government as the head of the newly-created Department of Military Affairs (DMA).
As COSC Chairperson, the CDS will have following powers:
The CDS will manage tri-services organizations which include tri-service agencies/organizations/commands. The Andaman & Nicobar Command is India's only tri-service theater command. The role also involves being the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority, which controls India's nuclear arsenal and is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Separately, the CDS will be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council and the Defence Planning Committee.
CDS Rawat already has a to-do list for the COSC
As COSC Chairperson, the CDS has a three-year deadline to "bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs, and maintenance, etc., of the three services." The CDS has also been tasked with implementing the five-year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP), and two-year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP), as a follow up of Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP).
Other responsibilities of the CDS as COSC Chairperson
The CDS is expected to ensure optimal utilization of infrastructure and reduce wasteful expenditure in the functioning of the three services by introducing reforms. He also has to prioritize capital acquisition proposals between the three services based on the anticipated budget.
CDS will also head the Department of Military Affairs
The CDS will also function as the Secretary of the newly-created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) under the Ministry of Defence. Notably, the Ministry already has four departments—Department of Defence, Department of Defence Production, Department of Defence Research and Development, and Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare. The DoD initially dealt with the three Armed Forces, a role that the DMA will now take over.
Doesn't this make DoD's role obscure?
Not really. The Secretary of DoD, called the Defence Secretary, also serves as the secretary in-charge of the Defence Ministry. The Defence Secretary will continue to focus on larger issues concerning the defense of the country overall.
Here's what that means for DoD and DMA
Military veteran and The Indian Express Deputy Editor Sushant Singh elucidated this distinction between the roles of DMA and DoD with an example. Singh wrote in the publication, "While tri-service military training institutions will fall under the DMA, organizations like IDSA and NDC whose remit is broader than military matters will fall under the Department of Defence."
As head of DMA, the CDS will have following powers:
While the CDS will oversee the Army, Navy and Air Force as the DMA Secretary, he will have no operational command over the three services. The three service chiefs will not have their powers transferred to the CDS and will continue to advise the Defence Minister as usual. The CDS will only act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Minister on tri-services matters.
What are the responsibilities the DMA will undertake?
As the DMA's head, the CDS will focus on the following responsibilities: Promoting jointness in procurement, training, and staffing for the services through joint planning and integration of their requirements. Facilitation of restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilization of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of joint/theater commands. Promoting the use of indigenous equipment by the services.