Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Expert Panel on DRDO

I'd reported on January 19 in The Indian Express on the new "independent and external" panel of experts that has been ordered by the government to revamp and keep tabs on DRDO. The terms of reference hadn't been properly set out at the time. They are now. Here they are, as part of Defence Minister AK Antony's answer in Parliament today (this is an FYI post!) :

"In the light of recommendations of the "Report of the Committee on Review of Defence Procurement Procedure to integrate Users, Ministry of Defence and the Industry", (April 2005, Kelkar Committee Report), a Committee has been constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. P Rama Rao with seven members - four superannuated officers and one each from the three Services and from defence finance, and one each from industry, Public Sector Units (PSUs) and Academic institutions.

The terms of reference of the committee are to:
  • Mordernize administrative, personnel and financial systems to achieve speedier implementation of projects.
  • Develop synergistic cooperation with sister R&D agencies, such as DAE/DOS/DOD/CSIR and academia to keep pace with advances in science and technology and to ensure immunity against denial regimes.
  • Attract and retain high quality manpower by various measures including offering incentives and providing opportunities for DRDO scientists to acquire higher degrees in India and military R&D experience abroad.
  • Ensure that technical specification of Staff requirements are consistent with the national scientific and technical knowledge base, and experience with fielded imported systems.
  • Maximize technological appreciation and knowledge - acquisition from user trials, test & evaluation and in service use of imported equipment and stores.
  • Maximise utilization of private industry (particularly technocrat-entrepreneur owned) not only for system / sub - system development but also for development of enabling technology, design and proof - of - concept research.
  • Utilize the expertise of selected NRIs and foreign consultants, particularly those with experience in military - related R&D; explore opportunities of collaborative efforts with foreign academic and R&D institutions and military industries in the environment of liberalized economy.
  • Recommend measures to ensure that a certain percentage in value of acquisition is directed towards ongoing and futuristic efforts to indigenously build industrial capability in the country.

Sounds broad. Oh well!


chacko Joseph said...

Let me put this in prespective. The choice of words is wrong. You cannot say its Keeping tabs on DRDO. On the contrary DRDO needs help.

1)The recruitment policies, Pay policies etc have been already recommended by DRDO to government. Its governments in action which is killing DRDO. During George Fernandes time, I suppose, the recruitment/retention policies were going to be overhauled, but NDA lost power. Good people are getting poached by private companies and they leave with projects un completed and no replacement.

2) Second issue is power to the directors of the institution. They are powerless, they cannot purchase anything on time. The defence Ministry sleeps for long time.

Private- Public sectors participation is another area. I will tell you what I went through when I went to Bangalore for looking into Simulation market. My former company is a reputed group.

I went to NAL, NAL was keen and liked the quality of our work. Same day the BDL director was sacked because he made some "timely" purchases. The NAL Director got disinterested. NAL till date dosen't has that kind of graphics in its software which it intends to sell to private/overseas airline companies. Softwares with less features and better graphics were sold by overseas vendors at hefty prices. NAL could sell it to just Air India and Indian Airlines. I offered to market the software for them. But the permission had to come from Defence Ministry. So that was lost too. I did not approach the Def Min for obvious reasons.

3) Internal politics. Each time a new government or minister or even babu comes into the ministry, the institution seniority structure changes. I hope you understand wht I mean.

These are 3 key policy changes what could reverse DRDO fortunes.

Take for example of Space. ISRO dosen't allows political interference. Its just a hint.

Its no use insulting those poor scientist who work in these institutions for the sake of nation and challange. They have the capacity to get private jobs. Some people join to get experience. You could flog, insult and close DRDO, but nothing will be achieved.

Look at naval Design bureau, ISRO, Atomic Energy Comission etc. Look at BEL too.

Why are they sucessfull? Does some one talks about "watch dog over Defence Ministry"?

Anonymous said...

well put, chacko. i agree entirely. much of DRDO's woes lie with MoD inaction. but to say DRDO is not to blame "at all" may be a little wet behind the ears, don't you think? wthe frustration of young scientists because of the way seniors behave within labs and establishment can't be a figment of someone's imagination. and that's just one element.

chacko Joseph said...

I never said DRDO is pious. Not to be touched. All I am saying we are spanking the wrong bottom.

I have mentioned that the change is babus/ministes brings in new equation. Seniors change, there is revenge seeking. Some seniors don't allow jouniours to "shine." (not restricted to public companies though).

I am touching the macro view. I am aware of shabby treatment met to the jouniors by seniors.

Again, the blame lies with MoD. MoD wallas sanctions new projects as the existing projects have been already milked for money on purchases. As soon as the project bears futrition, they loose interest as it dosen't help milking. DRDO projects remain incompleted. Then there is a re- milking siting failure of completion.

Its not a blanket accusation of corruption on MoD. But think about it. Why do projects get killed when nearing frutrition?

chacko Joseph said...

Just imagine: MoD is trying to reform DRDO... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Its like asking the thief to probe a theft case....

Shiv Aroor said...

i agree with chacko. it's a little rich that the MoD is probing an organisation under it. like i said in my column (Not Just High-Altitude Chikki), it's a long-shot that any good will come of it, but maybe it's a start. guess we'll just have to wait and see, huh.

Anonymous said...

IMO, MoD should start by shunting out the purchase committe, even the peon. Rot stems from there.

But if Antony does that (I know he can)he will be shunted out. These babus are more powerfull than the ministers.

Abhiman said...

Hello. I think that the primary improvement to be made is in recruitment only, after which most management issues can be dealt with automatically.

Attrition rate of DRDO/HAL/ISRO is many times more than that of most IT companies. It is due to low remuneration.

Retention of talent is a serious management issue even in some of India's larget IT companies like Infosys, TCS and Satyam (annual attrition rate of Infosys is 13%).
This, and the fact that DRDO is at a "lower rung" in the value-chain of employees as compared to IT companies, may provide an estimation of the very high talent volatility in DRDO.

The Indian IT industry has only a few top IT companies (like Infosys, Wipro etc.), despite the quality of work done in tier-II, tier-III and even start-up companies being often equivalent to that of the top companies.

The reason why a start-up today can atmost be a 1-2 crore turnover company only, and never reach the size of top-most companies is because employess migrate from these companies to bigger ones for higher pay.

Now, it may be incorrectly inferred that if the rate of talent acquisition and leaving is the same, then an equilibrium might be reached and thus, no effect must be felt on project execution and meeting deadlines.

However it is false as, upon talent flight, considerable time & resources are spent on acquainting the newly hired talent on unfinished projects (which were left incomplete by the older talent before leaving).

Smaller companies are UNABLE to close the gap between the capital/time lost on this activity and the profits earned. Thus, they a) have lower turnovers and thus b) lesser capacity to handle projects.

A company must be on top of the employee value-chain to have least talent flight and thus execute more projects and on time.

Now, DRDO is at a lesser level on the employee value-chain.
The flow of talent from a college-fresher to a tier-I company, tier-II and after considerable experience, top company may be analogous to the flow of water upwards from the roots to the leaves in a tree.

Thus, in my view to save resources on training new talent, DRDO must be at the top of the employee value-chain, i.e. provide more salaries and perks.
Presently, it is a high tier-II company only.

Thank you.

Abhiman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.