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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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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit



The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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