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More bang for the buck!

Nations that want to retain their sovereignty have to spend substantial sums for their defence needs. This emphasis on defence expenditures extends to even those countries whose defence shields are provided by protective allies. For third world countries, already over-burdened economically by crushing external debt, earmarking of large outlays for defence material and manpower, is for the most part unacceptable. Only the thought that India, with the bulk of its population below the poverty level, spends a mind-boggling amount on their fairy-tale perception of defence needs (which invariably means an anti-Pakistan posture), keeps us from screaming our collective heads off. With such an implacable, unrelenting foe on our borders, our financial circumstances take secondary thought as we make pro-rata commensurate increases in our defence outlays. Indian ambitions are too blatant for us to behave like an ostrich. While matching them gun for gun may not be either feasible or possible, we are obliged to maintain a proportionate ratio so that numerical or qualitative superiority does not overwhelm us without a fight as has happened recently in Sri Lanka. With the Afghan situation not likely to get better in a hurry after the departure of the Russians, our volatile borders will dictate a two-front approach, the division of our meagre resources indicating a defence posture based on interior lines of communications with an inherent capability to move large bodies of troops on short notice for strategic and/or tactical purposes. Thanks to generous US Aid, dictated out of the threat perception to their strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, we have managed to induct quality material in good quantities into the three services, particularly the Pakistan Air Force where the acquiring of the F-16, the Fighting Falcon, has given us a qualitative edge in the field of air superiority. Our greatest failing has been a significant lack of progress in indigenous defence production where a singular lack of will has inspired a lip-service fanfare of achievements interspersed with some actual transfer of technology from time to time.

Because of reasons of security it would be inappropriate and counter-productive to make a detailed analysis of our defence requirements in the pages of a newspaper so only a general discussion can be made, suffering as it will from the lack of substantial argument about technology and tactics. Furthermore, except for the possible exception of US Senator Sam Nunn, no single person can really boast of having a detailed computer-like knowledge of any country’s defence requirements. Given the self-imposed restrictions coupled with modest qualifications, one can discuss and recommend solutions to get more “Bang for the Buck” within these parameters. One can indulge in some suggestions for cost-cutting without effecting the respective operational roles of the three Defence Services. One can discuss the common problems associated with all three services.

The Aim of the Defence Services is to defend the ideological frontiers of the State and the territorial sovereignty of the Nation at all costs. All other functions are subordinate to the Aim, the selection and maintenance of which is the first Principle of War. In the fulfilment of the Aim, the primary requisite of the Armed Forces is to prepare for war. This preparation will be dictated by the terrain, enemy and our own resources. Once one has assessed the enemy’s intention and capabilities we can earmark our own manpower and equipment requirements based on our resources. Allocations of forces and material depends very much on optimum strategy devised by our planners. This dictates the Tables of Organisation and Equipment (TO&E) which must and should be different for each sector and service. For the Army, there are three main areas of operations, the mountains, the plains and the desert. Pakistan Air Force, applying the interior lines for defence theory into practice much more assiduously, is well balanced with its induction of advanced equipment and their allocations to different sectors. The Pakistan Navy has adequate submarine and aviation forces but has been sorely neglected in the development of its surface fleet and its role can now be enhanced only at great cost.

We have a frequent perception of the structure of the Armed Forces being exceedingly top-heavy. With the current expansion the perception is reinforced by a realistic assessment of the number of commanders promoted into various positions. During time of peace, top-heavy structures pose administrative problems only but during wartime they can prove to be operationally fatal. The defence services must be made lean and tough and the way to go about it is to drastically reduce (1) the number of HQs right down the line. (2) the number of staff in each HQ. (3) the ancillary troops attached to each HQ. This is necessary to make better use of our manpower and to have a better ratio between the men actually expected to do the fighting and those in supporting roles. It goes without saying that the fighting arms must have adequate logistic support but the present tendency, not only in Pakistan but all over the world, to have the main mass of men in logistical services and very few men forward in the field of battle must be immediately reversed. For the Air Force, which uses a single pilot (mainly) in a combat aircraft (or a small crew) this is acceptable but for the Army and Navy certainly not. With the advent of Corps Formations in the Army, the administrative functions as regards manpower management of the Divisional HQs should be cut down and taken over by the Corps HQ while the support and supply functions should be handled by the Logistics Area. Battalion, Brigade and Divisional HQs should basically be at Tactical HQ strength and located, as is been the case in actual war conditions, with the reserve sub-unit within the respective units. One of the fundamental aspects of reorganisation would be to clearly demarcate the use of first-line equipment particularly transportation. No administrative unit of any kind should be allocated first-line equipment except for small arms. A separate scheme for transportation for administrative units needs to be introduced. First line transport should be driven no more than a maximum of 500 miles each year, mostly during collective training, and no drivers’ training should be conducted on first line transport. Our Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) service has increased dramatically in numerical strength mainly because of non-standardisation of equipment and improper use of expensive first line transport. We should encourage private drivers training schools in the vicinity of cantonments and pay them for ab-initio training up to the licence stage. This will also give considerable saving on POL besides avoiding wear and tear of the equipment.

Batmen are a sacred cow and must be done away with immediately. Married officers should be authorised the salary for acquiring one civilian servant while the pattern of the Air Force where the bachelor officers share the services of bearers should be adopted. With the saving on manpower, one can probably create a fresh infantry division. The Defence Services should avoid getting into NLC-type projects. The National Logistics Cell was a brilliant idea when conceived but only as a temporary measure. As a permanent establishment, officered and manned by the critical manpower of the Army, it is a counter-productive headache, a total washout as an economic measure and a Public Relations disaster. NLC should be sold, lock, stock and barrel to the Fauji Foundation which should then run it as a private organisation manned mostly by ex-servicemen. Similarly, other organisations coming up on the same pattern in the Engineer Corps should be done away with. The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) has done a tremendous job but basically it should have remained a Control HQ and the service performed by private construction companies. The concept of the US Army Corps of Engineers being transferred to Pakistani conditions is clearly not feasible. Similarly, the Military Dairy Farm idea should have been dropped as the Army expanded, the Army procuring its milk very much like it procures its other daily rations. Each of these Organisations has drawn a lot of officers and men who have to be housed, their administrative needs attended to and so on and so forth till ultimately one is overwhelmed by the non-defence expenditures in the defence services.

Use of combat troops for any purpose other than military should be strictly forbidden. Military parades are fine now and then but Horse and Cattle Shows do not fit in with today’s image of the fighting Army. It is a diversion of officers and men for totally non-productive use. Hand it over to the civilians to run it and let them spend money and time for this type of extravaganza. Similarly protocol duties of any nature should be strictly avoided as it detracts from the training cycle.

It is high time that we had universal conscription. National service plays a great part in integrating society during peacetime besides the fact that on general mobilisation in anticipation of war we should be able to call on the vast sources of our manpower potential. A smaller professional Army capable of quick mobilisation will go much towards saving recurring expenditures. At the same time it inculcates a sense of comradeship and equality besides instilling discipline, which is seriously being affected in our youth. A large standing Army is a definite contribution towards the economy as it provides for employment of our unskilled masses but universal conscription with innovative branches for medical care, transportation and other general services will make a tremendous difference towards our economic well-being. The mixture of various ethnic groups into one melting point will also significantly contribute to national integration, harmonising society as a whole.

Financial Discipline
We should strictly practice leakage control. That most of it takes place in Defence Procurement, Military Engineering Services, Army Supply Corps, Army Medical Corps, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Establishments and Ordinance Corps Depots is a well-known fact and one that needs immediate and critical attention. Waste and corruption are twin partners in crime against the Defence Budget and the perennial losers are the fighting men. It is also time to conduct a survey wherein pure services like medical facilities, conservancy, maintenance, etc in fixed peacetime locations must be contracted out and the support services should be reduced as much as possible. After all we do not have to fight in Africa or Europe, so why have the same World War II concepts? There are too many generals in the Medical Corps as well as in the EME. With honourable exceptions the Army Supply Corps (ASC) is a disgrace, quite in keeping with their brother supply establishments in different military forces of the world. One has to maintain the same standards of honesty and integrity throughout the service or a bad name is totally pervasive. With the advent of computers, a judicious use of it will permit a greater amount of control over leakages.

The EME has bloated beyond recognition mainly because of the lack of standardisation in various equipment, particularly transportation. All fixed units and HQs should immediately dispense with first-line transportation, mainly jeeps, dodges, 2 1/2 ton M34 type trucks etc and hand them over to the fighting arms. In lieu they should be given 800-1000cc cars, Datsun type pickups and Bedford-type trucks. All administrative units like Logistics HQ should maintain central vehicle pools for administrative support of units in their areas. This is the only way to avoid blatant misuse of transport. It does nobody any good to see a UNIMOG vehicle plying in Karachi for administrative use lugging water trailers. Water may be a problem but Water Bowsers mounted on Bedford Trucks are adequate instead of destroying our desert war mobility in administrative non-essential use. Our spare parts requirement every year is horrendous and the maintenance budget colossal. We must work out a Five-Seven Year Plan to replace all the vehicles of the Defence Services in a planned and phased manner based on standardized equipment indigenously manufactured. A number of well-known and reputable foreign companies offer transfer of technology and their offers should be considered on a priority basis. These companies are providing different types of equipment which are satisfactorily being used by various defence services in diverse terrain and climatic conditions all over the world. Our one sided love with imported Mercedes Benz trucks continue and though one cannot detract from their quality but is it necessary to condemn all the others in any given “test and trials”? Something smells when you apply such a blatant scalpel to ward off potential competition. If things are allowed to continue in the same vein, one will have to change the Aim of the Army from defending the country’s ideological and sovereign frontier to that of guarding the EME establishments.

One of the finest lessons one learns in the Armed Forces is to “improvise”. The word may now hardly be changed to “innovate”.
A lot of effort has gone into maintaining exceedingly high standards in the various training institution of the Armed Forces at different levels. Through the life of a soldier he is kept under constant training. In order to cope with the rigours and aspects of modern warfare in an electronic age, the training has to be made more objective and greater emphasis on actual combat conditions have to be introduced. Great emphasis has to be placed on mind development permitting the military psyche to innovate in order to make up for the lack of superiority in numbers.

However, innovation has to start from the top. Gen Zia’s “cycle” campaign bombed out in the wake of the burning of the US Embassy in Islamabad but it was a symbolic gesture dictating the attitude towards cost-cutting and saving. Almost a decade later we can count in billions of rupees the cost of POL for non-productive use.

Innovative schemes should have been prepared to meet the demands for Services housing. The Army Housing Scheme was a step in the right direction, but better financial management particularly by bringing in private sector participation is necessary. Most of our major cantonments are totally engulfed by civilian housing, particularly Lahore, Sialkot and Peshawar. By creating smaller cantonments in Pasrur, Daska, Narowal, Kasur, Lulliani, Raiwand, etc one could have moved the formations forward closer to their operational areas and pay for the cost of new cantonments by selling, at commercial prices, the land of the old! Taking commercial loans, one could have created officer and men married accommodation in Housing Schemes in the New Cantonments. Whenever possible cantonments must be moved from larger cities to within that parameters of restricted areas not easily accessible to civilians. The cost of maintenance of the old cantonments is not apparent but in actual fact is a considerable amount hidden into various station HQ budgets.

The Fauji Foundation is awash with liquidity. Now that private investment banks are due to be sanctioned one could create a private investment bank from these funds which could finance the various industries for Fauji Foundation and function also as a leasing corporation leasing out second-line transportation equipment for the administrative and fixed units of the Defence Services while also catering to providing investment capital for service-oriented organisations proposed to be shifted to private sector like the NLC, Army Dairy Farms, Construction companies, etc. This investment bank would have the authority to float bonds, COIs, etc to finance schemes related to services to the Armed Forces, thereby freeing the Defence Budget to be better use.

The modern world is looking to Countertrade as a means of balancing financial deficits in foreign exchange. In the Defence Services there is certainly awareness of “Buy Back” schemes for encouraging indigenous production but a comprehensive understanding of the implications of international trade and the ensuring of meaningful transfer of technology escapes them. There is a great deal of lethargy in moving forward with decision making for local production with the effects translated into constant purchases by hard earned foreign exchange. Turkey paid for part of its purchases of F-16s from the US by tomatoes and has followed it up by making the jet engines of the aircraft in a transfer of technology — part Buy Back scheme. Since the defence services purchase a substantial amount of hardware, it stands to reason that they lessen their dependence on hard cash foreign exchange by resorting to Countertrades which even rich Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have now adopted for some years, besides Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq which regularly swap oil for hardware. A Countertrade package can be adopted with a basket of traditional and non-traditional export coupled with a sell-back of the items being produced indigenously. One of the main reasons for the Ministries of Finance and Commerce preferring Barter to Countertrade is that the present bilateral Barter trade with the Comecon Countries is being used actually as Countertrade and naturally they avoid any association with the Defence Services as the ensuing security investigation will uncover the fact that within these Ministries the Warsaw Pact countries not only enjoy total dominance but a great capacity for economic subversion. The most important sector in innovation is correct and early decision making about the choice of weapons and equipment. Inflation adds to the cost daily and it is suggested that a Reuters Terminal displaying fluctuating foreign exchange rates be kept in each decision making management cell in GHQ showing the increases necessitated DAILY to the cost of purchase by delays in decision making. The important thing to remember is to make decisions which would affect the Armed Forces over a 5-10 years period, without the equipment becoming obsolete. We have an integrated Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and that should be the correct forum to take such decisions universally for the three services. The purchase of Jaguar aircraft by India is a case in point where delay in decision making has made the aircraft obsolete before delivery. Without talking about the procedures followed, let it just be said that these are mostly outdated, antiquated and thoroughly made counter-productive by inordinate delays.

Though it is clear that injudicious hurry must not be the order of the day, it also follows that the present complacent attitude harbours on criminal negligence at least in certain cases, and it may be the result of motivated interest. Defence Services cannot afford to be parade ground outfits which they are apt to be, given unscrupulous arms merchants in various disguises of manufacturers, agents, consultants etc. The main items for future selection are the small arms, the artillery pieces, armoured vehicles, miscellaneous transportation and communication equipment. The General Staff is competent to recommend possible selections in such cases in less than a week if it does not get entangled in muddled technical specifications coloured to suit a particularly motivated viewpoint. This decision can be based on world-wide assessment by various analysts from diverse countries with the specifications well researched and the performances under various field conditions well documented. The same analogy can be reasoned as to why the Air Force did not ask for a test and trial of an F-16 before it bought the same? Because the technical competence and performance capabilities were available universally and there was no need to get involved our own elongated in-house technical analysis, in which circumstances, one daresays that the F-16 would perhaps never have been purchased. Innovative swift decision making through the broad spectrum is the need of the hour.

An apology must be made because of the generalities made and the sketchiness of the treatment of an important subject necessitated by reasons of maintaining security. Air Marshal (Retd) Nur Khan has said a 20% budget reduction is possible just by cost cutting without equipment manpower-deletions and he has been supported in this by Lt. Gen. (Retd) K M Shaikh who has used a figure for saving of over Rs: 4 billion (US$250 million). This is quite a substantial sum and given the credibility and expertise of these two profound military minds, is more or less correct. Why not incorporate such men of known stature and make a committee including honest minds like that of Lt Gen (Retd) Attiqur Rahman, Lt Gen (Retd) A I Akram, Lt Gen. (Retd) S R Kallue, Vice Admiral (Retd) Qadir, Air Marshal (Retd) Zulfikar Ali Khan, Air Commodore (Retd) M M Alam, etc into a Military Equipment Advisory Committee? We will certainly go to war in this century with India one more time. For us it will be a battle of survival and will be forced on us by Indian attempts at hegemony. For India, defeat will not mean much but a temporary setback to their deep-rooted regional and international plans, but for Pakistan it will mean extinction from the face of this Earth as a nation. It behoves us to draw up all our efforts into making our war machine strong within the resources available and that means ruthlessly ensuring that every penny counts.

We must get more bang for the same buck!


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