More funds for research tops DRDO wishlist
Considering that every area of defence, the three armed forces especially, are busy putting out their ‘wishlists’ to the new defence minister, Arun Jaitley, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also does not wish to be left behind. Their top priority is to get a higher allocation in the forthcoming budget for defence research and development, a senior level source said at the DRDO.
This year’s allocation is Rs 11,959 crore or 5.32 per cent of the total defence expenditure, lesser by 0.05 per cent than 2013-14. Compare this with China’s 15 per cent defence research and development and testing and evaluation expenditure, and the Indian effort really seem low. Still, DRDO is increasingly moving towards high value research. That requires higher spending plans.
DRDO is also planning to demand more autonomy in choosing the productionisation agencies. They feel when the production agencies are imposed on them, they end up wasting too much time to transfer the production know-how to those agencies.
So, they want their participation in selection of production agencies, who would then be involved in the development stage of the items.
They also want more stringent quality assurance so that their research is not nullified by shoddy components or bad workmanship.
Though, they feel that rendering the new minister with a ‘wishlist, is in ‘bad taste’ they cannot resist the temptation to express their intent. Some of the big ticket items they are working are the IAF driven R&D on an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), a 155mm/52 calibre futuristic howitzer gun, a futuristic infantry combat vehicle, a more modern and futuristic main battle tank, besides other many other items.
The organisation is in the midst of implementing the Rama Rao committee’s recommendations – with various laboratories being provided operational autonomy, besides transforming the chief controllers who headed them, into director generals of those autonomous labs. They need support from the ministry during completion of this process.
A source in DRDO said that only two recommendations are yet to be implemented out of all the recommendations: the formation of a Defence Technology Commission (DTC) and spawning a commercial arm. The source emphasised that the ministry of defence needed to expedite the formation of an ‘empowered’ DTC.
Plus, the MoD also needs to fast-track the creation of a commercial arm. In terms of improving the much battered credibility of the DRDO, these two bodies will go a long way, the sources feel.