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Aiming to usher in reforms in the higher defence management Centre govt has approved the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and Department of Military Affairs within the Ministry of Defence. CDS will be a four star officer and act as principal military adviser to defence minister on all tri services matters. In addition to heading the department of military Affairs, the CDS will also be the permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. However CDS will not exercise any military command including over three service chiefs.


Creation of post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was recommended by Group of Ministers in 2001. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended the appointment of a CDS as a means to provide single-point professional military advice to the political leadership and also get the forces to work together. After the GoM recommendations, in preparation for the post of CDS, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff in 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat. In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Committee suggested the appointment of a Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee as a midway to eliminate apprehensions over the CDS.The post of CDS was also recommended by the D.B. Shekatkar Committee.

This follows the announcement made by the Prime Minister on 15th August 2019, in his address to the nation, inter alia, “India should not have a fragmented approach. Our entire military power will have to work in unison and move forward.  All the three (Services) should move simultaneously at the same pace. There should be good coordination and it should be relevant to the hope and aspirations of our people. It should be in line with the changing war and security environment with the world.   After formation of this post (CDS), all the three forces will get effective leadership at the top level.” 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..

The following areas will be dealt by the Department of Military Affairs headed by CDS:

  • The Armed Forces of the Union, namely, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
  • Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprising Army Headquarters, Naval Headquarters, Air Headquarters and Defence Staff Headquarters.
  • The Territorial Army.
  • Works relating to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
  • Procurement exclusive to the Services except capital acquisitions, as per prevalent rules and procedures.

Apart from the above, the mandate of the Department of Military Affairs will include the following areas:

  • Promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services through joint planning and integration of their requirements.
  • Facilitation of restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.
  • Promoting use of indigenous equipment by the Services.

The Chief of Defence Staff, apart from being the head of the Department of Military Affairs, will also be the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to Raksha Mantri on all tri-Services matters. The three Chiefs will continue to advise RM on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services. CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.


Conditions: He will be a Four-star General.

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


  • CDS will administer tri-services organisations. Tri-service agencies/organisations/commands related to Cyber and Space will be under the command of the CDS.
    • CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Raksha Mantri and Defence Planning Committee chaired by NSA.
    • Function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.
    • Bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, etc of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office.
    • Ensure optimal utilisation of infrastructure and rationalise it through jointness among the services.
    • Implement Five-Year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP), and Two-Year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP), as a follow up of Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP).
    • Assign inter-Services prioritisation to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget.
  • Bring about reforms in the functioning of three Services aimed at augmenting combat capabilities of the Armed Forces by reducing wasteful expenditure.

It is expected that this reform in the Higher Defence Management would enable the Armed Forces to implement coordinated defence doctrines and procedures and go a long way in fostering jointmanship among the three Services. The country would be benefitted by coordinated action on greater jointmanship in training, logistics and operations as well as for prioritisation of procurements.


  • The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure.
  • It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.
  • Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Way Forward:

  • This is a major first step in the direction of changes but not the final step.
  • The single services must be evolved in a way so that it can raise, train and sustain.
  • Restructuring of defence must be done in a transparent manner such that there is cross-posting of the senior military officers in the decision making in the Department of Defence as well.
  • The creation of the CDS will need to be followed up with further reforms to reconfigure the armed forces to meet India’s aspirations to be a global power.
  • It is also necessary that the first incumbent is given a term of three years so as to be able to carry the ambitious vision laid out in the cabinet note through to its conclusion.
  • The job is strategic, requires personal supervision, and cannot be left unfinished for the successor to finish. Given the challenges and the limited time-frame within which to accomplish it, allowances will have to be made for attendant hiccups.
  • Some teething problems can be expected in the beginning but things are bound to fall in place as norms, processes and rules are worked out between the three services, the CDS and the defence ministry.
  • It will require the navigation of entrenched institutional interests, hierarchical powers and military traditions, to lay the foundations for a strong and functional CDS.