At the Combined Commanders Conference on December 15, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had remarked that modernization is more important than increasing troop numbers.
“Modernisation and expansion of forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal. We need forces that are agile, mobile and driven by technology, not just human valour,” he had said.
Appears that spending on the 1.3 million strong Indian Army has indeed become a matter of serious concern.
While funds are needed for modernization, around 55 per cent of allotted defence budget goes in payment of salaries.
Now, according to reports, the Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh has asked his subordinates to study the existing ratio of combat troops to non-combat troops and improve it.
The tooth-to-tail ratio (T3R) is the number of non-combatant soldiers (tail) needed to support a combat soldier (tooth).
Improvement could mean cutting down on the excess non-combatant roles while increasing the combat ones. Each Army division has 14,000 combat soldiers supported by 3,000 non-combatants.
The core aim of this restructuring is to save more funds for more weapons.
“Majority of the funds meant for buying fresh weaponry, in the Capital Head of the budget, are in fact consumed to pay for past contracts, leaving very little for fresh weapons and defense programs,” Defence News quotes an official as saying.
India’s defence budget for this fiscal is Rs.2.58 lakh crore, a marginal hike of 9.7% over last year. At the same time, India is in critical need of more weapons. The MoD recently finalised a Rs.2,900 crore deal to purchase 145 M777 howitzers from the US and is keen on buying 500 more.
Rightsizing the army will help in some savings that can be used for much needed increase in arsenal. Around 14,000 jobs were cut by the Army between 2005 and 2013. A revision would result in more cuts in areas related to logistic support.
Cuts might happen in the Military Engineering Services, Directorate General of Quality Assurance, Directorate General of Defence Estates and the Ordnance Factory Board.
The subordinate generals have been given time till August to submit their reports and make suggestions. Yet determining this ratio is a complex one.
One problem is that some non-combatant roles are civilian in nature and the MoD might not allow such job cuts, says a report.
Another problem is the shortage of officers. The Indian Army is short of 9,106 officers, and there are already around 25,000 vacancies in other ranks excluding medical and dental research.