Weapons Buying In A Shambles, Government Signs Off On Simpler Process

Today, the Defence Ministry announced its intention to "streamline defence procurement procedures and to reduce timelines so as to ensure timely delivery of equipment to the Armed Forces."

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Weapons Buying In A Shambles, Government Signs Off On Simpler Process

9 steps need to be cleared before contracts for major defence deals can be cleared


New Delhi:  Taking note of reports that the process of clearing complex deals to acquire critical weaponry in India was in a state of shambles, the Defence Acquisition Council under Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today cleared a series of measures meant to speed up the process.  

In February, NDTV accessed a presentation by the Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre which said that India's weapons-buying is frequently crippled by "multiple and diffused structures with no single point accountability, multiple decision-heads, duplication of processes, delayed comments, delayed execution, no real-time monitoring, no project-based approach and a tendency to fault-find rather than to facilitate". 

Today, the Defence Ministry announced its intention to "streamline defence procurement procedures and to reduce timelines so as to ensure timely delivery of equipment to the Armed Forces." In specific terms, the process to clear defence deals will happen simultaneously at the Headquarters of the armed forces and at the Defence Ministry. This will ensure "deletion of repetitive processes, aligning of various documents with revised financial guidelines" and will go "a long way in obviating undue procedural delays" in order to "shrink procurement timelines".

In his presentation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi late last year, Dr Subhash Bhamre had said delays in the procurement process meant that the government's flagship Make in India initiative "continues to languish at the altar of procedural delays and has failed to demonstrate its true potential".

Dr Bhamre had points out that of 144 deals in the last three financial years, "only 8 to 10 per cent fructified within the stipulated time period".

Until the new reforms announced today are implemented, there are nine steps that need to be cleared before contracts for major defence deals can be cleared. In his report, Dr Bhamre outlined how there were delays at each stage - a whopping 2.6 times to 16.4 times the stipulated deadline.  

Many of the delays are because of a "lack of synergy between the three services," the report says, and adds that the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard do not work as a system, which "puts greater strain on the limited defence budget". Similarly, different departments of the ministry "appear to be working in independent silos" driven by their interpretation of policy and procedures.

At the moment, multi-billion dollars deals for submarines, mine-sweepers, naval helicopters, fighter jets, a new aircraft carrier, air-refuelling tankers and new airborne warning aircraft have seen repeated delays and are nowhere close to being sanctioned.

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