Forget Policy and Procurement for a While!

Endless discussions happen on how an improvement in policy here and procurement procedure there will get us the gun of our choice. Once these two issues are debated to death, we start thinking if we have the paisa to fund it. This merry-go-round of policy, procurement and paisa discussion distracts us from the real issues

Indian Artillery

By Abhishek Jain

What is the issue?

Phrases like how artillery is important in war are so cliched that it will make the article boring. What I wish to cover here is my favourite topic – technology. History of artillery procurement, ups and downs, lacunae in capability are already written at length. How we landed in the present crisis – because we are obsessed with three Ps. Any conversation is overshadowed by these three Policy, Procurement, and Paisa.

Endless discussions happen on how an improvement in policy here and procurement procedure there will get us the gun of our choice. Once these two issues are debated to death, we start thinking if we have the paisa to fund it. This merry-go-round of policy, procurement and paisa discussion distracts us from the real issues.

Replace 3 Ps with 3 Ts

So, let me replace the three Ps with three Ts – Technology, Teamwork and Time. I have written numerous articles on Time, so just suffice it to say that if we have same zeal in saving time that we have in preventing corruption, we will save much more money and opportunity cost. Let us change the designation of financial auditors to ‘time’ auditors. I guarantee miracles!

If we have same zeal in saving time that we have in preventing corruption, we will save much more money and opportunity cost. Let us change the designation of financial auditors to ‘time’ auditors. I guarantee miracles!

Second and particularly important function is teamwork. I personally feel that there are too many cooks in the defence sector. These cooks are trained for farming and that makes them think they qualify for a butler’s job in five-star hotel. The result of this overcrowding is that the overall pie becomes smaller and even the capable are not able to invest in R&D. There is even bigger drawback of this overcrowding, it moulds the psychology of the industry leadership to do everything in-house to maintain reasonable revenue. This directly hurts teamwork and engages companies/Govt organizations in non-core activities. Govt agencies have other issues in engaging a good vendor continuously.

Most Important T

Howsoever favourable the policy or large sum of money available, the artillery gun will not fire if it violates the Newton’s laws. Look at US and how they approach the development of weapon systems. First and foremost is we should shed our pride for Jugaad. There is no short-cut to R&D. Please throw the word jugaad out of our dictionary.

Divide and Conquer – Look how Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) USA has organized itself. The 148-page presentation titled ‘capabilities handbook’ is a treasure of knowledge. What do we learn? Recognize that a defence equipment of this complexity is a system of systems. The first thing we need to do is to divide them in suitable areas of research. It does not stop here – division also happens based on the science we are pursuing. Many systems may require ‘mathematical modelling and simulation’ so it is one separate group that is a support group for various systems.

Howsoever favourable the policy or large sum of money available, the artillery gun will not fire if it violates the Newton’s laws. Look at US and how they approach the development of weapon systems. First and foremost is we should shed our pride for Jugaad. There is no short-cut to R&D. Please throw the word jugaad out of our dictionary

If you see the list – they have separate small groups for planning and integration, advanced concepts, configuration and data management, ground system survivability, power and mobility, robotics, and so many others. It is interesting to note three groups and their motto/ description:

  • Industrial base and manufacturing – “… has formed strategic partnerships with industry, academia, OEMs and the organic government manufacturing base to define and develop manufacturing technologies …”

(b) Modelling and simulation– “…Analytics is the Army’s premier organization for providing fast and accurate system-level computational physics and math-based M&S technical services…”

(c) Systems Engineering – “…provides a collaborative environment for all stakeholders, practitioners and leaders to engage in and facilitate decision making based on a mix of qualitative and quantitative inputs…”

Please see how the group gives importance to creating an industrial base to decrease cost. How modelling and simulation is essential part of design and how they have specialised software teams, both public and private, for development. Finally, how system engineering is given importance in taking decision on the compromises to be made on the product.

How We Compare

We are now working towards creating an industrial base. Effort is being made to dismantle the distrust between stakeholders. Modelling and Simulation for specialised applications is present at few places and would require a national software initiative to really bear fruit. System engineering is a neglected area. We need much more focus here and standard operating procedures to inculcate this as a habit in any system realization. More can be said about the data and configuration management groups, but I would request the reader to go through the TARDEC document. It is beautiful!

Conclusion

Artillery systems around the world are designed for country of origin. These countries do not have deserts of Rajasthan and snow peaks of Ladakh as combat area. This means we need systems for our problems and that will require dedicated and long-term incremental research. We need to own the TECHNOLOGY. We need to create teams who will develop the design tools that can be used for other platforms too. We also need to build teams. I personally saw a programme shelved as the larger company was worried about the IP of the product to be developed by an MSME. It is like worrying about your child’s education before your marriage! Finally, we need to do things fast. We need to prefer work over paperwork!

The writer is Vice President, Strategic Partnership, Zeus Numerix Pvt Ltd. He was one of the 10 innovators to meet then US Defense Secretary, and is also a Winner of Lockheed Martin Innovation Award besides various other awards. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda

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