Create Non-Lapsable Fund for Defence, Low R&D Spending a Grave Concern: Standing Committee on Defence

Indian Army

New Delhi: Recommending the creation of a “Non-Lapsable Defence Modernisation Fund – Defence Renewal Fund” to be used exclusively for the procurement of key defence assets at critical times, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence in one of its reports submitted March 16, said that a draft Cabinet note for the constitution of such a fund is under consideration. The Fund should be created “at the earliest so that procurement can be done unhampered without pursuing for funds to receive at Supplementary or Additional Grants stages,” it said.

The committee noted that the Defence Ministry must ask the Finance Ministry “not to curtail the projected amount” as it results in “reprioritisation of schemes/activities which might end up compromising with the operational preparedness of the Defence Services.”

The committee highlighted the state of defence research and development in another report. It said in 2016-2017 the figure was just 0.088 per cent, which slid down to 0.083 per cent in 2020-2021. “(We) note with concern that the percentage of expenditure for Defence R&D in the overall GDP during past years has seen no growth.”

“Analysing, the expenditure on R&D vis-à-vis total defence expenditure, it was found to be far less than other developed countries,” the report said, and highlighted that China was spending 20 per cent and the US 12 per cent on R&D from their overall defence budgets. “The Committee are of the view that given the current international scenario, where threat perception is increasing due to the ongoing conflicts world over, it is essential to keep national security interest paramount. Therefore, the Committee recommend that adequate funding should be provided to Defence Research, so that strategic projects are taken up with full vigour.”

It also mentioned that for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the main R&D body for defence in the country, the authorised strength of scientists is 7,773, but the existing strength is 6,965. “There is a shortfall of 808 scientists which is slightly more than 10% of sanctioned strength.” It said that a DRDO representative informed it that the organisation is in process of recruiting scientists.

Showing concern, the committee said that in 2021-2022 against an allocation of Rs 31,250 crore, only Rs 11,821 crore was utilised till December 31, 2021. It recommended that “serious efforts need to be made for optimal utilisation of funds allocated for these research schemes and a mechanism should be developed for regular monitoring of the spending pattern on a quarterly or half-yearly basis under intimation to the Committee.”