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Experts: Bureaucracy Blocks Integrated Logistics Agency in India

Jul. 17, 2013 - 08:47AM   |  
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NEW DELHI — Although many Indian defense officials have urged the development of a centralized agency to integrate the logistics structures of the Army, Navy and Air Force, service rivalries and refusal to include private companies in the provision of logistics services have stymied progress.

Ministry of Defence sources said the MoD bureaucracy does not favor expanding access to private companies to cater to the military’s logistics needs, and would rather keep that activity within government-owned entities.

“There is no doubt a crying need for establishing a national or joint military logistics system that will ensure economy as well as efficiency, but organizational politics and lack of firm direction from the top is preventing such a structure from emerging so far,” said Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

A senior Army official, however, said the military services favor an expanded corporate presence to provide for logistics needs, and support outsourcing their non-core logistics functions to private-sector companies. The official said the MoD bureaucracy has resisted these steps because of pressure from state-owned defense companies, which enjoy a near monopoly in weapons and equipment production, the official said.

Centralization of power within the MoD bureaucracy has delayed acquisition of spares and delivery to field repair bases, the official said. About 70 percent of the Army’s weaponry and equipment is obtained from overseas, causing excessive delays that adversely affect the repair and maintenance of essential equipment, the official said.

Service officials should have the authority to procure essential equipment directly from the original equipment manufacturers, an Air Force official said, and equipment that can be acquired locally would save time and money.

But the MoD bureaucracy will not easily cede authority, said Mahindra Singh, a retired Army major general.

“Whereas the service chiefs are responsible for the logistics of their own service, they have very limited financial powers because all of the powers are ultimately with the bureaucrats in MoD, who are not directly associated with the logistics work performed in the field,” Singh said.

As such, the bureaucrats will never give away their financial authority to buy weapons and equipment, which is an essential part of managing logistics and the supply chain, Singh said.

Even domestic defense companies have approached the MoD on occasion, urging the inclusion of local industry in logistics-related repairs and maintenance, said an executive of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the lobbying arm of the domestic defense industry. The Army possesses advanced equipment, but local repair facilities are not adequate, the Army official said. So the service is forced to depend heavily on the MoD for spares and other gear.

Including local industry in this kind of support will ensure maintenance is attended to more quickly and at cheaper rates, the Army official said.

“In times of a futuristic war, the entire country, along with its civilian infrastructure and industries, will have to be mobilized for logistics support, and India is currently not preparing for such a situation,” Singh said.

Bhonsle, however, said mobilization of the entire country is theoretically possible, and regulations exist to achieve this. But no national mobilization exercise has taken place since the 1970s, during the war for the liberation of Bangladesh.

“While sectoral exercises have been held, these are not adequate to test the efficiency of the system,” Bhonsle said.

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