Friday, 19 April 2013

DRDO chief wants 7% of defence budget for R&D



An Astra air-to-air missile being test-fired from a ground launcher

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Apr 13

With Defence Minister AK Antony demanding that less weaponry be imported and a greater percentage of India’s military requirements be developed and built in the country, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) wants a significantly higher budget and has spelt out a three-fold roadmap for indigenization.

In an exclusive interview to Business Standard, DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat, who is also Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri, has said that DRDO’s funding must be raised from the current 5.2 per cent of defence expenditure to at least 7-8% of the defence budget.

“We need a minimum of 7-8% of the defence budget to successfully deliver the systems that the armed forces need. The current gap of 2% of defence budget will have a serious impact, forcing us to prioritize between our development projects,” says Saraswat.

The DRDO’s allocation of Rs 10,610 crore for 2013-14, would have been higher by Rs 3,650 crore if it had been allocated 7 per cent of the defence budget. The DRDO’s highest funding levels were in 2007, when it received 6.2 per cent of the defence budget.

Pointing out that China was spending some 20 per cent, and the US 16 per cent of their defence budgets on R&D, Saraswat said, “Developing world-class military technologies would require an R&D allocation of minimum 10% of the defence budget.”

Besides enhanced funding, Saraswat outlined three important steps that the defence ministry (MoD) and the military needed to implement. Firstly, the military must plan ahead in order to allow the DRDO enough time to develop the equipment that soldiers need.

“The military cannot raise a new requirement and say that it must be imported immediately unless the DRDO delivers it in 18-24 months. Most complex defence systems take 7-8 years to develop and we must be allowed that time. Besides, we have seen that the time needed for importing a defence system is between 4-6 years. So the army must plan ahead,” says Saraswat.

As Business Standard has reported (Apr 13, 2013, “Ministry’s initiative to push indigenous development”) the forthcoming Defence Procurement Procedure of 2013 is likely to address this demand. DPP-2013 will require the military to provide the DRDO and Indian defence companies with adequate time to develop the equipment that it requires.

The second major change that the DRDO chief wants is for the armed forces to accept the concepts of “spiral development” and  “capability based deployment” of equipment being developed.

“Spiral development” rests on the fact that that military equipment capabilities gradually improve as design and development continues. Saraswat explains that if the military wants a radar system that can detect enemy fighter aircraft 500 kilometres away, and the DRDO develops one that can see 300 kilometres, the military should accept and deploy that radar. While soldiers develop expertise in operating the radar and provide valuable feedback, the scientists would enhance the capability to 500 kilometres. “Capability based deployment” means bringing into operational use a “Mark I” radar, while a “Mark II” version, with better performance is developed.

The DRDO chief’s third recommendation for boosting indigenization is an investment fund through which the MoD can fund selected technology projects by private sector companies, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The fact is that private sector defence R&D is close to non-existent. We need a venture capital investment system, which will fund and promote research and promote an R&D culture in these companies. We have to cover their risk,” says Saraswat.

There are several government models for funding private sector defence R&D, most notably in Israel, and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model in the US, in which the Pentagon chooses from amongst futuristic projects that private sector players propose, and funds them even when there is no certainty of success.

A similar thought process is evident in the Kelkar Committee, which has recommended setting up a Defence Technology Development Fund, with a corpus of Rs 100 crore. So far the MoD has not taken any concrete steps to implement this.

Finally, the DRDO chief would like the setting up of Defence Equipment Manufacturing Zones, on the lines of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), where defence industries benefit from quality infrastructure, funding and locational synergy. In Pune, a group of electronics companies have set up the Defence Electronics Manufacturers’ Association (DEMA).

“Defence electronics is an advanced field which requires special qualification and certification. DEMA is a successful experiment that has led to about 25-30 good defence industries coming up around Pune itself,” says Saraswat.

16 comments:

Prodyut said...

He can have some or all of it only if:

1. He proposes to use the additional funds to operate DARPA style to fund the Private sector in competitive projects.

Note the "board" at DARPA are kicked out after 3 years and a new one comes in. The retirees have to find a new job the idea being if they are that good to be at the helm of affairs they are good enough to be find suitable employment at short notice.

2 DRDO must give realistic datelines. In some of the projects the anointed leaders appear to have either lied through their teeth or were completely unfit for the job.This cannot go on especially as DRDO claims " a technology has been built up" in the failed projects.

Unknown said...

I am not sure just increasing DRDO budget is the key. The DRDO has a lot to explain in terms of its efficency and productivity.

The setting aside ' a small portion' of the R&D outlay is not enough. Outsourcing of R&D to private sector on a shared risk-reward basis is more likely to yeild benifits.

I am sure there are stategic systems that only DRDO should work on - but there are plenty of systems that the private sector is just as good if not better. Just look at the 155mm howitzer that TATA has come up with - where is the DRDO 155mm gun? DRDO knew that the Bofors is of late 80's vintage.

Last word - just throwing money at the problem will not solve it. You have to tie the money with real targets. Just ask America :-)

FYI - I used to work for DRDO.

Unknown said...

Just thorwing money at at problem does not solve it. Just ask America :-)

A few points:

1> DRDO has not done a stellar job with on time delivery. But then most defence projects take much longer and cost much more than anticipated. Just look at : F35, Eurofigher, Groshkov, F14 (in its day), etc etc.

2> A lot has to be said about the culture of the Army and IAF. While the Navy has a design directorate. Where are the equivalent of the Army and IAF? Why cant the Army and IAF go the Navy way and begin to design, develop and operate their weapons? Why are IAF and Army stuck in the 'operate' mode?

3> Coming to the IAF, all our peers - China, S Korea, Japan, Italy etc have developed their own a/c and operate them. Why cant IAF? At least go in for a healthy mix of imported and domestic a/c.

4> DRDO does not help its cause - it is notorious for inefficnecy and delay. Try to imagine your local babu driven municipality producing a complex 21st century weapon. Well, you get the idea.

5> The best way forward is for DRDO to become a system intergrator. Outsource R&D on a risk reward basis. Bring in foeign companies at advisors. Hire expereinced foreigners as design consultants. We dont need to reinvent the wheel - we just want a design the suits our needs.

6> It might be a good idea to imbed some Army / IAF officers with the DRDO as project managers. Include some on DRDO board and then see if it brings some much wanted 'Josh' to DRDO and gets the Army and IAF some 'hosh'.

7> The best way might be for DRDO to get some competetion. If the R&D outlay is going to be 10% or 15%, let 3-4% go for private R&D. Sure there are strategic systems that no one will help us with- DRDO is and should be the only one working on those, but for others let the market forces come in.

8> Remember it was the Tata group that came up with their 155mm howitzer cause they knew the Bofors is now getting old - it is of late 80s vintage and needs replacment.

FYI - I used to work for the DRDO...

Unknown said...

Just thorwing money at at problem does not solve it. Just ask America :-)

A few points:

1> DRDO has not done a stellar job with on time delivery. But then most defence projects take much longer and cost much more than anticipated. Just look at : F35, Eurofigher, Groshkov, F14 (in its day), etc etc.

2> A lot has to be said about the culture of the Army and IAF. While the Navy has a design directorate. Where are the equivalent of the Army and IAF? Why cant the Army and IAF go the Navy way and begin to design, develop and operate their weapons? Why are IAF and Army stuck in the 'operate' mode?

3> Coming to the IAF, all our peers - China, S Korea, Japan, Italy etc have developed their own a/c and operate them. Why cant IAF? At least go in for a healthy mix of imported and domestic a/c.

4> DRDO does not help its cause - it is notorious for inefficnecy and delay. Try to imagine your local babu driven municipality producing a complex 21st century weapon. Well, you get the idea.

5> The best way forward is for DRDO to become a system intergrator. Outsource R&D on a risk reward basis. Bring in foeign companies at advisors. Hire expereinced foreigners as design consultants. We dont need to reinvent the wheel - we just want a design the suits our needs.

6> It might be a good idea to imbed some Army / IAF officers with the DRDO as project managers. Include some on DRDO board and then see if it brings some much wanted 'Josh' to DRDO and gets the Army and IAF some 'hosh'.

7> The best way might be for DRDO to get some competetion. If the R&D outlay is going to be 10% or 15%, let 3-4% go for private R&D. Sure there are strategic systems that no one will help us with- DRDO is and should be the only one working on those, but for others let the market forces come in.

8> Remember it was the Tata group that came up with their 155mm howitzer cause they knew the Bofors is now getting old - it is of late 80s vintage and needs replacment.

FYI - I used to work for the DRDO...

Unknown said...

Just thorwing money at at problem does not solve it. Just ask America :-)

A few points:

1> DRDO has not done a stellar job with on time delivery. But then most defence projects take much longer and cost much more than anticipated. Just look at : F35, Eurofigher, Groshkov, F14 (in its day), etc etc.

2> A lot has to be said about the culture of the Army and IAF. While the Navy has a design directorate. Where are the equivalent of the Army and IAF? Why cant the Army and IAF go the Navy way and begin to design, develop and operate their weapons? Why are IAF and Army stuck in the 'operate' mode?

3> Coming to the IAF, all our peers - China, S Korea, Japan, Italy etc have developed their own a/c and operate them. Why cant IAF? At least go in for a healthy mix of imported and domestic a/c.

4> DRDO does not help its cause - it is notorious for inefficnecy and delay. Try to imagine your local babu driven municipality producing a complex 21st century weapon. Well, you get the idea.

5> The best way forward is for DRDO to become a system intergrator. Outsource R&D on a risk reward basis. Bring in foeign companies at advisors. Hire expereinced foreigners as design consultants. We dont need to reinvent the wheel - we just want a design the suits our needs.

6> It might be a good idea to imbed some Army / IAF officers with the DRDO as project managers. Include some on DRDO board and then see if it brings some much wanted 'Josh' to DRDO and gets the Army and IAF some 'hosh'.

7> The best way might be for DRDO to get some competetion. If the R&D outlay is going to be 10% or 15%, let 3-4% go for private R&D. Sure there are strategic systems that no one will help us with- DRDO is and should be the only one working on those, but for others let the market forces come in.

8> Remember it was the Tata group that came up with their 155mm howitzer cause they knew the Bofors is now getting old - it is of late 80s vintage and needs replacment.

FYI - I used to work for the DRDO...

Anonymous said...

We need atleast 20 percent of our defense budget in R&D if we want to get out of this vicious over reliance on foreign companies.
Thanks Ajai once again for bringing such articles. U r doing a fabulous job. I guess more media person follow ur steps who now do just reporting in the name if journalism.

SoBoMavali said...

DRDO has monopoly in "indegenous" armament production. Any one who has studied the subject knows that this can lead only to stagnation and waste. The need of the hour is competition, either from Private sector or from a a PSU. Even Soviet Russia had different design bureaus competing for R&D budgets and delivery.

Anonymous said...

Don't throw money at these so called scientists ..in a war it will not matter if a weapon reads " made in india" or " made in USA " it will only matter if it destroyed the enemy ...if the substandard stuff DRDO makes is all our army has then we might say good bye to any future military victories

Prodyut said...

Some further points:

That business of investing in the private sector " specially in the small and medium scale industries" rings alarm bells of all kinds. I think it is a hangover from the days when all statements were peppered with "of course keeping in mind our socialistic pattern of society". No,Sir defence requires biggish investments and the SMSIs will very quickly run out of breath.

The Unknown poster asks "Where are the equivalent of the Army and IAF? What happened to them. Actually the IAF HAD started the AMD in Kanpur under Baljit Kapur and AM Singh but don't you know it was closed down by Guess...?

Having said that I will resist any induction of IAF men into Programme direction unless they are willing to send their best. In the past they tended to fill up the place with retired Wingcos. I worked under one bozo - a Chief Designer rank no less- who clearly told us "Don't come to me with Technical Problems...I only take Policy Decisions" which were profound statements like " I don't want brilliance... I want discipline" This was quite confusing because we were as meek as church mice. Of course he got away with it because it was the early 'seventies. Today a fight would have broken out and he would have been kicked in the scuffle. So if IAF types are to be got in pl send the guys who slave as CTOs n the squadrons- not the BRD types generally.

Kana said...

Prodyut wrote:
"Note the "board" at DARPA are kicked out after 3 years and a new one comes in. The retirees have to find a new job the idea being if they are that good to be at the helm of affairs they are good enough to be find suitable employment at short notice."

Yes, board members or managers of these projects need to always keep one eye on their own future employment in the same companies they bestow contract funds upon. Sometimes not following US practice has advantages.

-------------------------------------------------

Although it is not the predominant model, even in the US there are examples of government-funded and OWNED technology being made available to private companies on a license basis. This prevents a monopoly on the technology and it's application, and raises the level of competition by allowing all competitors access to technology funded by the government. Private entities are then motivated to pursue their own privately owned research to improve/synergize with the government technologies, which results in the government funded research providing maximal benefit for the end-user and the taxpayer. This can be implemented via specific sub-systems integrated as 'government provided equipment' or thru wholesale technology licencing. As example, the latest CTOL UCAV development of the USN are being performed by one contractor, but the results are being made available to all competitors.

Anonymous said...

Your article touches my heart. very effective information about DRDO Importance. I want to join defence so i finds job & see always DRDO Notification

Giri Patel said...

A few points:

1> DRDO has not done a stellar job with on time delivery. But then most defence projects take much longer and cost much more than anticipated. Just look at : F35, Eurofigher, Groshkov, F14 (in its day), etc etc.

2> A lot has to be said about the culture of the Army and IAF. While the Navy has a design directorate. Where are the equivalent of the Army and IAF? Why cant the Army and IAF go the Navy way and begin to design, develop and operate their weapons? Why are IAF and Army stuck in the 'operate' mode?

3> Coming to the IAF, all our peers - China, S Korea, Japan, Italy etc have developed their own a/c and operate them. Why cant IAF? At least go in for a healthy mix of imported and domestic a/c.

4> DRDO does not help its cause - it is notorious for inefficnecy and delay. Try to imagine your local babu driven municipality producing a complex 21st century weapon. Well, you get the idea.

5> The best way forward is for DRDO to become a system intergrator. Outsource R&D on a risk reward basis. Bring in foeign companies at advisors. Hire expereinced foreigners as design consultants. We dont need to reinvent the wheel - we just want a design the suits our needs.

6> It might be a good idea to imbed some Army / IAF officers with the DRDO as project managers. Include some on DRDO board and then see if it brings some much wanted 'Josh' to DRDO and gets the Army and IAF some 'hosh' get similar Navy jobs.

Sai Santosh said...

This much of latest govt jobs openings is a very rare scenario where people are queuing for high paid private jobs.

Sherya Dutt said...

Sarkari Naukri

Tom Zing said...

DRDO Scientist Recruitment 2016

Tom Zing said...

Coming to the IAF, all our peers - China, S Korea, Japan, Italy etc have developed their own a/c and operate them. Why cant IAF? At least go in for a healthy mix of imported and domestic a/c DRDO Scientist Recruitment 2016