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Chief of Defence Staff

Topics covered: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Chief of Defence Staff

What to study?

For prelims and mains: CDS- need, roles and functions, practice so far and significantly.

Context: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the creation of a chief of defence staff (CDS).

About CDS:

He will be the single-point military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999.
CDS oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services.


He will be a Four-star General.

  1. Not eligible to hold any Government office after demitting the office of CDS.
  2. No private employment without prior approval for a period of five years after demitting the office of CDS.

Roles and functions:

CDS will provide “single-point military advice” to the government, inject synergy in planning, procurements and logistics in the armed forces.

It will ensure integration of land-air-sea operations through the eventual setting up of theatre commands.
The CDS will also function as the military advisor to the PM-led Nuclear Command Authority, as also have direct command of tri-Service organizations to handle the new warfare domains of space and cyberspace.

Practice so far:

India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC); but this is a toothless office, given the manner in which it is structured.

The senior-most among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC, an office that lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.

  • However, CoSC arrangement is seen as “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”.
  • The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets.
  • The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years.

What is the case for having a CDS?

The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC).

Although the KRC did not directly recommend a CDS — that came from the GoM — it underlined the need for more coordination among the three Services, which was poor in the initial weeks of the Kargil conflict.

Present challenges:

  1. The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure.
  2. It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.
  3. Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate.
  4. Also, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, in order to ensure that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broadbased.
  5. The CDS is also seen as being vital to the creation of “theatre commands”, integrating tri-service assets and personnel like in the US military.


The charter of the CDS, if implemented properly, will prepare the 15-lakh strong armed forces for the wars of the future. The CDS is mandated to ensure the Army, Navy and IAF, which often pull in different directions, truly integrate to slash wasteful expenditure amidst the ongoing severe fund crunch for military modernization because of the ballooning pay and pension bills.

Sources: pib.