Any nation’s military potential is generally an offshoot of its economic strength. There are however many instances where such military might becomes disprortionate in the face of a real or perceived threat. Any serious imbalance between the two over a reasonably prolonged period can lead to disastrous consequences, as the breakup of the Soviet Union proves. It’s obsession for excessive military spending to counter America’s bloated arsenal resulted in a country disintegrated and groping for economic well-being, despite possessing huge natural resources and a sound technological base.
Pakistan today is also struggling for social and economic survival. It’s problems include a high population growth rate, low literacy rate, insufficient amount of healthcare, lack of basic amenities, massive unemployment, high inflation rate and radicalisation of society, all of which are superimposed by ethnic and sectarian friction. These have largely been facilitated by a lassez faire attitude, a feudalist structure, inefficient bureaucracy, mass corruption and gross mismanagement. These inherent shortcomings have resulted in insufficient funds being made available for social welfare and development programmes.
Analysing our external security concerns, our obsession with India remains predominant. Decades of hostility, two wars, not counting Kargil, and loss of our Eastern Wing have brought us no nearer to either a military or negotiated solution of the Kashmir issue. Despite the UN Security Council resolutions on the subject and the ongoing Indian human rights violations in the held state, virtually no country or organisation seriously endorses our stand nor encourages a settlement against India’s will. Bilateral talks on the issue since the Simla accord have not yielded much results. The primary reason defying a resolution of the issue has been the vitiation of the atmosphere by elements of mutual mistrust and suspicion.
Though our focus has been on India as our immediate visible threat, the realisation that radicalisation of our society is causing our state to implode from within, has just begun to sink in. Rampant militancy is adversely impacting our security and economic paradigms and this factor, coupled with the others listed above, has been forcing us to borrow extensively from banks and international agencies like IMF, World Bank, ADB and IFIs.
Having now placed our ultimate trust in negotiations, our military infrastructure is primarily geared for deterrence above all else. With both India and Pakistan having become overt nuclear states, our conventional deterrence has been overshadowed by a nuclear one. The development and honing of even a so-called minimum deterrent requires significant funding in itself, which would have to be at the cost of the conventional forces. It is apparent that the presence of a nuclear deterrent does not ipso facto translate into a case for minimising the conventional forces as that would lead to an unacceptable lowering of the nuclear threshold. An appropriate balance between nuclear and conventional forces has to be found, with an eye on the broader issues of available resources and competing social needs.
Keeping in in view the shrinking naval budget in real terms, a strong case can be made for rationalisation of PNs available resources to ensure that every rupee budgeted is a rupee well spent. We can perhaps take a cue from the defence costs study commissioned in the post Cold War era by the UK Secretary of Defence under the heading of Front Line First to ascertain whether UKs excessive spending on defence( at 3.4% of its GDP proportionately higher than most NATO countries) can be rationalised. While accepting that maintaining quality armed forces, though essential, was expensive, the objective of the study was to ensure that ‘every pound contributes directly or indirectly to fighting capability and that every pound was spent as efficiently as possible to minimise the overall burden on the public.’ The interesting aspect was that this study was not directed towards any reduction of fighting capability of the armed forces but simply to accrue massive savings from redressing weaknesses in the management of support activities.
Re-inventing the Navy
So what is the way forward if a moderate sized Navy decides to re-invent itself? Form a committee, of course. As to how this committee should broach the seemingly complex issue of building a Navy from scratch, I can only offer a few major guidelines. The foremost thing is to take stock of our operating environment, prevailing maritime threats and maritime responsibilities, based on which a general idea as to the proposed size of the Navy in terms of capabilities can be formed. Ships, submarines and aircraft represent the fighting arm of the organisation and after having developed a consensus on the number and types of such units, the study would need to be extended to cover the appropriate weapons and sensors fit needed on each platform.
Supportive infrastructure, in terms of maintenance, training and logistics, can then be worked out to meet the requirements stemming from operations of the fleet platforms identified earlier. The next step relates to finances ie how much money would be required for procurement of vessels, equipment and ordnance, setting up the requisitive supportive infrastructure and the recurring annual running costs. This study would however remain incomplete and unrealistic if budgetary constraints are not superimposed.
The lessons derived therefrom can also be applied to an existing Navy, with units found redundant being gradually phased out to make way for other units deemed essential and necessary adjustments made in a phased manner.
Now let’s switch over from a generalised to a specific mode, taking up the example of the Pakistan Navy, which happens to be a fully functional organisation. After analysing the naval budget over the past few decades and determining trends, one can make a fair assessment of the money likely to be made available in the future. So if we then compare these figures with the finances required to run the hypothetical navy framed by the committee, one shouldn’t be surprised to see a wide gulf between the two. I can say from experienice that the difference would be so much as to make any reconciliation virtually impossible.
The best and perhaps the most viable option is to have a critical and insightful look at the available resources ie fighting units, support units, maintenance infrastructure, training and administrative establishments, depots for stocking spares, ordnance and victuals in the light of the proposed ones and then see how the former can be tinkered with. The ultimate objective being to strengthen war fighting readiness, while cutting down peripheral costs, remaining all the while within our budgetary limits.
In the end, it’s all about maintaining the right balance between operating, training, maintenance and administrative costs. It needs to be recognised that the Navy is a cost-intensive service: apart from huge procurement costs, recurring costs over the lifecycle of a vessel are equally prohibitive. These costs can however be kept under control by better planning and management. Periodical maintenance entails regular change of parts, while repairs in most modern vessels are also carried out through replacement. In a well-oiled and well-coordinated organisation, all spares needed for planned maintenance cycles are stocked and issued in a timely fashion so that the operational readiness of the fleet is not unduly compromised.
Stocking of ordnance is another area in which great care needs to be exercised. It’s requirement during wartime is phenomenal and perhaps incalculable, while during peacetime it is minimal. Missiles and torpedoes in particular have a designed life, are required to be stored under specific environmental conditions and need periodical maintenance. So overstocking them in anticipation of excessive wartime requirement may translate into huge procurement, storage, maintenance, disposal and re-procurement costs, which would lead to cutting down expenditures on equally critical areas.
In order to retain optimum fighting efficiency, we would need to streamline procedures and identify all possible kinks in the system, prior removing them.
Once we have identified the number and types of platforms that can be efficiently maintained within our expected budget, the units found redundant can be gradually phased out over time. Our future procurement should henceforth be based on the force goals that we have agreed upon. It is far better to maintain a far smaller number of units with maximum efficiency rather than struggle to cope with a larger number with visibly reduced performance. We also need to keep the types of platforms in our inventory to the minimum and standardise their weapons and sensors as far as practicable. Instead of the ubiquitous monohull, there is no harm either in experimenting with newer hull forms like trimaran for larger ships and sea skimmers for smaller craft, which offer a host of advantages.
Good accounting is the key to effective management. Not only should all expenditures under each head be tabulated, running expenses incurred by every unit should also be recorded. This would provide a sound working basis to identify excessive expenditures and tone it down where necessary.
Proposals for Generating Efficiency
Human Resource Management
The best way to maximise the fighting efficiency of the Navy is through effective management of its human resources. The concept of training a large number of officers and sailors in professional pursuits, where their utilisation ratio is inconsistent with the degree of training imparted, is outdated and counterproductive. If, as a general principle, officers and men of the Pakistan Navy are trained for the specific duties they would be likely to be entrusted with, it would lead to greater professionalism and better utilisation of trained manpower. Excessive training of an excessive number of personnel also results in dilution of efforts and resources.
One can thus essentially divide naval personnel into two broad categories, one for performing duties on board ships, submarines and aircraft, and the other for undertaking shore-based duties. This does not mean that personnel in the former category would permanently be stationed onboard; all it means is that whenever such personnel get transferred ashore, it should always be to a billet which has been classified as professional. Peripheral duties, though specialised in their own way, can be entrusted to the latter category.
PN has in the past experimented with various schemes like PNVR, PNR, Direct Entry Engineers and Direct Entry Sportsmen, none of which have yielded the desired results. The best option, which is also conducive to esprit de corps and camaraderie, is for all officers to join as cadets, but after appearing in their Midshipman Fleetboard exams, should get their branches as well as their cadres, whether sea-going or ashore, allocated.
Service training investments in categories like naval pilots, both fixed and rotary wing, flight navigators, air observers, aviation engineers and naval commandos, do not yield adequate returns, primarily because the volunteers are made to join these specific sub-branches too late in their careers and in most cases are later ill-utilised by virtue of being employed in non-specialist courses/appointments. Naval pilots and commandos for instance spend a lot of their time outside the pool in non-productive pursuits like ship specialisations, time onboard ships and even staff courses. Resultantly, most of the flying hours get logged as training missions and the comandos likewise soon lose their fitness level after being regularly posted out of the pool. In order to derive maximum value from the specialised training imparted, the right time for volunteers to opt for Naval Aviation and SSG(N) would be at the time of Mishipmen Fleetboard and for Air Engineers, naval architects and ordnance, it would be best if they join soon after completion of their basic engineering course. It would again be in the service interest if personnel remain restricted to and rise in their respective sub-branches and their promotion till the rank of Captain at least should not be impeded as long as they maintain their job efficiency at the desired level.
There are two promotion streams at present, the professional route and the pathway through the staff course. It is indeed a pity if officers who are cleared for and holding the Executive Officer slot for instance don’t get promoted to the next higher rank, while those not so cleared but who have qualified the Staff Course Entrance Exams, do. In the process we lose good professional officers, say pilots, who are proficient at their primary qualification(flying), but not so good at staff work. In order to optimise professional utilisation of officers, they should stay as much as possible in their own pool. As long as a pilot,say, maintains his proficiency in flying, his promotion to the rank of Captain at least should be assured, which would furnish the requisite incentive and be beneficial to the service at the same.
Similarly, officers of the ME and WE branches, on attaining their watch-keeping competency onboard ships, should be bifurcated into sea-going engineers and maintenance(dockyard) engineers, the former’s subsequent training being focussed on operating the machinery/equipment, carrying out periodical maintenance and undertaking trouble-shooting. Certain professional shore billets should be earmarked for sea engineers for rotation purposes. If not cleared for department duties onboard ships, such sea engineers can compete for Dockyard or other associated appointments.
Adequate sea time is essential for generating professionalism at every stage. Instead of affording a limited amount of sea exposure to a large number of personnel, it is far better to provide extensive sea time to a limited number of preselected individuals. Let’s discuss a typical scenario by way of emphasising what to avoid. An officer on obtaining his BWKC gets transferred immediately to say a coastal establishment from where he manages to qualify his suitability test for specialisation. After doing a Long ND course say, he ends up on a ship as a Navigating Officer without having done a single independent watch. After exactly one year, he gets transferred to a shore billet to make way for another officer who has just completed his Long ND course. The officer is then given command of a MSA patrol craft,say, after a gap of around 4 to 5 years and again, after a similar interval gets appointed to a destroyer command. His sea experience in such a case would be hardly adequate to justify the immense command responsibilities he has been entrusted with. A case can thus be made out for provision of substantial seatime(around 2 to 3 yrs) at every tier for generating professionalism.
The milestone concept, insomuch as it relies upon just going through the motion, is counterproductive, simply because the essential experience an individual accumulates along the way is not of much use to the service unless it, in turn, receives some contribution at every step. Let’s take the case of sea command by way of example; it can either be given to four officers at six monthly intervals or to one officer for two years, the difference being that in the latter case, the officer would not simply be whiling away his time with characteristic caution, but as he picks up experience, in utilising it to contribute positively to the fighting efficiency of the ship. Moreover, the tendency of creating new milestones parallel to specific sea-based responsibilities should be avoided. It should also be recognised that apart from milestones, there are a number of other professional appointments which are equally important and which add considerably to the grooming process.
For purposes of planning, it is vitally important that career progression should follow an established sequence. This essentially means that specialisation courses, staff courses, war course and sea appointments like Departmental Officer, Executive Officer, Commanding Officer and squadron commander should be undergone at specific ranks/seniorities. Certain other parameters can also be established eg on completion of staff course, participants should preferably be adjusted in staff billets, officers can be posted as Directors in certain directorates of Ops and Plans Div in particular on completion of sea command, officers posted in Trg Dte should have had some prior exposure of a training establishment etc. It may also be preferable to institute a separate Admin Branch in which Ops Branch officers who fail to qualify for Long(specialisation) courses may be given the opportunity to join. These officers can then be employed in suitable billets ashore(including coastal areas) to facilitate effective and smooth functioning of the naval organisation in general. Officers who do well in the suitability test but just fail to make the grade can be adjusted in the Patrol Craft, Minehunting and Auxiliary squadrons, after undergoing a basic specialised course, with their future career progression being tied to a particular pool.
Officer’s ship-based requirements can be met through PWO, ND and communication courses, with the common PWO course of around 7 months being followed by a 3-month module for sub-specialisation in Above Water and Under Water Warfare. EW specialisation course of around 6 months duration can also be instituted for subsequent utilisation as Director and DD EW Dte at NHQ, Fleet /Squadron EWOs, SO(EW) at HQ FOST and Director/Instructors at the EW School. Basic and specialist Minehunting as well as Missile courses can also be planned for officers of the Minehunting and Missile Craft pools. The Gunnery Officer of old used to perform essential duties associated with parade ground drills, supervising small arms firing, maintaining small arms , landing platoons, aid to civil power etc, for which a void exists in the prescribed specialisation courses. It may thus be in order to institute a Gunnery specialisation course tailored towards meeting the specific requirements delineated above, with these specialist officers being adjusted in Fleet HQ, in all squadrons and all establishments. A case can also be made out for rejuvenation of the CPO Instructor cadre(GI,TASI,PRI) by offering necessary incentives, as they would prove quite useful if posted at Headquarters of Admin Authorities, with FOST, with squadron commanders and at training establishments.
Another area which generates concern through its adverse impact on the fighting efficiency of a seagoing unit is the two months annual privilege leave allowed to each CPO/sailor and the necessity of availing it in a particular calendar year to prevent the free travelling voucher from being wasted. Ships thus have to carry an additional 20% personnel, the inherent drawback being that leave replacement of a majority of the key rates may still not be accomplished. A pool system provides the most viable solution to this issue amongst other things, with the additional 20% personnel being equally dispersed on all ships of the squadron. Though borne on individual units, these additional personnel would be appropriately readjusted as leave reliefs by the squadron commanders at the request of the ships. The pool will be rotational in nature, with each individual getting ample sea time. These additional personnel would take part in all harbour activities of the ships in which they are borne and would even proceed to sea on day trips. Apart from Naval Aviation and Submarine squadrons, four new pools, namely Destroyer, Patrol Craft,mine-hunting and Auxiliary, can be created, the latter two to be controlled by the senior-most commanding officers.
Areas of Concern and Suggestions for Improvement
Let’s start from the very top. There are two basic differences between the Pak Army and the Pakistan Navy with respect to the utilisation and subsequent retirement of senior officers of Lt Gen/Vice Adm rank. In the Army, specific vacancies are reserved for Lt Generals who are afforded a fixed tenure of four years. In the Navy, to the contrary, Vice Admirals(as indeed Rear Admirals) are retired on attaining the age of superannuation and apart from VCNS, they share the same billets as Rear Admirals. Conforming to the Army system will definitely make the planning process simpler and enable the effective utilisation of such senior officers, since their haphazard retirement dates based on their date of birth necessitate cyclic changes at uneven intervals, which is certainly not conducive to good planning. This would mean that the durations spent in each rank may need to be adjusted so that officers get promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral around three to four years from their date of superannuation. As far as fixed billets are concerned, my recommendation would be to make the appointments of VCNS, COMPAK, COMKAR, COMCOASTand COMLOG tenable by an officer of Vice Admiral rank, which would mean that each officer can perform two such duties.
Affording a fixed tenure to an officer of Vice Admiral rank would in effect amount to speeding up the promotion process a notch. So if all promotions are to happen in a specified timeframe, all professional courses and responsibilities like specialisation courses, post course seatime, staff course, ship Executive Officer, ship and shore commands, war course, squadron commands, all need to be programmed in prescribed ranks and in a prescribed sequence.
While being good for morale, the only problem I can foresee in this arrangement is the nomination of officers for tenures abroad of two to three years, whether on deputation or as Defence/Naval Attaches, as it will be difficult to spare professional officers for such a lengthy duration. It will be far better to consider those officers for such nominations who couldn’t be given ship or squadron command due to limited vacancies. This will allow service benefits in terms of promotions or appointments abroad to trickle down in a more even manner.
As far as sailors are concerned, the following branches deserve to be incorporated into the Ashore Cadre:
a. Sports. Young talented sportsmen can be recruited in Sports Branch for representing PN in inter-services and national level tournaments. After 10 years or till such time they are found fit to represent, volunteers can be given a PTI-cum-Sports Instructor course. Their utilisation as PTIs would mainly be in early morning PT sessions, late afternoon sports sessions and supervising sports camps for various tournaments. Their career progression can take them up to the rank of MCPO and they can later be selected to act as Sports Officers of PN Establishments also.
b. Musicians. Apart from instrumentation, musicians may be broadly divided into Brass Band and Pipe Band. Overall band requirements can be rationalised, with fresh inductions being on the basis of vacancies.
c. MT Drivers. These drivers can be broadly divided into the following categories for ease of training/employment:
(1) Staff cars, jeeps, vans
(2) Larger vehicles like trailers, coasters, buses etc
(3) Handling cranes
Age restrictions for entry can be eased to enable ex-servicemen with requisite licence/experience to apply and the drivers should be periodically examined by RP School for driving fitness and knowledge of road rules.
d. MT Mechanics. The nomenclature MT Mechanics is recommended in lieu of MT Technicians to avoid any chance of mix-up with the Ops Branch Technicians and more particularly with the Medical Techs. Apart from undertaking routine/scheduled maintenance of service vehicles, these mechanics should preferably be sub-specialised in the fields of petrol engine, diesel engine, hydraulics, electrics and denting/painting.
e. Khateebs. All khateebs should be inducted as Petty Officers and would essentially be performing the same duties in each subsequent rank also. Since they would only be posted in naval establishments enjoying mosque facilities, the number of vacancies can easily be worked out and fresh inductions would only be required to fill up any vacancies occurring.u
f. Telecom. As opposed to the Communication Technicians who would primarily be serving onboard ships, Karachi/Islamabad Wireless and at Transmitting/Receiving Stations, a specialised Telecom Branch is required to exclusively cater to telecom needs only. Telecom is a rapidly expanding and specialised field which deserves a special status of its own. Personnel of this branch would be looking after both operator and maintainer needs.
g. Comint. This is again a shore-based off-shoot of the communications structure which is primarily concerned with communication intelligence gathering and analysis. These personnel can be employed on HF/DF Stations, ISSU and other intelligence related duties. Constitution of this branch, as well as a separate Telecom Branch would enable the Comms Techs of the Ops Branch to focus on their primary jobs onboard ships.
h. Shore Machinery Mechanics. This Branch would look after the routine/scheduled maintenance of shore-based machinery like DGs, air-conditioning and refrigeration plants and can be broadly divided into the sub-specialisations of Electrical, Mechanical and Miscellaneous.
j. Security. In view of the ever-increasing importance of security, a need exists to have a well-trained and dedicated branch for the purpose, which can replace the security duties entrusted to Naval Police, Marines, PNP, gangway corporals, quartermaster etc and would cater to all security matters of a naval establishment, shore base or headquarters and even look after the security needs of ships and submarines in harbour or in dock. They can also act as security escorts.
k. Naval Police. Naval police would basically be utilised for regulating, provost and escort duties and would maintain liaison with civil police to that extent.
l. Medical. Medical Branch personnel would primarily be required to serve in various sub-specialisations in naval hospitals and medical centres.
m. Writers. Writer Branch personnel would primarily be required to undertake filing work, typing and other duties associated with the Ship’s Office.
n. Stores. Stores branch personnel would handle duties associated with all types of stores.
p. Chefs. Chef branch personnel would undertake all types of cooking work for both officers and CPO/Sailors messes.
q. Stewards. Steward branch personnel would be entrusted with serving, upkeep and cleaning responsibilities associated with Wardrooms and Gunrooms.
r. Topass. Topass branch personnel would ensure the upkeep of heads and be entrusted with other associated cleaning responsibilities.
An exceedingly small percentage of personnel from some of the branches listed under the Ashore cadre , like Naval Police, Medical, Writers, Stores, Chefs, Stewards and Topasses are required to serve onboard ships and submarines. Such requirements should be met through selection from amongst those AB rates volunteering for sea service. Certain incentives like allowances and additional points for promotion can be thrown in, with only those personnel selected for sea billets being given NBCD courses, sea survival courses and even swimming training to cut down on unnecessary training costs. These personnel can provide the base from which future selections in each higher rate can be made in accordance with our requirements.
The primary advantage of bifurcating the navy into two major cadres, sea-going and ashore, would be to produce highly-skilled and experienced personnel, along with a possible reduction in personnel strength as well as training costs. The resultant structure would be more compact and better manageable, doing away with the need for frequent transfers/drafts. Promotions/Advancements of sea-going personnel would be comparatively faster and they can be provided with certain other incentives as well.
On a practical level, implementation of the proposed Ashore cadre can be undertaken as follows:
a. The number of vacancies /requirements in each branch of the said cadre should be realistically worked out.
b. The existing available servicemen and civilians should be delineated into each of the specific branches.
c. Vacancies still required to be filled should be worked out.
d. The civilian cadre in these branches should be gradually phased out, with members of the fully-trained Ashore cadre replacing them systematically.
It is apparent that some or all of these branches would have their own special uniforms eg Sports, Musicians, MT Drivers, MT Mechanics, Khateebs, Chefs etc, and their own working routine as per requirement to meet their given responsibilities.
NHQ organisation should preferably be functionally-oriented rather than branch-configured. Personnel, training, logistics, maintenance and operations are all inter-related activities which need to be handled in unison. Ideally speaking, there should be three main branches in NHQ operating in a cyclic manner:
a. Operations Branch should handle all on-going operations-related activities including training, logistics and maintenance for all units, which are all complementary in nature, just as in a shipboard organisation.
b. Plans(and Policies) Branch should, on the basis of feedback receuived from the Ops Branch, undertake operational planning and derive a suitable developmental strategy.
c. Projects branch gets involved in all projects at the time of contracting and sees it through till conclusion through specially created directorates. Ops Branch involvement gets sought at the time of harbour and Sea Acceptance trials. On acceptance, the project becomes the responsibility of the Ops Branch.
D. Peripheral activities like officer’s appointments, legal, medical, administration etc can be brought under the direct ambit of the VCNS.
Recognising that such drastic restructuring, though feasible and functionally suitable, may not find too many takers for branch-oriented reasons, the next best thing is to develop and make legally binding horizontal linkages to ensure better cooperation and collaboration.
a, Force goals be defined in accordance with our specific needs, as well as our ability to maintain and run the available units in an efficient manner.
b. Personnel be bifurcated into sea-going and Ashore cadres which, by virtue of being skilled and experienced in their specific job specifications, may result in a reduction of training efforts and overall strength.
c. All sea-going officers should rise in their own specific branches and pools till the squadron commander stage.
d. While preparing the Scheme of Complement for the Navy, cadres/branches for each billet should be clearly identified.
e. Officer categories like pilots and commandos in particular, in which the service invests heavily in terms of training and maintenance, should spend the bulk of their professional careers in their chosen fields, which would visibly cut down on fresh inductions and training costs.
f. Courses, including specialisation, mid-career and staff/war Courses, should only be given on the basis of subsequent utilisation.
g. Adequate sea time be provided to personnel of the sea-going branch.
h. Two promotion pathways, the professional and the staff courses one, be curtailed to just one, the professional route, with staff/war courses being suitably integrated.
j. Courses, specific professional appointments, staff appointments and indeed promotions, should all be programmed at specified intervals.
k. Ops specialisations should be rationalised in accordance with the specific needs of the service.
l. Stocking of Ordnance, stores and spares should be undertaken in accordance with a policy arrived at after taking into consideration our progressive and forecast needs, along with other associated factors.
The primary theme behind the proposed revamping exercise is to generate professionalism, efficiency and cost-effectiveness by operating balanced fleet that can be effectively maintained, and by manning all sea-based and other supportive billets by highly-skilled and proficient individuals. Induction of units should be in line with our rationalised needs as well as our ability to operate and maintain them in a most cost-effective manner. Personnel serving in all sea-going and ashore billets should not only be highly trained in their specific fields but should also be extremely proficient by virtue of spending the bulk of their naval careers in their chosen specialisations. This would hopefully optimise personnel induction and training costs as well as their utilisation. These proposals may seem rather outlandish at first sight, and perhaps severe, but if viewed from a wholesome perspective, it cannot be denied that they do offer the most cost-effective means of operating, manning and maintaining a balanced navy.