Govt. to set up Defence Acquisition Council

NEW DELHI, AUG.30. In a bid to counter corruption and speed up decision-making in military procurements, the Government has decided to go in for an integrated Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), to be headed by the Defence Minister.

According to highly-placed Government sources, the apex council will also include the Minister of State of Defence, the Defence Secretary, the head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Chief of Defence Staff (when appointed) and Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Secretary, Defence Production, the Financial Adviser, the yet-to- be appointed Vice-Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS) and the Special Secretary (acquisition), will be its other members. A Director- General of Defence Procurement Staff, who would be later replaced by a Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, will serve as the member secretary to the DAC.

The DAC will give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It will also clear all acquisitions, including imported equipment and those produced indigenously or under a foreign licence.

Significantly, the DAC structure ensures that there are in-built checks and balances in relation to procurements. For instance, the armed forces are well represented, ensuring that the defence bureaucracy does not exercise overwhelming influence on decision- making. The adequate mix of bureaucracy and service officers is also reflected in other bodies involved in acquisition, under the overall supervision of the DAC.

To monitor the acquisition process, the DAC will preside over three wings - a Defence Procurement Board which will deal with purchases, a Defence Production Board and a Defence Research and Development Board.

The Defence Secretary will be the key person in the procurement chain as he will be the single point head of the procurement and production boards. The production board will supervise procurement from indigenous sources, such as ordnance factories and equipment manufactured under a foreign licence.

Among the three wings functioning under the DAC, the Defence Procurement Board is of prime importance. Apart from the Defence Secretary, others on the board include the Secretary, Defence Production and Secretary, DRDO.

The defence forces will be represented by the VCDS and the three Vice-Chiefs. The Financial Adviser in the Defence Ministry will serve as its member secretary. The Deputy Chief of the Army Staff (Planning and Systems), the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, dealing with plans, and the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff will attend the board meetings as special invitees.

The procurement board will work out the nitty-gritty of all inductions, including procurement schedules and emergency purchases. It is expected to complete all its acquisition plans by September 30 each year.

Tipnis welcomes move

PTI reports from Baroda:

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A. Y. Tipnis, welcomed the plan to set up a Defence Procurement Board. ``Earlier, the three services went through the process seperately. Now they will be under one umbrella structure which will cut all channels and go straight to the Defence Minister or Defence Secretary and setting up of a DPB is a good move,'' he said, while addressing a seminar on `Human resource in Ex-defence officers,' organised by the Directorate General, Resettlement (Ministry of Defence).