Finer details emerging on restructuring of the 13.50-lakh strong Army indicate that the force’s strength is likely to be brought down by 1 lakh, the downsizing including cutting down the authorised number of officers by around 4,500.
As modern technology takes charge and several defence operations get automated, most modern armies have been going in for “right-sizing”. China too cut its numbers by 3 lakh in 2014.
As on January 1 this year, the Army had 42,365 officers in its cadre against the authorised strength of 49,933. If the downsizing plan gets the go-ahead — the Union Government and the Ministry of Defence will take the final call — the authorised count of officers will be capped at 45,000 (a cut of around 4,500).
Some quarters, however, have suggested against reducing the authorised strength and advised a cut in recruitment to control over-staffing, if any, top sources told The Tribune.
Similarly, the formula suggests cutting the number of soldiers per unit to achieve an overall reduction of about 90,000-1 lakh, this again resulting from automation of various Army units, communication equipment, better managed logistics, etc.
In order to check stagnation, the Army, meanwhile, is looking to promote more officers from the post of Lt Colonel to Colonel by raising the promotion percentage from the current 35 to 55.
The selection for Colonel takes place when an officer is around 35 years of age. Those who don’t make the cut at this stage can continue serving till 54 years of age and, thus, attain the rank of Colonel at around 46 years of age. The suggestion is to reduce the percentage of officers who will be promoted from Colonel to Brigadier —at present, some 35 per cent get promoted and the plan is to bring it down to 25 per cent. The Army currently has around 4,300 Colonel-level posts and 1,100 of Brigadier. The proposal is to automatically promote Brigadiers as Major General after two to three years of service.
Another proposal is to curtail the direct entry of officers through the Indian Military Academy (after graduation) and keep it only through the National Defence Academy (NDA), which takes in cadets immediately after school.
The Army is also looking to have more of Short Service Commission entry where officers serve for 10 or 14 years. The suggestion is giving 25 per cent of such officers a permanent commission. However, an irritant remains that the career progression of commissioned officers will still be lower than what the government provides even in civilian group-B service, which is lower than group-A category comprising IAS, IPS and other central services.