The formulation of the GSQR is one of the initial processes of any new capital procurement. It broadly lays down the reason why the equipment is required, its physical and operational details, as well as the maintainability and quality requirements. The onus of formulating the GSQR rests with the parent directorate that wants the equipment or a nominated directorate, in case the equipment is required by more than one arm/service.
The common practice followed by the Services Headquarters in preparation of this document is based on ascertaining the requirement from the field army, identifying vendors and seeking physical, operational and technical information through Requests for Information (RFI). The comments of stakeholders like complete cross-section of end users, the Directorate General of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (DGEME), the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and the Army Centre for Electromagnetics (ACE) are then sought and incorporated before obtaining approval of the final document from the General Staff Equipment Policy Committee (GSEPC). The user/nominated directorate may call the potential vendors for formal interaction before preparing a final draft, if it so desires.
The complete procedure, at the first glance, seems to be efficient and foolproof. However, in many cases, certain voids are detected at later stages, warranting amendments. The common voids are overstating a technical parameter which may lead to reduction in vendor base, or not specifying a technical parameter which may lead to ambiguities at the time of trial, etc. The procedure for incorporating such amendments is again quite time-consuming, which further adds on to the lead-time of procurement. In addition to this, there is hardly any arrangement for data sharing as the GSQR for different equipment, which are required by different Arm/Service, are prepared by different directorates. Many a time, the staffs involved in preparation of the GSQR are not technically competent and, therefore, they are not able to clearly comprehend the technological advancements in the related field. Comments offered by technical stakeholders, viz., the DGEME, the DGQA and the ACE, etc. are most of the times just routine in nature and can hardly be termed as any substantial value additions. The reason for such ordinary effort in making the GSQRs might be that it is treated as a routine document and thus is handled so.
The GSQR is akin to preliminary specification of the desired product. Not only does it reflect upon the type of product that will be procured at the end of the complete procurement cycle but also all the subsequent actions in the procurement process; may it be incorporation of the technical parameters in the Request for Proposal (RFP), field, environmental, technical and maintainability evaluation of the equipment fielded by the vendors and even the response by good defence manufacturing companies to the RFP are dependent on it. At a much later stage, when the equipment has been procured and is being introduced in Service, the GSQRs offer the basis for preparation of equipment specifications by the Authorities Holding Sealed Particulars (AsHSP). A GSQR that is not well formulated would necessitate a fresh start in order to address voids/lacunae discovered into it. This further considerably stalls the procurement process of the equipment for which the GSQR was formulated.
There is a need to bring in professionalism in the formulation of the GSQR, which undoubtedly is one of the most important documents in the procurement process. The job involves expert knowledge, skill and awareness of the latest technology; therefore, it cannot be treated as a part-time routine job of a generalist nature. One of the possible solutions to ameliorate the entire GSQR formulation process is by establishing a “GSQR Centre” at the Weapons and Equipment Directorate for which its manpower (officer and subordinate staff) needs to be augmented. The Centre should be headed by a Deputy Director General from the Corps of EME/ Signals/Engineers and have adequate number of officers qualified in a range of technological fields, such as designing, maintenance, production, quality assurance/control and operation of equipment of their expertise. User directorates may nominate officers as and when they project a requirement. These officers will project the physical and operational requirements of the demanded equipment as also the progress of their respective cases with the GSQR Centre.
The GSQR Centre may maintain an updated database of each GSQR previously formulated and also their amendments. On receipt of the operational and physical parameters of the desired equipment/weapon system from the representative of the user directorate, an officer of the GSQR Centre having expertise on the equipment may be nominated to work on the GSQR till its logical culmination. The nominated officer may be given full autonomy to interact with the industry, defence PSUs, the DRDO, the DGQA, the DGEME, the Directorate of Standardisation, etc. to work out a broad specification taking into account the quality, reliability, maintainability, etc. of the desired equipment/weapon system.
In order to achieve substantial expertise, to create a useful databank, to prepare efficient Standard Operating Procedures and to apply all this knowledge to develop an effective expert system dedicated to the formulation of the GSQRs, there is a need to give sufficiently longer tenure to officers and staff who will man the GSQR Centre. The initial tenures should ideally be for five years and any subsequent tenure may be truncated up to three years based on any constraints imposed by service requirements and subject to review after the GSQR Centre starts functioning smoothly.
A GSQR Centre, supposed to be an expert system, is the need of the hour to hasten up the procurement process, especially at a time when the Indian Army is contemplating a major modernisation and expansion plan. The process of defence acquisition has to keep pace with the growing requirements of modernisation and expansion, not only to replace the outdated and obsolete equipment and weaponry but also to equip the new raisings. To meet such a challenge, the Army can ill-afford a protracted lead-time in acquisitions due to the GSQR infirmities. Therefore, there is a case for formulating the GSQRs rightly the first time itself.