With military purchases running slow and new acquisitions being planned to beef up coastal security after the Mumbai attacks,the government has decided to initiate fast-track acquisition procedures and given the go-ahead to hold a special meeting of the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) within the next three weeks to clear proposals.
This would entail bypassing various levels of clearance and compressing the timeline of finalising a contract to about three-to-five months. Set procedure requires that once a proposal has been prepared by any service,it must go to the headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff for consideration under the Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP). That itself has various levels of vetting,moving from one SCAP committee to the other.
It usually takes several months for a proposal to be accepted at the IDS and then moved to the DAC for approval. The DAC is headed by the Defence Minister and constitutes the three chiefs,Defence Secretary,Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and other important officials. Unless the amount crosses a certain ceiling,the proposal need not be sent ahead to the Cabinet Committee on Security.
Under fast-track procedures,however,the SCAP requirement is waived and the proposal is sent straight to the Special DAC. This committee has to give what is called an Acceptance of Necessity and once that is done,the procurement process will have to be completed in a compressed timeframe with the contract to be signed between 112 to 154 days of the clearance. And delivery has to start within three months of signing the contract. The broad timeline after DAC clearance:
• Issue of Request for Proposal: 10 days
• Response from vendors: 30 days
• Technical evaluations: 10 days
• On site evaluations and preparation of report: 15-30 days
• Report approval in seven days and contract negotiations: 15-30 days
• Financial approval: 10-15 days
• Contract signing: 8-15 days
First in line is the massive Rs 6000-crore upgradation plan for the Coastguard. This involves purchase of five off-shore patrol vessels,25 in-shore vessels,10 fast track patrol vessels,20 interceptor boats,12 dornier aircraft,14 twin engine helicopters and 16 light helicopters. The Coastguard has also proposing to by 38 new radars. In all,the aim is to virtually double the capacity.
The Navy too has its own set of separate proposals,which are still being finetuned,for coastal security purposes and this involves purchase of some 80 interceptor boats besides other high-end equipment (see box).
According to senior government sources,the three services are free to make proposals for consideration by the Special DAC but none has been received so far. For its part,sources added,the government has decided to open up this route and it is now for the three services to come up with concrete proposals.
One of the issues that has come under sharp focus in the wake of all the stock-taking after the Mumbai attacks was the lack of attention to building credible conventional deterrence. As a result,India has not been able to increase the gap between its forces and that of Pakistan.
The Armed Forces have a dismal record in spending their capital acquisition funds and returning large quantities each year. Facing criticism,the government has decided to open up the fast track option with the hope that proposals will stream in to make maximum use of available funds.
What can and should move
Indian Air Force
• Low-level transportable radars. IAF has just 24% of required levels.
• Air defence missile systems: Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missiles and artillery systems.
• Third-generation night-vision devices,rifle sights
• Carbines,assault rifles,grenades and surveillance devices
• New generation bullet-proof jackets
• Ordered two Aerostat radars but needs five to cover the entire coastline
• Interceptor boats,inshore and offshore patrol vessels
• UAVs for maritime reconnaissance