CDS Rawat calls for leeway in defence procurement

Finance Minister stressed need for “realistic setting” of specifications

Published - May 17, 2020 04:43 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat during a press conference in New Delhi. File

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat during a press conference in New Delhi. File

The General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) or weapon system specifications formulated by the Services for procurements should be flexible while not compromising on the performance, said Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat, emphasising on the need to promote domestic defence manufacturing and reduce imports . This was later also emphasised by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman .

“We need to start formulating GSQRs based on acceptable and desirable requirements… and also give a ‘plus-minus’ leeway...,” Gen. Rawat had said while speaking to a select group of journalists last Thursday.“GSQRs need to be a little more flexible,” he said and questioned if the requirements can be lowered in terms of standards and not performance.

Also read: Coronavirus package | Domestic defence procurement gets separate budgetary provision

Two days later on Saturday, announcing a slew of measures to encourage domestic defence manufacturing and reduce defence import bill, Ms. Sitharaman too called for “realistic setting” of GSQRs.

More options

The ‘plus and minus leeway’ ensures the Services have several options; else a good product or equipment gets rejected due to the tight requirements which cannot be changed as per procedure once a tender is floated, Gen. Rawat stated.

He said that often the Services formulated their requirements based on the weapon systems available abroad with the U.S., Russia and others as the domestic defence industry did not have the capability.

“When we asked our industry to make that… the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) did not have that kind of technology to start manufacturing that quality of weapons or ammunition.”

“What we are suggesting is, please look at what our industry can deliver,” the CDS said, adding that once inducted, the system can be improved upon. The U.S. and Russia have developed their defence industry over time, he observed.

Negative list

Ms. Sitharaman, too, while stating that some of the state of the art weapons required by the Services would be met through imports, stressed on local procurement for those weapons manufactured here. For this a negative list will be worked out which cannot be imported at all. In addition, there will be a separate budget provision for domestic capital procurement which will help reduce defence import bill and also promote domestic manufacturing.

Also emphasizing on the realistic GSQRs, Ms. Sitharaman said, “Sometimes unrealistic quality requirements are established” and quite a lot of time is spent in searching for suppliers who meet all those requirements and the whole process is repeated after a single vendor situation, which is not allowed.

Gen. Rawat also said OFB and Defence public sector undertakings should be made accountable but also stressed the need to handhold them. They should have some Service personnel who can handhold them, he added.

Ms. Sitharaman has announced the long-pending measure to corporatise the OFB to give it autonomy and also improve performance. The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence through the automatic route has also been increeased from 49% to 74%.

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