Friday, 2 May 2008

BLOGGERS' VIEW: Should the navy equip EVERY officer with a B.Tech degree?

There have been interesting --- and passionately argued --- responses to my story, carried first in Business Standard and then on NDTV, about the navy pulling out its officers from NDA one year early, so that they can be equipped with a B.Tech degree.

Let the discussion continue. I'm posting my view below. Comments are invited.

DON'T DISTURB THE CURRENT TRAINING PATTERN, because:

Fighting men have to be technically savvy; but they don't have to be engineers. They have to know how to stem the flow of blood from a wound; but they don't have to be doctors. They have to know how to get into the minds of the men they command; but they don't have to be psychologists. They have to know the strategic, operational and tactical contexts in which they function; but they don't have to have a degree in international relations.

Overqualifying a fighting soldier, sailor or airman in one dimension --- especially when it's made a mandatory requirement --- risks disturbing the fine mix of abilities that today's fighting man/woman must have.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be good to have as many naval personnel as possible with B. Tech. But in reality a combination brains and brwans is required. Some will have degree, Some will have strength and some will have both.

ssingh said...

A B.tech degree will also teach just introduction/fundamentals about engineering. It is work experience/higher studies which gives knowledge in depth. So, I don't see anything wrong in this. In fact, I will support this. This will increase confidence of sailors whenever they interact with scientists/engineers regarding weapons design or its procurement.

Ram said...

I agree. I think anpn put that well when he said "Some will have degree, Some will have strength and some will have both."

Ram

Ankur said...

I agree with both posters above.

And I remain to see how this is a bad thing. Doing a Bachelors is not the same as a Doctorate or a Masters. It is a solid introduction to the tech world without being too deep.

Sure in the ideal world we would have a blend of degrees, but this is a logical and progressive first step.

invalid said...

Ankur, don't club masters with doctorate. Doctorate gives an in depth view of the area you are involved in. But masters, unless it is masters by research, masters are same as bachelors only.

Broadsword, why you think it is a bad idea ?

I thinks it is good idea. Because, I feel Navy and Airforce work more relates to technology than Army's. Btw, they are not equipping everyone with a b.tech; only officers coming out from prestigious NDA.

In most Tom Clancy novels or see hoollywood movies, some Navy / Airforce guys would be MIT / Caltech / some known univs / phds. Atleast this recent move would provide engineers to navy.

Btech automobile for officers of tank regiments, btech communication for officers of signals regiments, btech aerospace for offices of aircraft maintenance teams can also be provided...

Anonymous said...

forgot to add this :

At least now, retiring Navy officers will have better jobs waiting for them because of their BTech degree.

Does SSC cadres get trained in NDA and come out with a BTech degree ?

Manu said...

Tomorrow's wars are increasingly going to be fought with technology. Officers are more and more likely to operate complex weapon systems, and their chances of seeing direct action in war is less and less likely, especially in the navy and the air-force.

That being said, it doesn't change the fact that most officers will be users of technology, and not its creators or inventors. Their main task is to be a leader, and not a technology expert. The primary expectation from officers is to take quick and effective decisions at war-time (using technology at their disposal) and to be effectively manage and lead their men.

If anything, officers should be equipped with an MBA in Leadership. That degree would reflect their primary duty more closely than a technical degree. It would take care of their job-competitiveness when they retire. And that would also take care of instilling jointness in the military, since all officers are by definition leaders.

Anonymous said...

These kind of proposals have come and gone.(and will come and go ??)
But basically the merits and demerits are.
No univ other that JNU would give B Tech to these cadets (hybrid variety). Simply because no parity exists. Secondly if JNU only is supposed to give, then as such engineering optees go to Shivaji. So what is the need for taking out Cadets from NDA. Instead their academic syllabus in NDA itself can be modified towards engg(to save one year of engg syllabus).
Secondly not all Naval dopes go for engg. Infact many of them go for executive/aviation/logistics/survey/etc,etc. What will happen to those poor ppl who will be asked to become B Tech (by force).
Thirdly and most importantly. The idea that all people regardless of their temperament are qualified to become engineers (any engineers??) is basically foolish and it has been carried out to extremities in MCEME, MCTE, CME and Shivaji.
This pearl of wisdom will dawn most probably after 7th pay commission.
Lastly, I have still not understood why till now NDA, CME, MCEME, MCTE, Shivaji have not been asked to upgrade atleast to NIT (National Institute of Tech) status if not to IIT status. Rather than doing this, perhaps our ppl are more interested in their rank status only.

Anonymous said...

The belief that engineers cannot fight is prevalent with Army bhaiyas. Hence you will hear the maximum noise from these people.

B-Tech is a bachelors degree. You need to have science as a subject if you intened to join certain job categories in services. B-Tech is just 1 step ahead.

Navy, which is the best among the 3 services in terms of technology adaptation, weapons and capabilities building is now building future human resources based on the ships and technologies they want to feature. Like navy builds its own weapons, its building its own human resource.

This requirement comes not just now but from Admiral Bhagwat days.

Infact even Army needs engineers but the pathetic leadership is not a institution which has foresight. The issue is again that it does not build its own weapons. It does not has the thinking capacity to use its engineering force in base repair depots etc for in house development of weapon systems. But at the same time they want to be key people in aerospace command. Imagine Bhaiyas in space....

If you every meet officers from these 3 services , you will find on an average that an IN officers is the most graceful and classy followed by Air force officer and then this Army Bhiya officers with no class at all.

Anonymous said...

Navy as such is in a unique situation with respect to both the army and airforce.

I am generalizing to some extent.
In the army, if one had to repair something, say the tank in the middle of an operation, you can leave it at that spot for the time being and try to do get help later. In the airforce, if any airplane gets a snag, the pilot cant do much. That is both the airforce and army do not need to have the users (the persons doing the fighting) to do "more than cleaning level of repairs as a job requirement".

whereas the navy in high seas, requires the sea men to do the repairs until they get back to the ship. i.e. the users need to be able to tinker with the machines, if need be. If say, the viraat is hit and a propeller gets damaged, you need the men operating it - not only to know control the situation, so that the damage does not spread -"how to stem the flow of blood from a wound;" but also get the propellers to work , i.e. "they have to decent doctors".

The analogy for the army would be say, a brigade hq was hit, what would the staff have to do? The ship for the navy is that level.

and unfortunately for that, the officers should be able to decide which of the propellers can be rectified and most importantly, how it affect the future operational decisions, say do they want to get the propellers to work at maximum speed at for a very short or operate at only 60-70% of speed for a longer time. This requires them to have understanding of the technology.

A tank operator like you, is an army officer, but I do not know whether the tank mechanic at your base is also an army officer from nda. For the navy, these mechanics are also at war and as such they require to be technologically competent.

Ravi

Anonymous said...

In short,
i) navy officers have decent time on hands, but they cant get help from outside. So the repairing of ship has to be performed by the officers themselves, which requires them to have an understanding of technology.

ii) navy is at the forefront of designing their own ships, and for a design normally only 4-5 ships are produced and so the user input is very important, to understand the design. Bugs can be sorted out in prototypes. HAL can produce 10 LCAs for testing and DRDO 15 arjuns, but there is only 1-2 IACs coming out. No prototype business for navy. They have to be good right from the first machine.

Taking these two into consideration, I think navys decision is to be applauded and it is not a show of non-camaderie but of necessity.

Ravi

Abhiman said...

Mr. Shukla, in my view, if the cadets save 1 year through this scheme, then it is desirable, regardless of any degree that they get.

Thanks.

Broadsword said...

Some of these responses are huge generalisations. Take this one for example:

"If you every meet officers from these 3 services , you will find on an average that an IN officers is the most graceful and classy followed by Air force officer and then this Army Bhiya officers with no class at all."

Or this:

"Secondly not all Naval dopes go for engg. Infact many of them go for executive/aviation/logistics/survey/etc,etc. What will happen to those poor ppl who will be asked to become B Tech (by force)."

Or this:

"If anything, officers should be equipped with an MBA in Leadership."

Just for your information, IIMs have been known to ask military officers to come and give lectures on leadership. There is a major difference between "management" and "leadership". The latter is done by personal example and personality; the former can be done from a desk.

You can "manage" equipment, inventories, organisations and even people --- up to a point. But you cannot "manage" a person to his/her death. That requires leadership. Leadership, not management, is the primary attribute of an officer in a combat unit.

Ravi's point about tanks being left on the battlefield for someone else to repair bespeaks a sorry lack of knowledge of the organisation of combat units. A combat unit -- especially an armoured unit -- has different echelons of repair. The first responsibility is that of the crew, and of the unit Light Repair Workship (LRW). The LRW. which is commanded by an officer with a B.Tech degree, repairs the tank in situ to the level possible. That is called the R-1 repair echelon. If the tank needs a higher level of repair, there is a workshop (again manned by officers with B.Techs) in each brigade, which distributes its manpower with each combat team. They carry out R-2 repairs on the battlefield, if necessary under fire; R-2 repair includes major tasks like replacing an engine.

It is only if the tank has some MAJOR problem that it goes to a higher repair echelon (R-3 or R-4, which is outside the battlefield and which requires evacuating the tank).

In other words, the combat team commanders don't need to start jumping into the engine deck of the tank, because (a) They are busy with the tactical and combat picture; and (b) There are specialists, equipped with B.Tech degrees, who handle the task of repair. Equipping the combat leaders with B.Tech degrees is unnecessary. It's a diversion from their main task of leading troops in battle. They MUST have a level of technical competence; after all, they are tank commanders first, and squadron commanders in addition to that. But they don't need B.Tech degrees; they just need to be technically adept.

The navy follows broadly the same system of repair. When the Viraat's propellor gets damaged, the Captain and the Executive Officer and the Gunner Officer don't jump into their swimming trunks and start paddling around in the water. There is an Engineering Officer (L-1 and L-2 repair, remember?) with suitable qualifications, who oversees the repair. Hopefully the Skipper continues with his tactical battlefield responsibilities. Like the armoured combat team commander, he doesn't need a B.Tech degree, he just needs to know enough about engines and propellors to give technically sound orders.

If you insist that the skipper needs a B.Tech degree to oversee the work of the engineering officers, why doesn't he need an M.B.B.S to oversee the work of the medical staff. Why doesn't he need to learn how to fly in order to oversee the work of the aviators? Let's get real here. A leader with a certain level of competence and common sense doesn't need degrees to be able to work with specialists. That's what leadership is all about.

I wouldn't hazard an opinion on why the navy is going in for a B.Tech for all its officers. I don't know if it is to enhance their post-retirement prospects. I don't know if it is the well-established military tendency for one-upmanship. I don't know if it is empire-building.

But what I absolutely do believe is that there is no need for EVERY naval officer to come with a shiny little B.Tech attached to his collar. It's the dumbest idea I've ever seen from a military that specialises in dumb ideas.

Anonymous said...

sir

your last comment in fully valid .. it explains it all !!!

invalid said...

Ajai,

Engineer means "a person who uses scientific knowledge to solve practical problems". So Engineer doesn't mean that he is a designer / repair person. He could be simply an operator of a hi-tech equipment. May be Navy is interested in imparting that crucial knowledge to all its cadres.

You have to agree that equipments that Navy operates are more hitech than those operated by Army at least and more / equal to than those operated by Airforce. Operating hi-tech equipments needs tech savvy operators. Nothing wrong with Navy educating all its officer cadres with BTech.

For your argument "why doesn't he need an M.B.B.S to oversee the work of the medical staff.", the argument has no logic in it. Medical staffs neither steer the ship nor participate in operations planning.

For an example, if a tank is hit, you will simply abandon the tank. Don't say that you will wait for the repair unit to rescue your unit, because before the repair unit arrives shells are going arrive in your direction. Also, don't say that the repair units are not going to take more time, because your commander is going to spread his assets over a large area (afraid of nucs). You will run away from the tanks because tanks are expendable.

I took tank as an example, because tank is the only offensive element in Army which uses some amount of technology.

Where else, if a ship is hit (not in its hull), the captain have to make decisions on how he can save the ship with its limited capability. Ship packs a array of hitech equipments & technology like sonar, propulsion, fluid dynamics, radar etc. Also, the operating in that environment requires you to be aware of under sea elements, atmospheric elements etc. All these factors requires navy officers to be tech savvy.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
What was huge generalisation abt what I said.
There are lot of Naval dopes who don't njoy studying that much to go and study for B Tech and that too by force.
This proposal is a non starter. Let the cadets be there for 3 years together and let them be the back bone of armed forces. Other cadres should be taken in and decently let out at appropriate stage.

Anonymous said...

"Ravi's point about tanks being left on the battlefield for someone else to repair bespeaks a sorry lack of knowledge of the organisation of combat units. A combat unit -- especially an armoured unit -- has different echelons of repair. The first responsibility is that of the crew, and of the unit Light Repair Workship (LRW). The LRW. which is commanded by an officer with a B.Tech degree, repairs the tank in situ to the level possible. That is called the R-1 repair echelon. If the tank needs a higher level of repair, there is a workshop (again manned by officers with B.Techs) in each brigade, which distributes its manpower with each combat team. They carry out R-2 repairs on the battlefield, if necessary under fire; R-2 repair includes major tasks like replacing an engine."

The main difference is, the success of the entire tank brigade doesnt depend on whether R-1 and R-2 repair EVERY tank. If one-two tanks are left unrepaired, they are not game changing scenarios. and please note I used the words "can" and not "do" for leaving the tank on ground.

whereas, the repairs that the navy people make, say could repair only 3 out of 4 propellers is a game changing scenario. A "ships commander(admiral)" commands a ship of may be 100-2000 people, where a tank commander commands exactly 2-4 people, a huge difference and the same decisions which can be taken by a tank commander, say "abandon tank" cannot be taken so easily by the ship one, i.e. why I was trying to equate the ship to your brigade hq.

As you yourselves said, the repair echelons are all btechs and not from NDA and these repair echelons are not armys first line of defence.
I can tell you, about the US navy from first hand boasting. They pride their crisis management the most highest, forget radars and stuff. That person seems to think, that part is their most important line of defence - which is not for the army.
Frankly a btech of 2 years (excluding NDA) means only two courses of fluid dynamics instead of the normal one.

No, a skipper doesnt need to know how to conduct the repair, but he has to understand what the affects of that particular repair meant - and they affect the navy at a higher level than the effect of a repair on a tank.
Ravi

Anonymous said...

Broadsword,

Your last comment is what makes a typical Army bhaiya.

First of all Army Bhaiya cannot understand the element of a "Bachelore Degree" in Engineering.

Secondly Army bhaiya thinks that Army logic is better than a Navy logic.

Manu said...

Broadsword said:
"Just for your information, IIMs have been known to ask military officers to come and give lectures on leadership. There is a major difference between "management" and "leadership"...Leadership, not management, is the primary attribute of an officer in a combat unit."

You are repeating what I said. There is no arguing that leadership is the primary attribute of an officer. An MBA Leadership program deals with inculcating leadership qualities in an individual, and as such is very different from, say, an MBA in Finance. This course is normally taken by (budding) executive leaders. Look it up.

If IIMs call military officers for lectures on leadership, that actually reinforces the point that military officers are eminently qualified for an MBA Leadership degree!

Anonymous said...

Aren't all NDA grads at present granted a BSc degree ? Your arguments about fighting men etc. apply to this too, why does every officer need a BSC degree ?

Just consider a BTech to be the new BSc. :-)

Sudeep

Ajai said...

Manu, you've missed the point by a mile.

The point I'm making is: an army officer learns leadership on the job... from personally leading his men. At NDA and IMA, there are already classes in leadership. Not from people in business suits spouting jargon, but from live case studies from the field.

The second point I made was that MBAs are not about leadership... not even when they're dubbed "Business Leadership" courses. They're about management. You don't learn about leadership in university courses. You learn it practically by leading men in difficult conditions.

The third point I made was... that the people they call in to lecture at those courses didn't do any MBA leadership courses. Most of those people are B.A. pass. They learned leadership in the University of Adversity.

Anonymous, I have no problem if everyone in NDA stayed six years and did a Ph.D in divinity. My only stipulation is that cadets from all three services do it together. NDA is about jointmanship.

Anonymous said...

Ajai,

For some reason you seem to be going in rounds.

1) We need to know from you POV that why can't engineers become not fit for fight or not lead the men from front or cannot absorb leadership?

2) MBA teaches you Management and Leadership too. Its human nature when it comes to leadership qualities. But MBA enhances and structures it.

You talk about Officer Like Quality (OLQ). In defence we pat ourself to be having OLQ and its imbibed from NDA, IMA, Staff College etc. MBA institutions are similar institutions which imbibe such qualities (better than the defence institutions). Once they are out of MBA schools they go through induction, learning and on hands learning. Its similar to Forces.

Army's concept of leading from front is different when itcomes to AF or Navy. Reading your POV, you have a mindset that officres will be asked to repair sips if they learn b-tech. That is not so. F-INSAS program will show the need for different education in Army. Even though most of the equipment is expected to be plug and play but an average Jawan who comes from 10th standard will net be at his best to use it in future. The F-INSAS will change the basic educational requirement in Army. Army will have to re-orient these 0 class pass jawans via a special school. Same is true for the officer. Science will become mandatory for officer too. Army will have the option to recruit them from schools or train them in its own institutions.

Navy being more proactive is already gearing for it. Your view of jointmanship is bit rustic. Jointmanship will come with joint training. It was nice when we had trainees from tri forces under one roof. The bonding was due to the joint training that we went through NDA.

Things have to and will change. We will see cross deployments like army units and navy units attached toghter, AF and army units attached togther etc in future as per the requirements.

The quality of the NDA is already suffering because of the lack of competent teaching staff.

If Navy decides to cut loose, its fine, we cannot shackle them in the name of bonding.

I assume I have addressed three of your concepts
1) Engineers can fight
2) MBA is not practical
3) Jointness come from NDA

Thanks

Anonymous said...

I feel that what BA/ BSc was about a decade ago is BE/ B Tech today. The rate at which India is going in for specialisation/ super specialisation, in another 5 to 10 years there will be nothing known as general BA/ BSc.

I feel that a BE/ B Tech degree is in order for all three services. Further all service courses should get appropriately affiliated to universities. Some course should also fetch MBA from IIM (maybe in leadership).

Anonymous said...

Not for army bhaias. They scrape recruits from bottom of barrel and turn them into zombies.

IN wants to take same material and turn them into B-techs.

Anonymous said...

Go to AP. that state churns out 100,000 Engineers every year. Literally anyone who passes the entrance qualifying exam can become an engineer if he pays for it. the word B.E. has lost its value.

So why shouldnt hte Navy dish out BTech degrees - aaj kal it has as much value as a BSc or a BComm

Anonymous said...

'Army Bhayias' also need it. Why such venom for IA?

I read in the newspapers that some OF is shortly going to submit prototype of hitech combat uniform that will be controlled by micro chips. At that point of time even the jonnies will require some technical qualification.

Anonymous said...

Why venom for IA? They protect our borders. But Bhaiyas are Bhaiyas.

IN also protects Indian shores. But they are professional. They actually "think."

Call a spade a spade. Thank you IA for protecting us, but, more is needed in terms of professionalism in IA.

Anonymous said...

BSF,CRPF and ITBP are the forces working shoulder to shoulder with Army. Some times without ny rest and access to the supply of ration commodities in high altitude areas. If Army Jawans, after retirement are enrolled in para military service they would not be able to serve in difficult areas thereby causing casualties and also to weaken the strength of the para military forces. PMFs have got the laurels for the country. They have produced so many international sportsmen and also set up the history of the bravery in various wars then why they are less then Army?