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Procurement process hasn’t kept pace with time; revolution in bureaucratic affairs needed: Army Chief

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Army Chief Gen MM Naravane on Tuesday said that the procurement process for the armed forces has not kept pace with time and a revolution in bureaucratic affairs is needed for real transformation to take place. He said many procedural lacunae have crept into the acquisition process due to “overbearing nature” of the rules and regulations, noting that the needs of “information-era” warfare cannot be hamstrung by the procedures of the “industrial age”.

In an address at the United Service Institution of India, Gen Naravane said the armed forces cannot hope to fight and win the next war with “legacy structures” evolved from the past and that there was a need for focusing on faster decision making.

“Our procurement process unfortunately has not kept pace with the requirements of time. Many procedural lacunae have crept into the acquisition process due to the overbearing nature of our rules and regulations, leading to a ‘Zero Error Syndrome’,” he said.

“The need of the hour is to have a metamorphosis here too, perhaps even doing away with the concept of the L1 (lowest bidder) vendor altogether. For real transformation to take place, we require a revolution in bureaucratic affairs,” he said.

Referring to various reform initiatives, Gen Naravane said the Army has brought about major structural changes by aligning both the revenue and capital routes of procurement under the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Capability Development and Sustenance).

“This alone is not enough,” he said.

The Chief of Army Staff said capability development in the armed forces must be guided by foreseeing future threats.

“We cannot hope to fight and win the next war with legacy structures evolved from the past. Our force structures must be agile, flexible, modular and networked. They should reflect the realities and challenges of the contemporary battlefield,” he said.

“Our structures must support faster decision making,” he said while referring to the ongoing transformation into Integrated Battle Groups.

The Chief of Army Staff said there was a need to develop multi-domain competencies and the new skills are required to handle modern technologies and systems in cross-domain operations.

Gen Naravane said commanders will have to be comfortable using Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled systems while taking decisions and that they would need to understand the limitations of these machines and the mistakes that they may commit.

He said the Shimla-based Army Training Command has restructured the training curriculum of various courses as work is in progress towards domain specialisation in niche areas.

“What we have achieved thus far, is merely jointness for the industrial era; we need to transit rapidly to full-scale integration for digital era combat as also in the pursuit of greater interoperability. It is hard enough to be joint, the difficulties in interoperability will be many times greater,” he said.

He said the race for dual-use cutting edge technology the world over has led to an unprecedented civil-military fusion not seen in the past.

“The dual requirement of fast-tracking modernisation, and simultaneously promoting self-reliance, are indeed challenging objectives, for a developing nation like India,” he said.

“Considering the quick pace of defence modernisation, being undertaken by our adversaries, we cannot afford to be lagging behind,” he added.

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