The time has come for the Ministry of Defence to be populated by professionals. A start could be made by having the next Secretary of Defence, from outside the chosen few amongst the IAS cadre. The NDA government inherited a “bureaucracy problem” from the erstwhile Congress led UPA Government. This view is increasingly being discussed in the media as the article in Live Mint of September 2015 indicates, which states that the bureaucracy is not allowing the Modi government to function.1 Perhaps the time has come to solve this macro problem by enforcing lateral entry into the IAS at all levels in all ministries.
Need For Reforms in the Ministry of Defence (MOD)
Anyone who visits the MOD to do business or even talk about new ideas has a very bad experience. There appears to be a closed mindset amongst officials in the MOD to new thoughts and ideas. A large number of people whom I have met have spoken of this hostile attitude of the MOD, where leave alone acceptance, even discussion of new ideas appears to be taboo. I too experienced hostility to the point of rudeness from a joint secretary in the MOD, whom I had been directed to meet to present my thoughts on the concept of Defence Economic Zone. Many others have had similar experiences.
It is necessary to start at the very top to bring in change and new ideas in the MOD – the post of defence secretary. Perhaps the next incumbent to this august office could be selected through an open interview process, where the requirements of the job and the incumbents qualifications are clearly spelt out. This will send a strong signal to the environment that the political authority means business and is interested in bringing in new ideas in accelerating the reform process at the MOD. Thereafter, all key administrative positions in the MOD could be filled through open interview, ensuring that only those with the requisite expertise form part of the MOD. This will dramatically improve performance and change our military establishment in a way not seen since independence in August 1947.
Today, our security establishment is crisis ridden and we need people at the helm of affairs who are well versed with security related issues. As stated by Henry Kissinger, “In crises, the most daring course is often safest”. We need change and we need it now.
The current defence secretary has a wealth of experience in various ministries and departments including steel, water resources, rural development, fisheries, export development and VAT Administration. He also has had a short stint at the department of defence production. Other defence secretaries before him have had similar backgrounds. Such qualifications and background hardly equip a person to hold the post of defence secretary, which is why we need professionals who match up to the skill sets required of the organisation. The national interest must take precedence over the interest of a single service, even one as glamorous and much sought after as the IAS. Considering the security environment in which we operate, the people of India have the right to demand that the post of defence secretary goes only to those persons best qualified to preserve and promote India’s national security interests. Not doing so could imperil national defence and we could well be looking at another scenario akin to that of 1962.
Similar reforms would be required in all departments of the GOI and not just in defence. Let us make the top post in each department open to all, and give such positions to the most deserving candidates, based on their qualifications.
This would vastly enhance the talent pool of the country and bring in excellence in all our ministries. Other countries have been doing this for decades. We need to make a start now. If over the next three years, the present government fills over 2000 government jobs through an open interview process, it will create a very dynamic situation and speed up decision making tremendously at all levels of Government, as lateral entry into the IAS gets institutionalised.
This would vastly enhance the talent This will also give a boost to the Prime Minister’s Make in India programme as also create millions of new jobs, bringing down unemployment significantly. I have sent a similar letter to the Defence Minister with copy to members of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) on 30 April 2016.
The Defence Economic Zone Project