Tri-service ‘jointmanship’ is inevitable
Jointness is viewed with great enthusiasm by middle and junior ranking officers of the three services. At the senior level, however, there is little evidence of operational and administrative cohesiveness
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with Defence Minister AK Antony (left) and the three service chiefs, interacts with senior officers in New Delhi. Tri-service jointmanship has become a stark reality presenting itself as fait accompli to the armed forces the world over and India is no exception. PIB
JOINTMANSHIP is an expression used to describe command and control through cross service cooperation in all stages of military processes. It is to command the integration of the doctrines of each of the combat arm for combined operational benefits to achieve military objectives. The integration of the combat arms means integration of the concepts, strategies, competencies and capabilities of land, air d sea and aerospace power to excel in the battlefield.
The basic concept for jointness means how forces will operate in response to a wide variety of security challenges. It suggests how the future joint force commander will combine and subsequently adapt some combination of all basic categories of military activities, combat, security engagement and internal security issues in accordance with the unique requirements of each operational situation. Jointness is considered essential not only for current strategic guidance, but because it looks to the future.
It was seen that all operations fought jointly and in an integrated manner during and after the Great War were successful. The unsuccessful operations world over have only proved the significance of integrating the forces and fighting jointly by raising the institution of the Chief of Defence Staff. India too has to look prudently in this manner. It was also realized that the success in the concept of wars on campaigns combined with the strategy of active defense depends upon achieving a high level of joint capabilities.
It has been observed that nearly 143 countries comprising of 28 in Asia, 28 in Africa, six in North America, 15 in South America, 12 in Australia, 29 in Europe and 19 in Central America have not formally adopted the combined arms concept. India is an exception with reasons both historical and political for not going in for the institution of Chief of Defense Staff.
All countries practicing jointmanship have an appointment of chief of defence staff (CDS) chief of general staff (CGS) or chief of joint operations (CJO), providing a single window advice or more correctly synergised institutional advice to the government. The appointment of such CDS is validated in all the countries as an legislative act. In this regard, the Goldwater Nicholas Act serves as a watershed principle in making jointness mandatory in the US, followed by the Heseltine reforms in the United Kingdom.
Corroborating the significance of Goldwater Nicholas, the Forbes magazine had commented that the Act helped ensure that Iraq War had less inter service infighting, less deadly bureaucracy, fewer needless causalities and more military cohesion than any other major military operation.
Australia with much lesser force operationalised Jointmanship in 1976 through an Act of Parliament. The Russian Duma passed it in 1983 whereas Germany has been practicing jointmanship since World War--II, though intensifying it more in the present time. China also initiated military jointness as a sequence of its military modernisation programme that began in 1978, whereas the Pakistani armed forces are enjoying its 14th Joint Chief of Staff. In France, the Unified Command Structure was adopted in 1980. According to the Israeli Defence Attaché, jointness is a difficult and a challenging task though a matter of common knowledge and managing expectations are evolved over a period.
It has been determined that CDS is a political decision and not an organisational one. It was seen that only the legislature could enhance its authority and effectiveness. Further, in case of the United States, where the national military strategy revolves around concepts with respect to overseas presence and power projection, the military jointness gets strengthened by synchronisation of the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the theatre commanders-in-chief and their joint commanders. It achieves unity of efforts in support of national military objectives through effective coordination, command and control assigned to the subordinate elements of the military services.
In this scenario, another power centre, that of the theatre commander, emerges, who reports directly to the elected head of the state, thus retaining the political control.
Tri-service jointmanship has become a stark reality presenting itself as fait accompli to armed forces the world over and India is no exception. The larger attributes however indicate to build on the positive aspects of integration to meet the imperatives and necessity for jointness arising out of strategic vision and examining future operational environment in the Indian context.
Jointness has been put in place in all the countries in a top-down approach. This is regardless of the fact that the joint training is emphasised at the lower level. However, keeping in view, the civilian nature of politicians who are not experts in matters military, the jointness to be successful must trickle down from the top to bottom.
To promote joint operational requirements, most of the countries like UK, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Russia and the US have established joint headquarters tasked exclusively for training and operations.
Joint training in all such countries practicing jointness begins at the rank of major and its equivalent at combined staff / defence colleges, with the next course at the National Defence College level. This comes closer to our level of configuration which though has a combined course construct but sans joint behavior subsequently.
Further, no regulatory selection criteria is followed for the appointment of CDS, notwithstanding, the merit and professional competence as the key determinants for the appointment of CDS/CJOs. Moreover, CDS are generally from the army though the other two services have also contributed significantly to the profile of this appointment.
However, keeping in view the perennial conflicts arising from the appointment of CDS/CJO amongst the three services in most of the countries, it is suggested that in such arrangement a power sharing mechanism could be promoted. For example if the CDS appointment is enjoyed by an officer from the air force or the navy, there must be an appointment of Vice Chief of Defence Staff held by an army officer.
The CDS is the operational head of all the three services and empowered to choose the operational commanders given the geo-strategic responsibilities.
Further, the creation of a joint defence structure does not mean abolition of the authority of the service chiefs. Their significance lies in maintaining service character, training and force providers for facilitating joint operational engagements, though not always cherished.
Joint warfare is an ancient concept earlier having a lesser scope, but appeared gradually in the modern militaries with wider degrees and much broader in scope. According to Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, "Joint transformation does not happen overnight. It is a learning, developing, cultural change process — to progress through phases of de-conflict to coordinate and Integrate, and ultimately coherently joint."
The twentieth century saw the emergence of air power in the battlefield. Earlier, jointness in arms was seen as amphibious assault as there was no air power. As far back as 1911, bombs were dropped on enemy positions using military balloons. However, the use of aircraft for tactical retribution and strategic purposes in war began with the bombing on August 14, 1914, of German Zeppelin hangers at Metz-Frascat by the French Voisin biplane. Others including the Germans, Russians, English and Italians soon followed suit.
Until World War--II, joint operations were conducted without permanent agreements and thus never resulted in a lasting culture of jointness. After the war these ad hoc arrangements proved ill-suited for the complexity of modern military operations. In 1986, by signing the Goldwater Nicholas Act, the US Congress codified joint doctrine by specifically tasking the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with developing a doctrine for the joint employment of the armed forces and formulating policies for coordinating the military education and training of the members of the armed forces.
According to Gen Colin Powell, former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, the performance of armed forces in joint operations has improved significantly and Goldwater Nicholas deserves a great deal of credit. Later, it was further concurred by General John Shalikashvili that no other nation can match the US ability to combine force on the battlefield and fight jointly.
No armed forces in the world have achieved jointness without intervention from the highest political levels. The turf war is not peculiar to India alone. In the United Kingdom, it was the Heseltine Reform of 1985 establishing a permanent joint headquarters for joint military operations.
Interestingly, it has been found that in most of the countries the jointness is so entrenched and strong that it was seen difficult to conceive operations without the joint structure. For instance, jointness is so meshed into the German armed forces that the rise in career span of a German soldier is linked to his appointment with joint forces.
Jointness helps to generate and employ affective multi-purpose combat capable forces in Canada, optimising resource use and promoting efficiency and cost effectiveness. The British official position, on the contrary, continues to highlight the strength of the single service despite emphasising on more jointness. This is a system inherent flaw which could not eliminate the counterproductive inter-service rivalry visible even in the US.
Citing the example of India, jointness is viewed with great enthusiasm by middle and junior ranking officers of the three services. But at the senior level there is little evidence of jointmanship. Further, information regarding plans, acquisitions, new raisings, etc. are carefully kept away from the sister services.
In India, the Chief of Staff Committee (COSC) is required to convert the abstract political aims of war to achievable military aims and objectives under the chairmanship of the senior most service chief who really has no power to interfere in the affairs of other services. This system works till such time when there is a very clear political leadership and direction as was in the case of Israel with Moshe Dayan or Ariel Sharon or Barak heading the defence ministry. Those leaders understood the nuances of the forces and could be effective planners of military operations. The system also works till such time the decisions do not involve or impinge much upon the inter-service resources and personal aspirations.However, in the absence of the above, the present system is nothing but a sham and may not result in desired output during trying times. The Kargil conflict of 1999 is the best example best to cite in this regard.
There have been a lot of discussions on jointness and many suggestions have been made that instead of a full time chief we may have a tri-services joint headquarters operating or there may be selective leadership like an operational force commander, keeping the type of operation in view. But experiences have proved that these are all ad hoc measures and would achieve only partial jointmanship.
The writer is Chairman, Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University