Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved the setting up of a three-man committee to identify posts in the service headquarters that are currently held by civilian officers but need to be manned by military officers with necessary domain expertise for effective functioning, people familiar with the developments said on Saturday.
The new committee has been constituted as a follow-up to the recommendations made by the Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar committee in its report on enhancing the military’s combat potential and rebalancing defence expenditure. A key recommendation in that comprehensive report dealt with aspects related to the effective utilisation of the armed forces headquarters civil service (AFHQ-CS).
Shekatkar will chair the new three-man panel consisting of R Chandrashekhar who retired from the AFHQ-CS and AN Das who is from the defence ministry’s finance wing.
While identifying posts that need to be manned by military officers due to their expertise is a key task assigned to the panel, it will also conduct a study and identify appointments in service headquarters that may fall within the domain of AFHQ-CS officers due to their longer tenures and expertise, according to the terms of reference in the government order reviewed by Hindustan Times.
Shekatkar told HT that the setting up of the panel was a step in the right direction as it would improve the overall functioning of the service headquarters and inter-services organisations. He said the committee was likely to submit its report in November.
Military and civilian officers hold posts in different wings of the service headquarters and inter-services organisations including administration, finance, policy formulation and coordination, personnel management, training, vigilance and legal matters.
The Shekatkar panel made 188 suggestions in its report submitted in December 2016 of which around 100 have been accepted by the ministry and others are under consideration. The defence ministry is working towards implementing more recommendations made by the panel.
In May, the ministry announced that more than 9,300 posts in the Military Engineer Services (MES) would be abolished as a follow-up to the recommendations made by the Shekatkar committee. The MES is a construction and maintenance agency of the armed forces and has an annual budget of around Rs 13,000 crore.
The ministry said the recommendation to cut the posts (9,304 out of total 13,157 vacancies) was aimed at making the MES an effective organisation, with a leaner workforce well equipped to handle complex issues in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
The recommendations made by the Shekatkar committee relate to several organisations including the MES, Defence Research and Development Organisation, Directorate General of Quality Assurance, Directorate General of Defence Estates, the Ordnance Factory Board and defence accounts.
The panel’s recommendations also covered optimisation of signals establishments, restructuring of the army’s base workshops, revamp of ordnance depots, better utilisation of supply and transport units, closure of military farms and army postal establishments in peace locations and improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps.