The era of high defence expenditures is behind us. In the 2019-20 budget, the government allocated 15.47% of Central Government Expenditure (CGE) to defence. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the share of resources allocated was only marginally higher, standing at 16.8% and dipping to 16.6%. It is improbable that this year’s budget will witness a significant increase in defence expenditure.
Herein lies an opportunity to think creatively . For a start, the recent establishment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) can offer a way. Since efficiency is at a premium in resource allocation, the CDS should guide the government on personnel issues, training, budgetary priorities for each service and even logistical requirements for the services. A key step the CDS must undertake is encouraging the establishment of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs), which are essentially joint combatant commands. The CDS should push for this in consultation with the service chiefs, including the tri-service personnel within the CDS and the ministry of defence (MoD). They must be geared to guiding, constructing and planning. Commanders of ITCs can bring efficiency if they have operational and some budgetary control over the forces under their command.