Joint and Integrated Logistics System for the Defence Services

Brigadier Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow


The importance of logistics in actual warfighting cannot be exaggerated as many famous battles have been lost owing to a lack of logistic support. The future wars are going to become increasingly complex demanding logistical ingenuity and organisational skills of a very high order. On the other hand, the future wars are also going to emphasise the need for joint operations with increased tempo, non-linearity in the battlefront and reduced timings for decision-cycle. It is also being said that the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is being accompanied by the Revolution in Business Affairs (RBA), using the tools of information technology (IT). Similarly, IT is also being used to usher in a Revolution in Military Logistics (RML). This RML enjoins upon the three services to evolve a common and integrated approach towards logistic concepts and doctrines. The article takes a look at the existing system, its weaknesses and how they can be rectified.

Logistics in its general sense means the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities and supplies. The word 'logistics' has its origins from the French word logistique, which means movement and supplying of troops and equipment. In another version the word logistics is derived from logistikus, a Greek word meaning "skilled and calculated." The key role of logistics in support of warfighting has always been recognised though military commanders, as a general rule, prefer to pay more attention to strategic and operational plans rather than logistic plans. The military leaders become more enamoured with the glamorous world of actual warfighting rather than get involved in tedious details underpinning the logistics requirements of a campaign. It is well known that Napoleon was defeated by "General Winter" of Russia, as his armies were found unprepared for the long and severe Russian winter. Rommel's campaigns in the Northern African desert during World War II were severely affected by the amount of supplies which could reach him. The future wars are going to become increasingly complex, demanding logistical ingenuity and organisational skills of a very high order. The costs of maintaining and sustaining forces are ever increasing and there has to be a continuous endeavour to exercise economy. A very large portion of the defence budget is spent on force maintenance and its readiness for war. When we talk of joint and integrated logistics in the defence Services, it has mainly three connotations. First, the three Services should have a joint and common perspective of logistics and they should be integrated under one head. Second, there should be an integrated logistics perspective at the national level, as logistics support for a future war will not only require a joint Services effort, but would also require the effort of the entire nation in terms of industrial back up, research and development, material support, infrastructure and manpower. Third, an integrated logistics system would also involve taking a holistic system approach on introduction of new equipment from "womb to tomb", that is assessing complete life-cycle costs of the new equipment and weapon systems being procured for the Services.

The principles of logistics as taught during courses of instruction at military institutions are foresight, economy, flexibility, simplicity and cooperation. One could find some relationship with principles of war especially when we talk of economy of effort, achieving flexibility due to acquiring certain capacities or by virtue of some inherent capabilities and inter-Service cooperation beside intra-Service cooperation. These principles are also somewhat akin to management principles in business administration, namely, forecasting, planning, directing, coordinating and controlling to achieve efficiencies in output. Most of these principles move us towards evolving joint and integrated precepts for management of logistics. The future wars are not only going to be characterised by joint operations, but there would be an increase in tempo, the battlefield will be extended in depth, there would be non-linearity in the battle fronts and timings for decision-cycle would be reduced. It is imperative that we develop an integrated logistics support system for military forces in combat. It is also being said that the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is being accompanied by a Revolution in Business Affairs (RBA), using the tools of information technology (IT). The RBA may help the economy to garner adequate funds for the RMA. Similarly, the tools of IT are also being used to usher in a "Revolution in Military Logistics" (RML). This RML enjoins upon the three Services to evolve a common and integrated approach to exploit jointly the latest technologies, logistic concepts and doctrines.

The first major phase of logistics is the process of procurement. All the provisions and facilities required by the military are acquired or obtained or produced in-house. These include goods and services, weapon systems and various other commodities. The procurement process involves budgeting, contracting, production, evaluation and trials. The second phase involves transportation, storage, inventory control, distribution and supply management. The third phase involves sustainment of the defence forces through maintenance, replenishment, servicing of equipment and weapon systems.1 Maintenance refers to sustainment of both men and material through commodities and services. It is quite evident that the economic resources available influence the entire logistics process. There are always constraints on the size of the defence budget, as also competing demands under the revenue and capital heads of the defence budget. A large portion of the budget goes towards maintenance of the defence forces, whereas a very small portion is left for modernisation and meeting contractual obligations of the past. Thus, it becomes mandatory that the defence rupee gives us the maximum value for money. The development of a unified logistics organisation, harmonising the logistics systems of the three Services and developing a common approach in supporting the defence forces would give us value addition and achieve economy of effort and resources.

Existing System

The present logistics systems of the three Services remain separate and there is considerable scope to improve the delivery of logistic support through better inter-Service arrangements. A number of steps have already been undertaken to effect inter-Service cooperation in the field of logistics and to rationalise single-Service logistic areas.

The Joint Administration Planning Committee (JAPC), having representatives from the Services, is placed under the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). The JAPC is tasked with preparation of a joint administrative plan to supplement and support the overall mobilisation and operation plan evolved by the Joint Planning Committee (JPC), for any future operation or contingency plans involving two or more Services. The secretarial support is provided by the Military Wing of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which, to say the least, is totally inadequate. Even though all future operations are going to be joint in nature, presently, each Service is planning for its requirements in isolation, without the concerted action of a joint approach. Some of the logistical functions, which are static in nature and may not really affect combat efficiency, have already been integrated. The medical services, postal services, MES (Military Engineering Service) works, Embarkation Headquarters, Defence Lands and Cantonment Organisation and the Canteen Stores Department are providing support to all the three Services. The navy and air force are also dependent on the army for common user items such as armaments, ammunition, vehicles, general stores and clothing. These arrangements have resulted in economy of effort and unity of purpose. Yet, there are a number of areas in the present logistics support system, which are open to integration and jointness to achieve synergies in operations.

At the MOD level, the two important entities in the field of logistics are the defence minister's Production and Supply Committee and Defence Research and Development Council. The role of the Production and Supply Committee is most important as it covers the entire gamut of planning force levels and equipment planning related to availability of resources. The COSC advises the defence minister on all military matters including logistics matters. As mentioned above, the JAPC under the direction of COSC is expected to coordinate the logistics effort of the three Services.

In the Army Headquarters, the agencies responsible for providing logistics are organised under four different PSOs (principal staff officers) that is, the adjutant general (AG), quarter master general (QMG), master general of ordnance (MGO) and the engineer-in-chief. This could also be taken to mean that the management and control of the logistics services are not under a unified single management or control. This gives rise to a number of intra-Service logistical problems in the army. The QMG Branch is responsible for a large portion of planning for logistics. It utilises almost two-fifths of the army budget.2

In the air force, the Logistics Branch handles all the equipment, materials management and distribution functions. At the Air Headquarters, air officer-in-charge administration and the air officer-in-charge maintenance (AOM) perform functions similar to those of the AG and the QMG in the army and partly similar to those of the MGO in the army. The AOM, therefore, to a large extent, provides single point management and control of these activities. Constituting the "Initial Provisioning Committee" and "Maintenance Planning Teams" provides logistics support for the newly introduced aircraft and weapon systems. Apparently, these arrangements militate against the integrated logistics support since such activity conveys an "after-the-fact" approach.3 The air force spends almost 60 per cent of its budget on stores.

In the navy, the chief of materials is responsible for maintenance and logistic support, armament supply, naval projects, engineering, electrical and weapon systems and procurement of naval stores. The chief of personnel looks after the responsibilities connected with medical services, recruitment, service conditions, clothing and welfare and utilises over half of the naval budget. Even in the navy, logistics support to newly introduced equipment, is planned and organised after selection and ordering of the new equipment by user directorates and, therefore, this procedure lends itself to be termed as an "after-the-fact discipline".


At present, there is a considerable amount of divergence in procurement, stocking, maintenance and support functions. This lends to lack of standardisation, overstocking and increases costs of inventory. There is duplication in certain areas of logistics where common items and weapon systems are in use in more than one Service. Though some of the duplication may be unavoidable yet a rationalisation of logistics in the common areas would prove fruitful. Besides the organisational weaknesses, there are weaknesses in the policy and logistics infrastructure. There is a lack of overall national perspective for logistics. The decision-making structures at the national level are either inappropriate or unresponsive. The Siachen episode of 1998, where the defence minister had to send some bureaucrats to Siachen to understand the need for snow-scooters by the troops, indicates the level of awareness of the logistical needs of the Services at the top policy-making echelons. Further, in the second half of 1995, an extract from a note sent to the army chief from the Valley observed, "Public moneys are being poured down the drain by people with increasing frequency. There are apparently no qualms felt in condoning such actions where crores are padded at will with no accountability, while troops in the Valley have actually offered to give up a certain percentage of their ration if funds were insufficient for bullet proof jackets."4 And to further compound the problems, the bullet-proof jackets being procured from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) were very heavy and cumbersome restricting the mobility and agility of troops in the counter-insurgency operations.

The existing logistics support systems at the national and Services level appear to be antiquated and crisis management oriented. The Kargil War witnessed huge expenditure of ammunition, especially of artillery guns. Even before the war ended, procurement teams for Bofors ammunition were sent abroad for replenishment of the ammunition. The maintenance spares of Bofors were also in short supply and had to be cannibalised from guns of other theatres which affected the operational efficiency of those formations. The air force used "dumb bombs" by modifying and fitting laser-guidance equipment. Thus, it had to rely on innovation during time of crisis rather than having anticipated this requirement and making adequate provision for the same.

There is very little involvement of the private sector in defence research and development. The weakness in defence logistic infrastructure is also reflected by non-inclusion of public corporations and distribution systems for formulating an integrated national mobilisation plan. Besides, the defence logistics not having been dovetailed into overall national planning, there are too many ministerial departments involved in defence logistics. As outlined earlier, there is excessive bureaucratic control over defence finances. The lead times for procurement are very long. There are debilitating delays in decision-making in financial and production planning.

Some of the major weaknesses in the present logistics system can be summarised as given below:

l At the top echelons of the MOD and COSC, "Defence by Committees" is the accepted style of functioning, which is hardly conducive to efficient functioning. The Service chiefs are responsible for operational and logistic preparedness, but exercise little or no control over budget and provisioning of war-like material. General V.P. Malik's statement during the Kargil War that "we will fight with whatever we have" is testimony to the lack of long-term logistical planning and an overall national perspective. Even though a new fiscal management policy was introduced some time in September 1998, which entailed devolution of financial powers to the Service chiefs, vice-chiefs and army commanders and their equivalents in the other two Services, these measures have not gone far enough. The Arun Singh Committee on Defence Expenditure (CDE) of 1990 had made wide ranging recommendations and proposals to promote quick response and accountability. All revenue expenditure, except in certain areas, was recommended to be within the purview of the chiefs of staff.

l There is a lack of inter-linkages between the development plans of the nation and defence requirements. There is no organisation at the national level to oversee, coordinate and integrate defence needs with national development. There is little evidence to indicate that national level logistical planning is done keeping in view the defence requirements.

l The three Services have not evolved a common logistics doctrine and philosophy of logistics support. There is limited interaction and intercommunication amongst the three Services on matters of logistics. At times, parochial considerations dominate decision- making which militates against the requirements of organisational economy.

l There is a multiplicity in logistic agencies with no single authority responsible for logistics preparedness. Lack of centralised logistics support encourages duplication and wasteful expenditure.

l Multiple procurement agencies of the Services, with lack of interaction, work against the principle of economy and lead to increased costs. At times, bureaucratic delays result in cost escalations and even inappropriate and inadequate procurement. Long lead times result in functional inefficiencies and losses, especially when changes are made after the orders have been placed on the supplying agencies.

l There is a lack of standardisation and codification. This leads to duplication and high inventories. There are multiple stocking echelons, which lead to a high level of stocking. And this is further compounded by the lack of an integrated system approach to determine stock levels.

l All the three Services have undertaken automation in logistics field separately. For example, inventory automation by the army, air force and navy has been undertaken separately in spite of commonality of procedures. A common system would have been more economical.5

Military Logistics Systems: USA and UK

The US Armed Forces have a common Defence Logistic Agency (DLA). The DLA provides supply support and technical and logistics services to all branches of the military and to several civilian agencies also. The DLA is active for both peacetime and wartime missions. This support commences in joint planning sessions with the Services for parts needed for new weapon systems, extends through production and concludes with the disposal of material no longer required. The DLA is the largest agency under the Department of Defence. It is responsible for both acquisition of weapons and other materials. The main purpose of establishing the DLA in 1977 was centralising the management of common military logistic support and introducing uniform financial management practices. The DLA has evolved from earlier Defence Supply Agency, which was looking after consumable commodities for the services. After the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, for the unification of the US Armed Forces, the DLA got the additional mandate of virtually all contract administration functions. All the distribution depots of the military Services have been consolidated into a single, unified material distribution system to reduce overheads and costs, and put under the DLA for management. It has also introduced a standard procurement system that supports electronic commerce.6

The Strategic Defence Review (SDR), 1998, of the UK has laid great emphasis on logistics support. The Review included an in-depth re-examination of the structure and performance of the existing 44 Defence Agencies. The Review stressed that "military effectiveness of modern armed forces depends more than ever on quality of their logistic and other support. It (SDR) has added impetus to the drive for extra effectiveness and efficiency, adopting and where necessary adapting modern means and best practices".

The SDR created an appointment, chief of defence logistics (CDL), with effect from April 1999. He is the head of the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) of the UK. His mandate is to reorganise single Service logistics support into a tri-Service logistics organisation with improved responsiveness and accountability. It would provide more cost-effective support by rationalisation of common functions and processes. The DLO was supposed to have become completely effective from April 2000. The DLO is the British answer to a unified logistics organisation and the CDL has full budgetary and management responsibility for the single Service support areas. The functions of procurement, repairs, storage and distribution, transportation, defence estate management and various other logistics functions have been rationalised, resulting in efficiencies and reduction of costs. The tasks entrusted to the CDL in the UK are:7

- To develop a unified logistics organisation.

- To harmonise logistics systems and spread best practices.

- To develop a common approach to support front-line forces without diluting the diversity necessary to support operations at sea, on land and in the air.

- To deliver the benefits of Smart Procurement Initiative (responsive, appropriate and economic procurement) within the logistics area.

- To ensure a common approach to industry in the support area.

The military logistics systems and organisations of the USA and the UK do hold some lessons and guidelines for us when we are evolving our own logistics structures and organisations for meeting the challenges of warfighting in the 21st century.

Areas of Inter-Service Integration

Thus, an organisation like the DLA of the USA or the DLO of the UK is required at the Services level to coordinate the complex requirements of military logistics. At the national level also there is a requirement of a unified body to coordinate defence and civil logistics needs and infrastructure. A certain portion of the logistics services required specifically for a particular Service and termed as "Operational Logistics" should be left to the individual Services. Some of the concepts of logistics, as well as areas where inter-Service interaction and integration is required are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.

Though the concept of systems approach has been discussed briefly earlier in the paper, yet it is one approach, which would probably most effect reduction in costs of maintenance and modernisation of our forces. A number of mathematical models are available for introduction of an integrated systems approach.8 There are already many common systems in the three Services like missiles, radars, communication systems, ammunition for certain kind of common weapon platforms. The systems approach aims at integrated development by finding the best commonality of systems which can be used in the air, on the land or at sea. Besides, the aim is to have a large number of common sub-systems between the three Services. A logistician is concerned with design, development, maintainability and reliability of equipment and weapon systems. He also takes into account the total life-cycle costs of the equipment as against the normal propensity of bureaucrats to take into account only acquisition costs.

Dr. K. Santhanam, the chief advisor, technical, DRDO, has argued that jointmanship among the three Services would also extend to the complex process of design, development, testing, manufacture and induction of equipment and systems for the armed forces.9 There is definitely a need for partnership between the Services, DRDO and the quality assurance/certification agencies. There is a weakness in these areas at present. All new acquisitions of weapon systems and equipment (especially the one common to two or more Services) need to be processed jointly by evolving joint Services qualitative requirements (JSQR). Such a process will lead to optimisation of budgetary support as well as "research and development" effort. It would also ensure interoperability and commonality of systems and lead to easy integration. In the case of the ALH (advanced light helicopter), evolving of a JSQR would have helped the Research and Development (R&D) and hastened the completion of the project. This concept can be applied to the development of radar systems, missile systems and electronic warfare systems, and so on.

Standardisation is another area where inter-Service integration will reduce inventory costs. The inventory of the three Services contains approximately 1.2 million items.10 The wide variety of equipment acquired from both indigenous sources and ex-import adds to the complexity of inventory management. As a first step, as far as possible, it would be economical to reduce the variety of similar equipment in the three Services without losing out on combat efficiency. For instance, it would be quite possible to reduce various types of common vehicles required in the three Services for transportation. A Directorate of Standardisation was established in 1962 to achieve this purpose. However, it has not been possible to achieve standardisation in a substantial manner. In advanced countries, steps have been taken so that equipment and weapon platforms, for instance, munitions of naval, artillery or tank guns, generally conform to standard specifications. The stress is also on having common assemblies and sub-assemblies so that requirements of stocking spare parts and maintenance are reduced. We have more than twenty types of 7.62 self-loading rifles (SLR) in service.11 This lack of standardisation creates confusion and problems of stocking.

Another problem area that lends itself to be resolved by inter-Service integration is the lack of codification of various items, equipment and their spare parts. Among the 1.2 million items as mentioned above, there would be a large number of items and equipment amongst the inventory of the three Services which have identical or similar specifications, but are known by different part numbers and names. This results in excessive stocking, unmanageable inventories and at times unresponsive logistic chain. It has also been observed that it is not unusual for one Service to dispose off stocks at throwaway prices that are in acute shortage in another, may be, even in the same station.12 It is believed that our armed forces are in the process of evolving a common catalogue for identification of equipment and this codification effort is based on similar efforts made by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces. The codification of inventories would also lend itself to be best exploited by computerisation and automation. Codification will curb needless proliferation of the defence inventory.

The UK MOD has a common Defence Procurement Agency for all the material requirements of the three Services and the US Department of Defence (DOD) has the DLA for similar tasks, including the mandate for contracting various equipment and materials.13 In our case also, the material requirements of all the three Services are somewhat similar with minor variations. However, all the three Services have separate methods and procedures for procuring materials and supplies, though at a few locations, the air force and the navy do use the services of the army depots for fuel, oil, lubricants and rations. A common procurement agency would be cost-effective, improve quality control and would streamline stocking levels and inventory control.14 It would introduce a common procedure for provisioning, stocking and issue that would not only be economical, but would also be beneficial to the consumer and vendors. Another area of commonality could be warehousing of common items of the Services. There could be common rear depots or even forward depots depending upon the theatre of operations for commodities like petroleum products. There is also a case for integrating the logistics needs of the para-military forces especially when a large number of them are employed for border-manning duties and counter-insurgency operations. The vehicles and communication equipment, for example, used by the Border Security Force (BSF) are different from the army; thereby making it difficult to maintain and repair especially when deployed in remote areas under the control of the army. It is desirable, therefore, that the logistics support system of the para-military forces like Assam Rifles, BSF, Coast Guard and so on, is not only compatible, but is also integrated with the defence forces.

Revolution in Military Logistics (RML)

The tools of IT have affected both the civil and military fields in an all-pervasive manner. No area of human endeavour has been left untouched by IT. The RMA or military techncial revolution (MTR) has been made possible by the extensive use of the microchip and its associated technologies. The RMA is being characterised by advances in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, interoperability and surveillance and reconnaissance (C4I2SR) systems accompanied by improved lethality of precision systems. The RMA demands a discernible change in our logistics organisations, maintenance philosophies and most of all our Services' attitudes.15 Jointness is a key enabler for exploiting RMA technologies. It is quite apparent that RMA technologies will also usher in the RML.

While the RMA aims at information dominance, battlefield transparency and long-range precision fire support, the RML aims at "total asset visibility", real-time response and focussed logistics. It is also believed that "RML is a prerequisite of RMA." The RMA is expected to be empowered by the RML.16 In the context of our armed forces, very modest attempts have been made to usher in the RML. The use of computers and automation has been resorted to by the three Services in a somewhat disjointed manner. Though the navy, perhaps, being a smaller Service has been able to link its logistic depots with a network (Integrated Logistics Management System and Ship Logistics Management system) and has evolved computerised inventory control methods, it is yet to evolve inter-linkages with the other two Services. The air force has also progressed to Integrated Material Management Online Systems (IMMOLS). It had executed a contract worth Rs. 25 crore with the Tata Consultancy Services for a five-year project to computerise its inventory at Equipment Depots and Base Repair Depots at various locations.17 Meanwhile, the army has a Computerised Inventory Control Project (CICP) which is expected to generate 1 per cent savings on the overall inventory holdings, that is, Rs. 400 crore, approximately. (MOD Annual Report 1997-98). The savings would be due to reductions in carrying costs, elimination of obsolete inventory, use of in-lieu and restricted wastages. This is also expected to reduce equipment out-of-action down time and improve responsiveness. The CICP will be a step towards streamlining the functioning of various ordnance installations.

It is not only evolving of a joint inter-Services logistic network which would help us in moving towards a "joint total assets visibility," it would also be the joint application of new technologies and concepts which would help us achieve RML in a somewhat meaningful manner. The present practice of maintenance of large inventories because of "just in case" required, will need to be replaced by the "just in time" practice (as evolved by the Japanese). The commercial business practices of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), that is, matching resources with demand in an anticipatory manner, would have to be introduced in our armed forces. Multinational firms in India like Hindustan Lever and other firms are already using these concepts enabled by IT.

One key role of introduction of precision weapon systems would be reduction of logistics columns, in short, a considerable improvement in "teeth to tail ratio". The acquisition of precision guided munitions (PGM) like the CLGP (cannon launched guided projectile), would not only add to the lethal punch, it would also reduce problems of transportation and replenishment since ammunition requirements will be drastically reduced. During the Kargil operations, it is estimated that over 150,000 artillery rounds were fired. The movement of such a large amount of ammunition required a Herculean effort with concomitant logistical and administrative problems. Whereas 300 conventional artillery shells are required to achieve the desired effect on the target-end, the same effect can be achieved by 30 rounds of improved conventional munitions or two to three rounds of PGM.18 Similarly, the air force used laser guided precision bombs against the enemy supply camp of Muntho Dalo in Kargil. The concept of "one target one bomb" would reduce drastically the number of aircraft sorties required to be carried out in an industrial-age type of war. This would also reduce requirements of fuel, oil and lubricants and would also affect warehousing. The same would apply to naval weapon platforms. And in a joint warfare scenario, there would always be the possibility of cross-dimensional use of "sensor to shooter" assets of the different Services for engagement of a target. This would again require a joint total asset visibility and thus integrated logistics system and improved interconnectivity among the three Services.

Lastly, IT, a key component of the RML, would provide us with capabilities essential for successful sustainment of operations: giving us a picture of what is available, where it is and move to where it is required. It would reduce the logistics chain and would have effect on logistics management, concepts and procedures. The logistic process would become anticipatory rather than reactive. Like the battlefield transparency it will provide the commanders with near real-time common logistics picture.19 However, all this presupposes interoperability within the three Services, joint human resource development for application of new technologies and evolution of joint force development concepts and doctrines.

Integration of Defence Logistics at National Level

The analogy of integrating the three Services' logistics needs and infrastructure and, thus gaining synergies of operations is equally applicable to integrating civilian and defence logistics needs and infrastructure at the national level. With the dawn of the information age technologies there is a greater degree of convergence between some of the requirements of the civil and defence sectors. We can take a leaf out of the experience book of some of the advanced countries where after identifying a specific military need for a product, attempts are made to find and promote its civil-end usage. Some of the technologies produced for the Pentagon have been successfully exploited for civilian commercial use in America thus reducing overall costs. In the Indian context, there would be many "systems" or "sub-systems" especially in the fields of electronics, communications, automation, avionics and transportation which could help both civil and defence industry.20 Since, there would always be pressures for achieving economy, bringing military and civil needs on a common platform or on a common national logistics grid would help in achieving this goal.

The integrated structure would encourage, firstly, the dual use of research and development to common requirements. Secondly, it would move industry towards dual use plants with common engineering production and support. Thirdly, it would promote utilisation of dual use equipment, especially parts, materials, and so on. For instance, a large number of vehicles and communication networks are common in both civil and defence. Repair and maintenance facilities for such tasks could be reduced progressively. The military may need workshops in remote areas only. There is a considerable scope for privatisation of support facilities in the defence Services. Clothing, rations, fuels, vehicles, low and medium technology equipment, maintenance support for equipment, machinery and vehicles common to civil industries, research and development are some of the obvious areas for civil-defence integration and amenable to privatisation.21 It is also being felt that with advances in technology, the availability in the civil sector of robust, rugged and highly reliable systems and sub-systems has increased. Besides, the growing commonality of civilian and military technologies, there is a case for development and application of flexible manufacturing.

Pakistan has a National Logistics Council (NLC) which is responsible for mobilising the entire nation during wartime, especially the transportation needs. The UK has used private venture capital to establish a firm called Defence Technology Enterprise Limited for transferring military technology to the civilian sector. France has established a ministerial-level council for dual-purpose "advanced research". In 1987, France established a working group to stimulate defence-civilian innovation and set up a special fund for such activities.22 Most of the advanced countries have various agencies and bodies to promote a common civil and defence logistics infrastructure. Thus, we need to acquire a holistic view of civil and defence needs, and amalgamate these needs by evolving a national policy on "defence and development". In short, defence logistics should be part of the national economy and both should contribute to each other.

Some of the 39 ordnance factories are still producing inordinately expensive products like Jonga and Nissan vehicles and certain textile items and clothing. The defence Services have become a captive market for such wasteful expenditure. The MOD, therefore, should not depend upon a subsidised and largely obsolete industrial base. Wherever possible, the products available in the commercial market should be procured. In most categories of the products, commercial specifications and standards, that is, Indian Standards Institute (ISI) standards should be used instead of harsher military specifications. The defence Services should go in for business practices similar to the private sector while contracting and instituting quality control procedures. While administering the contracts, commercial terms and conditions should be resorted to.

The integrated industrial base and concept of privatisation of defence production would lead to lower costs and high performance. Some of the logistic units of the defence Services can be pruned. Strengths in IT can be exploited to reduce costs and improve quality. There is also a need to give higher priority to R&D in conjunction with a rapid indigenisation of defence products. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, scientific adviser to the prime minister, has envisaged increasing the indigenous content of defence production to 70 per cent by the year 2006 and reducing the import content to 30 per cent. Though, a very ambitious target, it requires large funding in R&D and a concerted civil and defence sector effort. Efforts at indigenisation have to date met with somewhat mixed success.

Suggested Organisations

At the national level, there is a need to establish an NLC on the same lines as the National Development Council. It could have the defence minister as the chairman. Alternatively, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission can head this council.23 All the three Services could be represented on it or the CDL could be the representative. The council should have representation from the Finance Ministry, Industrial Development Board, Department of Science and Technology, representatives of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). The list is not exhaustive; there could be some more members directly concerned with logistics infrastructure. The NLC should evolve five-year logistics plans in consonance with the national five-year plans. It should also evolve long-term 10 to 15-year perspective plans. These short-term and long-term perspective plans have to be dovetailed with Defence Service Perspective Plans, should include proposals for such dual-purpose schemes, which help development of the economy as well. This would be possible in areas like construction of roads, railways, airfields, canals, communications networks (like the Sankhya Vahini Project) and waterworks that meet vital defence needs as well as civil infrastructure development needs. It is evident that defence logistics and infrastructure development should be considered as a part of national development and commitment. The broad mission of the NLC would be to ensure optimum utilisation of national resources; industrial mobilisation and achieving cost-effectiveness. The other objectives of the NLC could be:

l Work toward achieving civil, military and industrial integration on the lines discussed in this paper.

l Determine the broad framework of the country's development of logistics infrastructure to meet national objectives and contingencies.

l Focus on areas like national disaster relief, national and industrial mobilisation of transport and communication structure during wartime. Cater for stocking of strategic materials like petroleum products and so on.

l Projection of equipment and material requirements to enable industry to retool and redeploy for water.

Organisation at MOD/Inter-Services Level

There is clearly a need for a Defence Logistics Agency, like the one in the USA and the DLO in the UK to coordinate the efforts of the three Services. Arun Singh, (who had headed the Committee on Defence Expenditure in 1991 and who is again chairman of a Task Force on Management of Defence formed after our Kargil experience), had this to say on logistics: "Enormous sums of money are being spent (and often wasted) on maintaining individual logistics support in common items among the Services and also in developing management approaches (including computerisation). A Defence Logistics Agency could be set up to standardise and integrate to the extent feasible".24 One of the mandates given to the new Task Force is to examine, "Methods to bring about improvements in the procurement process and to ensure more cost-effective management of defence." A Defence Logistics Agency at the MOD level would be a suitable organisation to achieve cost-effective management of defence logistics. An agency like this at the MOD level would formulate a logistics doctrine, oversee activities of various committees, liaise with the NLC and coordinate mobilisation of national defence and industrial resources. The DLA could be placed under the MOD or the COSC. Ideally, when integration of the Services Headquarters and the MOD takes place, the DLA (with its chief who could be designated as chief of Defence Logistics) should be placed under the CDS (chief of Defence Staff). The functions of the DLA and consequently the CDL could be similar to the ones prescribed for the UK's CDL, as discussed in this paper earlier. The broad purpose and missions of the DLA are outlined below:

- Promote standardisation, codification, equipment management and integrated systems approach to logistics.

- Evolve joint procurement and contracting procedure with the best commercial practices. Integrated defence procurement with representatives from three Services to achieve cost-effectiveness.

- Integrate maintenance and repair systems, military depots and transportation between the three services.

- Liaise with civil sector for integration of civil resources.

- Exploit the tools of IT for integrated logistics management with emphasis on interoperability and compatibility among the three Services.

The proposed DLA would also be in a position to oversee the performance of the DRDO, Ordnance Factories, Defence Public Sector Undertakings, DGQA, the Directorate of Standardisation, and so on. It would replace the present norm of "management of defence by committees" which has so far proved to be largely ineffective. There is always resistance to change, but in the aftermath of 53 years of experience as an independent nation; the time has come to take proactive and dynamic decisions for cost-effective management of defence. Adhering to status quo would only result in delays and wasteful expenditure in the realm of defence logistics.


Logistics is one of the most important areas of jointmanship among the three Services. Both the principles of war and the principles of logistics indicate that a joint and integrated logistics effort, at both the national and Services levels would help achieve synergies and efficient output. There are a number of weaknesses in our organisation for logistics, procurement procedures, equipment management and in the other areas of logistics management. Defence logistics is a complex subject and needs to be studied with care as it deals with expenditure of national resources. Any wasteful expenditure in this area will be at the cost of development and modernisation of the defence forces from the limited budgetary resources.

The present single Service approach to logistics management has resulted in avoidable duplication, lack of standardisation and codification. The emphasis on an integrated systems approach to equipment management is also not adequate. The multiplicity of procurement agencies and other logistics agencies is not conducive to obtaining best "value for money". The advantages of IT have not been adequately exploited to promote joint interfaces in the field of defence logistics. The three Services have separately evolved their logistics systems and networks without compatibility and interoperability between them. There are a number of commonalties in the logistics of the three Services that lend themselves to be exploited jointly and in an integrated fashion. If jointness or jointmanship is a must for ushering in the RMA, then it is also a must for ushering in a "revolution in military logistics".

India must learn from the logistics processes of the other countries and introduce a new organisation like the Defence Logistics Agency for unifying and coordinating the logistics efforts of the three Services. There is a need to harmonise the logistics systems and procedures of the three Services and also evolve common logistical doctrine and approaches to military logistics. At the national level, there is a need to integrate the civil and military logistics infrastructure. An organisation like the National Logistics Council would help in achieving these objectives. There is also considerable scope of privatisation of defence support facilities in order to achieve economy.

Military logistics must be flexible, responsive and focussed. In post-modern warfare of the 21st century, the Indian armed forces have to possess a "joint vision" for a synchronised effort towards the defence of the realm. And a common logistics perspective and vision would be a large sub-set of such a joint vision. Streamlining the logistics organisations, introduction of the best logistics management practices and exploitation of information technologies would achieve flexibility, responsiveness and focus. The military effectiveness of modern armed forces would increasingly depend upon the quality of logistic support provided to them. Integration of logistics at both national and Services level would help to move toward providing quality logistic support to the armed forces.


1. Stephen P. Perris and David M. Keithly, "21st Century Logistics: Joint Ties That Bind," Parameters, vol. XXVII, no. 3, Autumn 1997, See pp. 38-40 for detailed understanding of the phase of logistics.

2. Brig. Parmodh Sarin (Retd.), Military Logistics: The Third Dimension (New Delhi: Manas Publications, 2000), pp. 395-361.

3. Ibid.

4. See Vinod Anand, The Tribune, December 4, 1998.

5. Cdr R.J. Nadkarni, "Model of An Inter-Services Information Network", Seminar 2000, Proceedings of a seminar on "Jointmanship Under New Technological Environment," Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, pp. 111-112.

6. See Internet address < asp and>

7. See Internet address <http:/> Also see text of the interview of Gen. Sir Sam Cowan, chief of Defence Logistics (designate), RUSI Journal, December 1998, pp. 1-4.

8. T.S.S. Srinivasa Rao and Navneet Bhushan, "Logistics Models for Future Warfare", paper presented at a national workshop on Battle Field Scene in Year 2020, held at Delhi under the aegis of the DRDO on February 19-20, 1998.

9. Dr. K. Santhanam, "Jointmanship in the Context of the Nuclear Dimension and Space Based BMD", in Seminar 2000, (See n. 5 above), pp. 54-55.

10. Sarin, n. 2, p. 110.

11. Ibid., p. 381.

12. Ibid., p. 111.

13. The Internet address <>

14. There is a great deal of commonality among the three Services. Cdr. Nadkarni cites the example of the prime movers of T-72 tanks, which may be found in naval missile boats and generators. Aircraft of Russian origin like IL 76 and AN 32 have common components with IL 38 and TU 142 in the navy. Cheetah and Chetak helicopters are in use by more than one Service. The naval, air force and army air defence missiles have many commonalities. See Nadkarni, n. 5, p. 110.

15. Kapil Kak, "Revolution in Military Affairs-An Appraisal," Strategic Analysis, April 2000, p. 14.

16. See David Payne, "An Elaboration on The Revolution in Military Logistics," a paper prepared for the Logistics Integration Agency of the US Army, available on Internet address <> Revolution-in-Military-Logistics

17. Bidanda M. Chengappa, "TCS to Submit Report to IAF on Computerising Inventory" The Indian Express, September 7, 1997.

18. Vinod Anand, "Military Lessons of Kargil", Strategic Analysis, September 1999, pp. 1046-1047.

19. See "Army 21" in Army, May 1996.

20. Sarin, n. 2, p. 373.

21. See K. Subrahmanyam, "Self-Reliant Defence and Indian Industry", Strategic Analysis, October 2000. Also see Commander A.N. Sonsale, "Privatisation of Support Facilities in Defence Services: Problems and Prospects," USI Journal, January-March 1997, pp. 42-59. Also see Baidya Bikash Basu, "The Private Sector and Defence Production", Strategic Analysis, June 1997, pp. 383-403.

22. Sarin, n. 2, p. 377.

23. See Ibid., p. 394 and Combat Papers No. 7 on "Joint Operations", College of Combat Mhow, March 1995, p. 40.

24. Arun Singh, "Management of Defence, Some Ideas in the Indian Context," USI Journal, July-September 1989. See, Combat Paper No. 7, Ibid.