Panel to review duties of DRDO’s 52 laboratories, cut technology overlaps
By Pradip R Sagar August 26, 2020 THE WEEK
The central government has set up an expert committee to redefine the role of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the current and futuristic defence and battlefield scenarios.
It aims to reduce Indian military’s dependence on imports, as India is the second-largest arms importer in the world after Saudi Arabia. Moreover, its also a move towards Prime minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” in the defence sector.
On day one of his second innings as DRDO head, Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, who is also the secretary of the department of defence research and development (ministry of defence), constituted the five-member elite panel. Incidentally, the Cabinet’s Appointments Committee had on Monday approved a two-year extension of tenure for Reddy.
The committee is headed by professor V. Ramagopal Rao, Director of IIT, Delhi. Other members include S. Somnath, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre; Air Marshal Sandeep Singh, Deputy Chief of Air Staff; Dr. Samir V. Kamat, Director General-Naval Systems & Materials (NS & M) and Benjamin Lionel, Director, Instruments Research & Development Establishment of DRDO.
The terms of reference of the committee will be to study and review the charter of duties of all 52 laboratories of DRDO and to redefine the same for both current and futuristic defence and battlefield scenarios. Part of the panel’s tasks will be to minimise the overlap of technologies amongst the laboratories.
The committee has given a deadline of 45 days to submit its report and its chairman may co-opt subject specialists as invitees to specific meetings.
But, defence experts are apprehensive about the new panel, hoping it will not meet the fate of other expert committees, such as the P. Rama Rao Committee.
The committee headed by P. Rama Rao, former Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, had submitted its report in 2008. The report, DRDO’s first external review aimed at restructuring the defence R&D body, suggested that DRDO concentrate only on “core technologies” of “strategic importance” instead of venturing into making juices, mosquito repellents, titanium dental implants and so on. The committee had also suggested de-centralization of DRDO management and making it a leaner organization. Subsequently, on the Rama Rao panel’s suggestion, DRDO’s management was decentralised by merging its 52 labs to form seven clusters based on technology domains such as missiles, electronic warfare, radars, aerial vehicles and underwater weapons.
DRDO has often been criticised for delayed projects and missing repeated deadlines with huge cost overruns. And in absence of self-reliance in defence, Indian armed forces continue to be heavily dependent on imports with over 70 per cent of armed forces requirements are met from foreign firms.
On Monday, a delegation by DRDO made a detailed presentation before Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, identifying 108 military sub-systems and components for development by Indian (private) industry and the DRDO will provide support the process. DRDO claims that the design and development of these subsystems would be done over the next couple of years. This announcement follows the negative list of 101 military hardware from imports, which have to be domestically procured in a phased manner.