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With Chinese forces refusing to leave their posts on India’s borders, it is time to take the matter of theatrisation seriously. For this, the political and military leadership would have to develop a more one-to-one relationship and jointness will have to be fostered between the forces. In this regard, the US’ Goldwater-Nichols Act can teach us quite a few things.




The theatrisation of commands will be transformative, if done sensibly. We need a base to work with. Most advanced forces have adopted the joint system. The US, Russia and China have transitioned to theatrisation. Very clearly, jointness is the priority. So, theatrisation is next. I am now taking a dive to highlight some aspects of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. This Act puts in perspective a lot of issues which we will have to confront in this transformation and we need to understand them for implementation in our context.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar (retd)

Prior to 1986, in the USA, each Service had a Chief. The Service Chiefs made up the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose Chairman (elected) reported to the Defense Secretary, who in turn reported to the President. This system, akin to ours before the CDS was appointed, led to intense inter-service rivalry in procurement, doctrine and all other peacetime activities. During wartime, operational activities of each service were largely planned, executed and evaluated independently. This fractured system contributed to the failures in the Vietnam war, the failed attempt to free US hostages from Iran and the blotches in the Grenada invasion.


The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 was enacted to bring sweeping changes in the way the US Military functioned. The first thing one needs to understand is that it is an act by a legislative body. It is law! Hence, there is no choice but to follow it.

In large measure, many people in India understand that the Act was meant to bring about theatrisation. But, that is not the case. It was meant for a total reorganisation of how the US military functions. The act is meant to:

• Reorganize the Department of Defense and strengthen civilian authority;

• Improve the military advice provided to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense;

• Place clear responsibility on theatre commanders for the accomplishment of missions;

• Ensure that the authority of the theatre commanders is fully commensurate with their responsibility for the accomplishment of missions;

• Increase attention to the formulation of strategy and to contingency planning;

• Provide for more efficient use of defense resources;

• Improve joint officer management policies;

• Improve the effectiveness of military operations and improve the management and administration of the Department of Defense.


The major issue is that in US parlance, ‘civilian authority’ actually refers to ‘civil political authority’. As per the Clausewitzan dictum, ‘War is Politics by other means’. Hence, there must be a direct relationship between the political and military authority. The Act establishes that relationship. In our system, a ‘Bureaucracy Sans Responsibility or Knowledge’ has interposed itself between the political and military authority to national detriment. This is a major flaw in our system. If this is not rectified, theatrisation will be retrograde.

To understand this better, one needs to examine the composition of the US Department of Defense as it exists now. It is composed of:

• The Office of the Secretary of Defense

• The Joint Chiefs of Staff

• The Joint Staff

• The Defense Agencies

• Department of Defense Field Activities

• The Department of the Army

• The Department of the Navy

• The Department of the Air Force

• The unified and specified combatant commands

• Such other offices, agencies, activities, and commands, as may be established or designated by law or by the President.

Each department has a Secretary (their Rajya Raksha Mantri), who reports to the Defense Secretary (their Raksha Mantri). All these are political appointees and, hence, the political control. The bureaucracy is also political in nature. All the Deputy, Under and Assistant Secretaries in Departments and Directors of Agencies are appointed by the President from civilian life, coterminous with his tenure. They are handpicked by merit, have adequate background knowledge and are accountable. It is assessed if political appointees have sufficient experience or expertise, to be capable of contributing immediately to effective policy formulation and management. As a result, though the US system has a large bureaucracy, it is knowledgeable enough to deliver. Some duties of the Secretary of Defense, highlighted below, provide clarity of what is expected from the civil bureaucracy.

The Secretary of Defense, with the advice and assistance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides annually, written policy guidance, which encompasses:

• National security objectives and policies

• The priorities of military missions

• The resource levels being made available.

The Secretary of Defense, with the approval of the President and after consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides annually, written policy guidance for the preparation and review of contingency plans.


The underlying theme of the Act is an emphasis on an integrated approach. Every office downwards from that of the Secretary has personnel of the armed forces working alongside civilians. Officers of the armed forces are posted on permanent duty in the Offices of the Secretaries. This is periodically reviewed to achieve balance. Integration in the system is achieved by having members of the armed forces on the active-duty list, members of the armed forces in a retired status, and members of the reserve components who are employed in a civilian role.


Another recurring feature of the Act is the emphasis on jointness. Theatrisation is seen as a by-product of jointness. In our case, we seem to be putting the cart before the horse and hoping that theatrisation will breed jointness. It won’t happen. Hence, let us see the major aspects which bring in jointness. The composition and functions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells us a lot. Some details are as under:


The Joint Chiefs of Staff consist of the following:

• The Chairman.

• The Chief of Staff of the Army.

• The Chief of Naval Operations.

• The Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

• The Commandant of the Marine Corps.


• The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.

• The other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are military advisors as specified.


The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff is the pointsman of jointness, as also theatrisation. Hence, a look at his sphere of activities is mandatory.


He is responsible for the following:

• Strategic Direction: Assisting the President and the Secretary of Defense in providing for the strategic direction of the armed forces.

• Strategic Planning: Preparing strategic plans, including plans which conform with resource levels projected by the Secretary of Defense to be available for the period of time for which the plans are to be effective.

• Preparing joint logistic and mobility plans to support those strategic plans and recommending the assignment of logistic and mobility responsibilities to the armed forces in accordance with those logistic and mobility plans.

• Performing net assessments to determine the capabilities of the armed forces of the United States and its allies as compared with those of their potential adversaries.

• Contingency Planning Preparedness: Providing for the preparation and review of contingency plans which conform to policy guidance from the President and the Secretary of Defense.

• Advising the Secretary on critical deficiencies and strengths in force capabilities (including manpower, logistic, and mobility support) identified during the preparation and review of contingency plans and assessing the effect of such deficiencies and strengths on meeting national security objectives and policy and on strategic plans.

• Establishing and maintaining after consultation with the commanders of the unified and specified combatant commands, a uniform system of evaluating the preparedness of each such command to carry out missions assigned to the command.


Communications between the President or the Secretary of Defense and the Theatre Commanders are transmitted through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He assists the President and the Secretary of Defense in performing their command function.

He is responsible for overseeing the activities of the combatant commands. It does not confer any command authority on the Chairman and does not alter the responsibility of the commanders of the combatant commands.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff serves as the spokesman for the Theatre Commanders, especially on the operational requirements of their commands.


If we are to get anywhere with theatrisation and jointness, we need good joint staff. We need a major relook at our MS and Personnel Branches in management of officers. In turn, we also need a relook at our training.

The importance and detail given to joint staffing in this Act is simply astounding. The Joint Staff functions under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They assist the Chairman and other members (Joint Chiefs of Staff) in carrying out their responsibilities. Officers of the armed forces are assigned to serve on the Joint Staff. They are selected in approximately equal numbers from the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force. Each officer who is selected is among those officers considered to be the most outstanding officers of that armed force. The Secretary of Defense lays down the policies, procedures, and practices for the effective management of Joint Staff. An officer is selected for the joint specialty after he successfully completes an appropriate program at a joint professional military education school and after successfully completing a joint duty assignment. The Secretary, with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, establishes career guidelines for joint staff officers. Guidelines include selection, military education, training, types of duty assignments and promotion. To put it in perspective, the promotion of officers in joint appointments, especially to command, is based on their performance in previous joint appointments.


The Act has scope for joint and single service commands. It clarifies that ‘unified combatant command’ means a military command which is composed of forces from two or more military departments and a ‘specified combatant command’ means a military command which is normally composed of forces from a single military department. The term ‘combatant command’ means a unified combatant command or a specified command.

Chain Of Command: The chain of command to a unified or specified combatant command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense, and from the Secretary of Defense to the commander of the combatant command.

Assignment as Combatant Commander: The President assigns an officer to serve as the commander of a unified or specified combatant command, only if the officer has the joint specialty and has served in at least one joint duty assignment as a general or flag officer. A major issue which emanates is that the Command and the Staff are separated at one level and also fully integrated with each other by legislation. Prima facie, it appears that the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff has no direct control over the Theatre Commander. However, he outranks the Theatre Commander. More importantly, one of the QRs to be a Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff is to be a Theatre Commander. The Act codifies everyone’s roles and duties and forces them to behave accordingly.


The Goldwater-Nichols Act was truly transformative for the US. If we are to head in such a direction, we need some similar document to go by. We also need politicians of calibre with authority who need not be midwifed by ignorant bureaucrats. They need to be assisted by a professional bureaucracy and a system integrated with the armed forces. The current equation of a generalist bureaucracy, which is in agriculture one day, health the next and defence the third, leads only to egocentric and ignorant power brokers calling the shots. The equation between the military and political leadership has to be direct and one-to-one. The PM, RM and the CCS need to put their thinking hats on. This is way above any bureaucrat’s pay grade.

The second issue of bother is an increasing lack of jointness. The Navy’s views on theatres appear in a magazine and its views on terms of service appear on social media before it is made official. The COAS says that theatrisation is going to take a long time. The IAF is on silent mode. Is it ominous or sullen? The CDS appears to be spending more time than necessary on contentious issues of pay and allowances. To me, as a common man, it appears that our Chiefs are like the four lions of the Ashoka Pillar — constantly looking away from each other. It is time for our political leadership to take a hard look at what can bring about jointness and follow it by theatrisation. Otherwise, the salami slicer at our doorstep in eastern Ladakh will take his toll.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read onwww.gunnersshot.com.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act was truly transformative for the US. If we are to head in such a direction, we need some similar document to go by. We also need politicians of calibre with authority who need not be midwifed by ignorant bureaucrats. They need to be assisted by a professional bureaucracy and a system integrated with the armed forces.

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o commemorate the 23 years of victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999, the Indian Army on Monday organised a motorcycle expedition from New Delhi to the Kargil War Memorial at Dras (Ladakh).

The 30-member rally was flagged off by Lt Gen B S Raju, the Vice Chief of Army Staff from the National War Memorial, New Delhi on Monday.

Over the next six days, the team of 30 serving personnel who have embarked on this expedition will endeavour to replicate the indomitable spirit of the Kargil brave-hearts by rekindling the spirit of fortitude, courage and adventure synonymous with the Indian Army, said the Ministry of Defence.

The bike rally would pass through Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh before culminating the expedition at the Kargil War Memorial, Dras on 26 July 2022.

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Two Army officers were killed in an accidental grenade blast along the Line of Control in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch, the Defence Public Relations Office said on Monday. During the treatment, one army officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to their injuries.

JCO Sub Bhagwan Singh

Captain Anand

“Last night, an accidental grenade blast occurred in Mendhar Sector, Dist Poonch, when troops were performing their duties along the Line of Control. The blast resulted in injuries to soldiers.

During the treatment, one officer and one JCO succumbed to their injuries, “said PRO Defence Jammu.

According to the Defence PRO, the blast occurred along the Line of Control (LOC) on Sunday night, when the army troops were performing their duties, thus injuring them. All the injured soldiers were immediately evacuated to Udhampur via helicopter.

As per the reports, one officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to the injuries.

The Indian Army expressed grief over the death of two officers.

The Indian Army tweeted, “General officer commanding (GOC) @Whiteknight_IA and all Ranks salute brave hearts Capt Anand and Nb Sub Bhagwan Singh who made the supreme sacrifice while performing their duties on the LoC in Mendhar Sector. We offer deepest condolences to their family members.”

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Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Sunday said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to induct Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and Light Combat Aircraft MK-1A and MK-2 along with the 114 multirole fighters. This will be done to bolster India’s combat capabilities through indigenisation under “Make-in-India” in the future.

The IAF chief said that the move will not only “strengthen the Air Force” but also bring a “huge boost” to the Indian aviation industry as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Narendra Modi government. “On the aircraft front, we are looking ahead for the AMCA and the LCA MK-1A and also the LCA MK-2 a few years from now. The case for 114 MRFA is also progressing well. With this, it will not only strengthen the Air Force but also bring a huge boost to the Indian aviation industry,” ANI quoted the Air Chief Marshal as saying.

“We have already committed for seven squadrons of AMCA. The numbers for the LCA MK-2, we will take a call as and when the first production model comes out and we start inducting the aircraft into the air force and we can always increase the quantity based on its performance and rate of induction,” he added while speaking about the number of units of the aircraft that the IAF is planning to induct.

When asked about the timeline of the induction of the S-400 air defence system from Russia into the forces, he said that it will be done as per the schedule adding that all deliveries should be completed by the end of next year. “The induction program of S-400 is going as per the schedule. The first firing unit has been inducted and deployed. The second unit is also in the process of getting inducted. Delivery schedules are on time, hopeful that by the end of next year all deliveries will be completed,” Chaudhari said.

“The threat of multiple fronts always exists. The capabilities of the air force in handling two fronts at a time will necessarily have to keep getting bolstered by the induction of various platforms. On the ground, we will need more radars, and additional SAGW systems and all of these are going to come from indigenous sources, for which the action is already at hand,” he added.

The IAF chief further said that the forces are fully in sync with the Centre’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat push which has resulted in the “quick induction” of platforms such as the light-combat helicopter and aircraft and radar systems.

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Ajay Jandyal



The Indian Army on Sunday inducted radars to trace survivors under the debris which was laid after a cloudburst struck the area near the holy shrine of Amarnath on Friday.“Xaver 4000 radar has been inducted and has been operational at Amarnath since late noon for finding any survivors under the debris,” said Indian Army officials. Earlier, Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Sunday visited a base camp in Pahalgam and met pilgrims.“The security personnel and administration have carried out an efficient rescue operation. We pay condolences to those who lost their lives. Efforts are underway to resume the Yatra along with repairing the path. Pilgrims should come, we will provide them with all facilities,” Sinha assured.

Rescue operations underway at cloudburst-affected areas of Amarnath, on Sunday. ANI

The Amarnath yatra was temporarily suspended on Friday, till further notice. 

However, the pilgrims have been waiting at the Baltal Base camp for it to recommence.As many as 35 pilgrims were discharged following treatment, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Officials informed on Saturday.“35 pilgrims have been discharged following treatment. 17 people are getting the treatment and are likely to get discharged tonight. All safe and healthy,” said SASB Officials.The critically injured patients were airlifted to Srinagar.“Critically injured people were airlifted to Srinagar. 2 people who were buried but were alive were rescued. We’re taking all precautionary steps. 41 missing as per Jammu and Kashmir police out of which some were rescued. Yatra may resume within a day or two,” said Kuldiep Singh, DG, CRPF.As per the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) data on Saturday, at least 16 people have died in the cloud burst incident near the holy shrine of Amarnath.Meanwhile, four Mi-17V5 and four Cheetal helicopters of the Indian Air Force were deployed for rescue and relief efforts at the Amarnath shrine on Saturday.The Cheetal helicopters flew 45 sorties, carrying five NDRF and Army personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material while evacuating 45 survivors from the holy cave.Earlier the officials on Saturday informed that the LG chaired a high-level meeting to review the ongoing rescue and relief operations at Amarnath cave.Meanwhile, the Indian Army informed that they have pulled up “critical rescue equipment” to speed up the rescue operations in the affected areas.“Indian Army pulls up critical rescue equipment to speed up the process of rescue operations and route maintenance in view of recent cloudburst of Amarnath in which 16 people lost their lives while several are assumed missing,” said the Indian Army.

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Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.

 Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.

 The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.

 “As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.

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Indian Naval Ships Sahyadri and Kadmatt, under the Command of Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, visited Singapore from 1 to 3 July as part of the deployment to South East Asia. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indian Navy personnel engaged in social and informal exchanges as part of a cross-visit to improve mutual cooperation. The visit was aimed at consolidating ties and enhancing mutual understanding.The visit of Indian ships helped enhance maritime co-operation and bolster India’s strong bonds of friendship with Singapore that would further contribute towards security and stability in the region. The ships’ visit coincided with Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day on 1 July. “Indian Navy’s South East Asia deployment INS Sahyadri and INS Kadmatt under Command of Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, FOCEF in Singapore from 1 to 3 July. Professional and social interactions with Singapore Navy to enhance mutual cooperation and understanding and consolidate interoperability” read a tweet shared by the Indian Navy. It added, “Coinciding with Singapore Armed Forces SAF Day, 01 Jul 22, the ships’ visit strengthens maritime cooperation, bolstering India-Singapore bonds of friendship – contributing towards security and stability in the region.”

INS Sahyadri is an indigenously built multi-role stealth Frigate and INS Kadmatt is an indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Corvette. The Indo-Pacific vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based region as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 is the driving force behind India’s engagement in the region continued to be directed by the Indo-Pacific vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based region as articulated by PM Modi at Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018.In 2021, Singapore Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen participated in the inaugural India Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave (DMC), wherein he conveyed Singapore’s support to India’s leadership to foster a rules-based maritime order in the Indian Ocean region. This was followed by the annual Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX), conducted by Singapore Navy and Indian Navy. The exercise involved a virtual planning phase followed by a ‘contactless’ sea phase in the southern reaches of the South China Sea within international waters.During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore’s position as a logistic hub enabled both the public and private sector to source emergency relief supplies such as oxygen- tanks, cylinders, concentrators, ventilators etc. from Singapore to India.

26 Indian Air Force sorties and four Indian Navy Ships transported substantial quantities of these items from Singapore to India till the end of June 2021.

This was followed by the 5th India-Singapore Defence Minister’s dialogue, which was held via virtual conference on 20 January 2021. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh discussed furthering cooperation and engagement with Singapore’s Defence Minister.

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