Manpower costs are increasingly becoming unmanageable and are driving national security planners towards thinking creatively about what used to be called ‘affordable defence’. Despite leap-frogging from third to fourth generation weapons technologies in the short span of about two decades, modern armed forces are still far from being able to effect substantive reductions in manpower by substituting fighting personnel with innovative technologies while ensuring operational effectiveness. In fact, more often than not, technological solutions are proving to be costlier than the present arrangements for security. It may be quite a long wait to see which way the technology cookie crumbles. In India’s case, because of the Army’s extensive commitments in border management and manpower-intensive internal security duties, it is unable to undertake major reduction in its manpower. Direct personnel costs amount to almost 50 per cent of the Army’s revenue budget and indirect costs add further to the burden. As the defence budget is unlikely to increase beyond 2.5 per cent of the GDP, the Army’s modernisation plans have fallen way behind the required qualitative levels. It argues that there is a need to seek innovative and creative solutions to reduce the costs of manpower even if the manpower itself cannot be reduced in large numbers at present.
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