The “slow pace” of acquisition of weapon systems is a matter of concern and the new government will work towards “expediting” the procurement process to meet the requirements of the armed forces, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said here today.
After attending the Naval Commanders’ Conference, he hinted that demand of the armed forces for more funds in the Union Budget was likely to be accepted as the “entire resource of the country, notwithstanding various pressures, has to make available a significant amount for those in defence of the country”.
“The key subject matter of concern appears to be the slow pace of acquisition of whatever equipment and assets are required. The Navy has highlighted that…. Hope of the forces is that their requirements should be fulfilled and the process should also be expedited. The effort of the government would be to work in that direction,” Arun Jaitley said.
Talking to reporters after a detailed interaction with the top brass of the Navy at the commanders’ conference, the Minister said, “There are several decisions in the pipeline and I think there is a good case for these processes to be expedited.”
The Navy has several acquisition projects stuck for many years due to slow procurement process, including the Rs 6,000 crore 16 multirole helicopter project and the acquisition of torpedoes for the Scorpene submarines.
Its tender for acquiring six new submarines under Project-75 India, estimated to cost over Rs one lakh crore, is also stuck as the government has to alter a 1999 decision to build all future submarines only indigenously.
The Navy is also waiting for final clearance to acquire 16 mine countermeasure vessels from a South Korean firm which has been stuck after complaints were filed against the fairness of the process under the previous government.
On whether the new Government will do a full review of the defence acquisition process to expedite procurements, Jaitley said, “I would not use the word full review but even under the present procedures also, expediting processes is still possible. Every file need not move up and down indefinite number of times.”
To a query on several procurement cases which were in the final stages but not inked by the UPA government, like the acquisition of attack choppers for the IAF, the Minister said, “I am not treating this as adversarial between previous and this government. This is an issue of national priority and I would be emphasising on that.”
On what can the armed forces hope from him in the budget as he was both the Defence Minister and the Finance Minister, he said, “You have to wait till July 10 (when the General Budget will be tabled in Parliament).”
Asked if the allocation for defence forces would be 2.5 to 3 per cent of the continued…