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India appoints new Secretaries for Defence and Defence Production

Creation of the apex military post of Chief of Defence Staff, review of the Defence Procurement Procedure and reform of Government-owned Military Industrial Complex tops agenda for new bosses.

August 23, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By MoD, Government of India
Outgoing Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra handing over charge to Dr Ajay Kumar at South Block in New Delhi on August 23

India this week announced top-level bureaucratic appointments which have a key role in the Government.

Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba has been named Cabinet Secretary - the head of India's civil service - for a period of two years with effect from August 30. Gauba is a 1982 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Jharkhand cadre.

Dr Ajay Kumar, New Defence Secretary

Secretary Defence Production Dr Ajay Kumar is the new Defence Secretary. He took over from Sanjay Mitra, who retired from service on August 23. Dr Kumar is a 1985 batch IAS officer of the Kerala cadre, and had a high profile tenure as Secretary Defence Production during which he was the face of the Make in India agenda for this sector. The Defence Secretary has a mimimum tenure of two years.

The Government has opted for continuity at the highest civilian bureaucratic levels in the Ministry of Defence by selecting officers already serving in the Ministry

Special Secretary Defence Subhash Chandra took over from Dr Ajay Kumar as the new Secretary Defence Production. He is a 1986 batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre, and has had multiple stints in the Ministry of Defence. He was Joint Secretary (Army) in the earlier part of this decade. He returned to the Ministry as Additional Secretary in March 2018, and his post was upgraded to Special Secretary in July this year.

These key appointments were approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 21.

Subhash Chandra, New Secretary Defence
Production

The Government has opted for continuity at the highest civilian bureaucratic levels in the Ministry of Defence by selecting officers already serving in the Ministry.

The Secretary Defence Production will be required to implement the politically sensitive task of reorganising the Government-owned Ordnance Factory complex into corporations which function on business lines. He will also be required to provide leadership for the reform of Defence Public Sector Undertakings to cope with the emerging challenge from the private sector

As the new Defence Secretary, Dr Ajay Kumar's immediate tasks will be putting in motion the process to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day Speech on August 15. This will constitute the single biggest reform in India's higher defence management. The CDS will be the single-point military adviser to the Government, and will drive integration and jointness among the armed forces. The ground work for the setting up of this post and defining its mandate will require sagacity and tact, as the CDS will disrupt hierarchies not just in the military but also in equations with top politico-bureaucratic functionaries including the Defence Minister, National Security Adviser and the Defence Secretary.

The new Defence Secretary will also oversee the review of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) to further the Make in India agenda.

The Secretary Defence Production will be required to implement the politically sensitive task of reorganising the Government-owned Ordnance Factory complex into corporations which function on business lines. He will also be required to provide leadership for the reform of Defence Public Sector Undertakings to cope with the emerging challenge from the private sector amidst changes in the DPP, which is increasingly providing a more level playing field to the private sector to compete for big ticket Defence contracts.