Civil-military Integration

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Oct 2017 11:20:48

The current system of segregating the two sectors seems to be contributing towards sluggishness in the acquisition process and increase in the initial acquisition costs. Studies suggest that it also contributes to decreased economic competitiveness due to the inefficient use of national resources

Dr. Abdul Kalam, in the opening remarks of his biography says, “economical and technological supremacy equates to power and world control”. Although our economic prospects seem to be well on course, the elusive dream of being self-reliant and technologically supreme has continued to remain distant. When I say, technologically supreme, I am
explicitly pointing towards our defence technology base. In the last seven decades, our pursuits to build and indigenise crucial defence technologies have been rather slow and disappointing. For an India of tomorrow, will the same old approach to self-reliance apply, particularly if it hasn’t yielded results? Integrating civilian and military technological efforts is one way in which we may hope to expedite our journey towards self-reliance.

Civil and Military Integration (CMI), as it is commonly referred to, isn’t a new concept. The United States and China have already been working towards such an integration from the early 1980s.
The strategy was officially embodied in Deng Xiaoping’s so-called “Sixteen Character” slogan, which called for “combining the military and civil, combining peace and war, giving priority to military products, and making the civil support the military.

” As recent as early this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping formed and headed a new central commission for integrated military and civilian development. In the US too, The Dual Use Science and Technology (DUST) Programme encourages partnerships between the Department Of Defense and industry to develop dual-use technologies that have both military utility and commercial potential. The approach adopted by the two countries whose combined spending on Research and Development (R&D) is more than $ 400 billion, goes to prove a very important point - the said strategy cannot be simply written off.

According to the US Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, CMI includes, “Cooperation between Government and commercial facilities in R&D, manufacturing, and/or maintenance operations; combined production of similar military and commercial items, including components and subsystems, side by side on a single production line or within a single firm or facility, and use of commercial off-the-shelf items directly within military systems”.

Today, India has a clearly segregated defence technology industry base and a civilian technology industrial base with little interplay with each other. Let’s consider an example to illustrate the need to develop an Integrated National Technology Base. The Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) of DST had come up with the “Technology Vision 2035” document in 2015. While it talked about security in information and communication, it remained silent on similar requirements in the military sphere.

IT is one sector where the civilian side has taken a clear lead in innovation. If a rugged cyber-security system can be put in place in the South Block or in an MNC, a tweaked version may well be of use to the military in its remote stations or on the battlefield. On the other hand, technologies like the Internet, GPS and Jet propulsion, which have highly impacted the civilian sector, were all spin-offs from the Defence R&D efforts. We now know that the introduction of CMI significantly paves the way for evolving a single integrated standards document required for certification for both civilian and military technologies, thereby reducing issues relating to certification standards.

The Civil-Military Integration Promotion Department (CMIPD) in China is actually mandated to do this task. While enhancing a civilian entrepreneur’s understanding of the military standards, which are otherwise esoteric, it promotes entry of the civilian industries into the defence sector. The current system of segregating the two sectors seems to be contributing towards sluggishness in the acquisition process and increase in the initial acquisition costs.

A study by the US Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) says that segregation often increases initial acquisition and life-cycle costs; limits flow of information and technology and reduces the numbers of firms willing to sell to the Government. These studies further suggest that segregation contributes to decreased economic competitiveness due to the inefficient use of national resources.

The prevalent segregated nature of the defence sector restricts the flow of product and process information and technology to the civilian side, and in some cases, the defence establishments themselves don’t have access to the full range of technology available in the civilian industry base. This greatly discourages innovation and the substitution of more advanced components at the sub-systems level. A couple of reports and case studies have already established that CMI indeed helps maximise resource utilisation and bring down purchase costs.

However, the approach cannot be simply believed to be fit for the Indian ecosystem as well. Since prospects appear to be promising, I feel it will be a worthwhile effort to study the possibilities of the said integration. The study will obviously last for a long duration. Implementing even a
pilot programme will be an uphill task. But as I have already stated, the said strategy encapsulates new avenues for us to expedite our indigenisation goals and cannot be simply written off. I only hope that the officials at the Ministry of Defence pay heed.