Defence told to ‘cut flab’: Minister statement has military in a tizzy

Kolkata9The Telegraph): New Delhi: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said he had asked the armed forces to “cut flab”, a directive that the military is in a tizzy about because it believes it optimises scarce resources.

Defence told to 'cut flab': Minister statement has military in a tizzy
Parrikar was speaking at a news conference this afternoon that was called to explain that the allocation for defence in the Union budget was not falling short of demand. Even the defence ministry was initially confused about the allocations for two reasons. First, finance minister Arun Jaitley had not mentioned the amount for defence in his speech. Second, he had also pared down the number of “demands for grants” for defence from eight to four.
Parrikar said the total allocation for defence in the Union budget for 2016-2017 was Rs 3,41,000 crore, including defence pensions. This was 17.23 per cent of overall central expenditure of Rs 19,78,060 crore.
This total defence allocation includes about Rs 82,000 crore for pensions. Parrikar said about Rs 70,000 crore would be available to buy new equipment for the armed forces (capital expenditure).
The defence minister said that a first-time stock-taking of cash flow for defence purchases has found that $3 billion was held in an account with the US government for government-to-government contracts.
“The money had piled up and was not used because of ill management (sic)”, said Parrikar. “But last May/June we realised that the money was lying there quite unnecessarily. So we re-calibrated the full management for the $3 billion and now it has come down to about $1.7 to $1.8 billion,” the minister explained.
The defence ministry estimates that it will return about Rs 13,000 crore of unspent capital funds in the current year. “Money is being paid but we are also saving,” he said.
To further increase savings he had asked the armed forces to identify areas where they could “cut flab”. He said, for example, that the number of telephone operators could be reduced.
But, say army sources “we do not have telephone operators. We have signalmen who are soldiers tasked with laying and maintaining communication lines”.
Senior military officials say that cutting down manpower in the armed forces is possible after the induction of new technology, not before.
As it is, said one officer, every one of the 380 infantry battalions is under pressure because of increased workload that has resulted from, among other things, obsolete technology.
The army has not inducted a single heavy gun in 30 years, the navy is unsure of when its fast-depleting fleet of submarines can be resuscitated and the air force has made the point that 36 Rafales – if and when they contract with France is signed – are far fewer than its operation requirement.
Parrikar called himself a “tough negotiator who will not show all my cards” on the talks for the Rafale aircraft.
“It is better to cross the bridge when the time comes…. A good buyer does not put his weakness in front. He keeps his cards close to his chest. Please do not ask me to reveal the card in national interest,” he said.