Defence acquisitions are always much debated and scrutinised. The criticism ranges from a lack of direction in procurements to needles procedural complexities and from corruption in defence deals to bureaucratic apathy. The Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by the Defence Minister, has taken some bold and much needed decisions on April 20, 2013 in an attempt to address some of these issues.
FY 2013-14 has transited into the annals of the MoD but picking up a few messages from it and carrying forward the unfinished agenda to the next year would be the greatest tribute to the year gone by.
By now making software development ineligible for discharge of offsets we might be depriving ourselves of what was considered necessary only a couple of months ago. This could also prove to be a setback for the Indian software industry.
In its most candid form, the fundamental message is that the growth in the allocation for defence, as indeed for other sectors, may not always be consistent with the past trend or as per the long-term growth rates indicated by the Ministry of Finance.
While the anguish over the state of modernization of the armed forces, the slow march towards achieving the capability for simultaneous action on two-fronts and rather feeble power projection on a global scale are understandable, what is not understandable is the expectation that the outlays for achieving these objectives would increase exponentially, irrespective of the state of the economy.
The systems and procedures for capital acquisitions, introduced by the MoD in 2001-02, provide a decisive, if not the final, say to the Services, including the Indian Coast Guard.
The prospects of allocation for the next year being less than the allocation for the current year are remote because of the immense implications it would entail, although it is likely that the growth in the budgetary allocation for the next fiscal may be less than what has been the case in the past.
It is almost customary to blame underutilization of the capital acquisition budget on defective planning, apathy of the civilian bureaucracy and procedural complexities. This view, however, does not take into account several factors that are external to the Ministry of Defence.
MoD has to assume the leadership role and provide some kind of a single-window service to the defence industry to steer the offsets in a direction that helps achieve the objective of modernisation through self-reliance.
On the capital side, there may not be much of an adverse impact of reduction in allocation if the MMRCA contract gets pushed to the next year. On the revenue side, procurement of ammunition and other equipment as well as maintenance of legacy systems would be adversely affected.