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K. VIJAYRAGHAVAN PANEL FOR DRDO

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR ISSUES RELATED TO DRDO?

      Project Timelines and Cost Overruns: DRDO projects are notorious for exceeding estimated timelines and budgets by significant margins.

 

      This leads to delays in crucial defence capabilities and raises concerns about efficiency and resource allocation.

 

      Examples include the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, which took over 30 years to develop.

 

      Lack of Synergy with Armed Forces: DRDO's internal decision-making processes hinder innovation and adaptation.

 

      Additionally, reported lack of smooth collaboration with the Armed Forces in terms of defining requirements and incorporating feedback, results in technologies not fully meeting operational needs.

 

Technology Transfer and Private Sector Integration: Efficient transfer of developed technologies from DRDO to private industries for mass production still remains a challenge.




      This hinders faster deployment and commercialisation of indigenous defence technology, leading to dependence on foreign imports.

 

      Transparency and Public Perception: Limited public awareness and transparency regarding DRDO's activities and achievements lead to negative perception and criticism.

 

In order to reform the DRDO, several expert committees had been constituted in the past. These include:

 

      Abdul Kalam Committee (1992),

      P Rama Rao Committee (2008), and

      V Ram Gopal Rao committee (2020)


In August 2023, the Narendra Modi government set up a panel headed by former principal scientific advisor, Vijay Raghavan The panel was passed with ensuring focus on research and development of high and futuristic technologies, maximise academia, start-ups and private sector participation to develop an indigenous defence production industry.



MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS OF K. VIJAYRAGHAVAN COMMITTEE





Refocusing on Research and Development (R&D): Suggested that DRDO should return to its original goal of focusing on research and development for defence.

 

Advised against involving itself in productisation, production cycles, and product management, tasks deemed more suitable for the private sector.

 

Narrowing Focus and Expertise: Emphasised that DRDO should identify specific areas of expertise rather than engaging in diverse technologies.

 

Questioned the necessity for DRDO's involvement in drone development, proposing a need to recognise expertise both domestically and internationally.

 

Role of Defence Technology Council (DTC): Advocated a pivotal role of the Defence Technology Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, in identifying suitable players for specific defence technologies.

 

DTC should be instrumental in steering the direction of defence technology development.

Creation of a Dedicated Department: Proposed the establishment of the Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation under the Ministry of Defence.

 

Recommended that the proposed department should act as the secretariat for the Defence Technology Council.



MODERNISING DEFENCE DEFENCE R&D: PROPOSALS FOR RESTRUCTURING


The K. Vijay Raghavan panel report has recommended sweeping changes in the setup and functioning of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Here are the broad proposals compared to the current situation:

 

Restructuring of DRDO Labs: Currently, DRDO has control over funds dedicated to defence R&D. The proposed changes involve restructuring the existing 41 DRDO labs into 10 national labs. Additionally, the panel recommends the establishment of a defence technology roadmap and defence tech hubs in academic institutions to enhance collaboration and innovation.

 

Accountability Measures: Historically, there has been little accountability for DRDO scientists. The panel suggests implementing strict performance accountability measures. A critical review of the past 10 years' work would be conducted, and those not meeting performance standards may be marked for premature retirement.





Human Resource Reforms: DRDO currently employs around 7,500 scientists, along with approximately 10,000 research and technical staff, and 12,500 administrative and support staff. The proposed changes include shifting to project-based hiring for 3-5 years, after which 28 per cent of the staff would be absorbed permanently. Additionally, there would be a focus on campus recruitment from colleges and universities to attract fresh talent.

 

Involvement of Private Sector: Currently, the private sector's role in defence R&D is limited to specific works farmed out and tightly controlled by DRDO. The proposed reforms encourage greater involvement of the private industry, startups, and academia. A corpus amount of Rs 1 lakh crore would be made available for interest-free financing to support the development of deep tech solutions by these entities.

 

To address the ongoing issues faced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), significant changes in command and control within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are being recommended, in addition to the suggestions made by the Vijay Raghavan Committee.

 

In the current command and control scenario within DRDO, the existing organisational structure under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) faces significant challenges, particularly concerning project management and resource distribution. With a secretary overseeing the Department of Research and Development (R&D) and a chairman managing DRDO, the system struggles to efficiently handle the complexities of defence projects. This inefficiency is highlighted by the fact that 23 out of the 55 high-priority 'mission mode' projects are considerably behind schedule and have exceeded budgetary allocations.





To address these issues, proposed command and control reforms aim to establish a Defence Technology Council under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). This council would serve as the highest authority responsible for overseeing the advancement of defensive technologies and strategic planning. Under this proposed restructuring, roles are clearly defined: the DRDO chairman would maintain leadership but shift focus primarily towards research and development initiatives. This would involve fostering collaborations with startups and academic institutions to drive innovation in defence technologies. Meanwhile, the secretary of R&D within the MoD would play a pivotal role in coordinating research efforts across various defence agencies and ensuring alignment with national defence objectives.





Moreover, restructuring DRDO's responsibilities is a key aspect of the proposed reforms. With these changes, DRDO's mandate would be redefined to concentrate solely on research and development activities. Responsibilities related to production and further development would be transitioned to the private defence industry and Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). The expected outcomes of this restructuring are promising; by limiting DRDO's focus to R&D and transferring production responsibilities to the private sector, efficiency is expected to increase, leading to reduced project delays and fostering innovation in defence technology development. Ultimately, this restructuring aims to facilitate better resource allocation and project management, thereby strengthening India's defence capabilities.



WAY FORWARD


Stronger Project Management: DRDO should implement stricter project management methodologies, including clear milestones, resource allocation, and accountability measures.

 

Enhanced Collaboration with Armed Forces: Establish dedicated channels for communication and feedback exchange, involving Armed Forces personnel in development stages.

 

Streamlined Technology Transfer: Develop clear protocols and incentives for technology transfer to private companies, fostering closer public-private-partnerships.

 

Foster a culture of Experimentation and Open Innovation: DRDO should collaborate with universities, startups, and international partners to leverage diverse expertise and access cutting-edge technologies.

 

Increase Public Awareness: DRDO must actively engage with the media, organise public outreach events, and share success stories to raise awareness about DRDO's contributions to national security. 



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