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Revamping DRDO | K Vijay Raghavan Committee

  • Contexrt (IE I IT): The K. Vijay Raghavan committee to revamp the DRDO has submitted its report.
  • The committee had participation from industry, services, academia and the DRDO.
  • The GoI has given the DRDO three months to review and share feedback before implementing the recommendations in a phased manner.
  • The committee’s mandate was to
    1. Redirect DRDO’s focus towards developing high-end technologies for future warfare.
    2. Find ways to attract and retain high-quality manpower.
    3. Developing a system of project-based workforce through incentives and disincentives, with strict performance accountability.
  • GoI formed a separate Raghavan committee in 2019 to resolve differences between the NITI Aayog and Ministry of Electronics and IT over who will implement its ambitious Artificial Intelligence (AI) mission.

Need to review the functioning of DRDO

  • Several DRDO projects are suffering from massive delays.
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence expressed concerns that 23 of its 55 mission mode projects could not be completed in time.
    • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had flagged that 119 (or 67%) of the 178 projects scrutinised by it had failed to adhere to their initially proposed timelines.
    • CAG also commented, “The practice of seeking multiple extensions defeats the purpose of projects taken under the Mission Mode category.”
  • The DRDO has also often been criticised for cost overruns.

Recommendations of the Committee

1. Defence Technology Council (DTC)

  • A top body (DTC) should determine the country’s defence technology roadmap and decide on major projects and their execution.
  • The proposed DTC will have an Executive Committee.
  • The proposed DTC will have an Expert Committee headed by a Principal Scientific Advisor.

Composition of DTC

  1. Chairman: Prime Minister,
  2. Vice Presidents: Defence Minister & National Security Advisor.
  3. It will also include representation from academia and industry, with two members from each sector.

Composition Of Executive Committee

  1. Chairman: Chief of Defence Staff.
  2. Other Members:
    1. The Principal Scientific Advisor,
    2. The Three service chiefs and
    3. Their vice chiefs.      

2. Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation.

  • A separate department under the Defence Ministry to be created – The Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation.
  • This department will serve as the secretariat for the DTC.
  • The department will aid DTC’s decisions on technology production.
  • As the DTC secretariat, it will draw scientists from DRDO and academia, building a repository of knowledge on production expertise and conducting background research for the DTC.
  • It is proposed that a Technocrat head the department.
  • It will
    • Promote defence research and development in the academic and start-up ecosystem.
    • Operate labs for testing and certification, a function also performed by DRDO.

3. Other Recommendations

  • Research Focus: DRDO should concentrate exclusively on research and development, excluding prototype development and technology demonstrations.
    • At present, DRDO remains engaged in all aspects of its projects, from research to development to production.
  • Private Sector Engagement: Production and further development responsibilities are recommended to be transferred to selected private entities and public sector undertakings.
  • Laboratory Consolidation: Reduce DRDO labs from 40 to approx. ten national-level facilities.
  • Testing Facilities: To establish five national test facilities, open for private sector use, to test their weapon systems.
  • Organizational Changes: Possible bifurcation of the secretary (research and development) role in the Ministry of Defence.
  • PMO Oversight: The PMO is expected to take a more active role in overseeing key strategic projects, indicating heightened scrutiny of DRDO’s performance.

DARPA model

  • GoI intends to follow the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model of the USA for the DRDO.
  • DARPA works on the principle that the US should be ”the initiator and not the victim of strategic technological surprises“.
  • DARPA is merely a funding agency with no laboratories or research staff.
  • All research is conducted through contracts with universities, industry, and govt. R&D institutions.
  • Both DARPA and DRDO were instituted in 1958.

DRDO

  • DRDO works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, GoI.
  • It is India’s largest research organisation.
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.
  • It is working to establish a world-class science and technology base for India.
  • It equips defence services with internationally competitive systems and solutions.
  • It was instituted by combining three major defence organisations, namely:
    1. Defence Science Organisation (DSO)
    2. Defence Technical Development Establishment (DTDE)
    3. Directorate of Technical Development and Production (DTDP)
  • DRDO’s first project for the Indian military was surface-to-air missiles (SAM), Project Indigo.
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