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Mohammed Asif Baig asked: What is the ‘Command Exit’ policy and how does it affect the armed forces especially the non-infantry arms and service? Does the infantry lose out its edge when it comes to select grade ranks at higher level?

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  • Rumel Dahiya replies: Till 2008, the promotions to the rank of Colonel and Brigadier were on a pro-rata basis, i.e. on the basis of the strength of officers from the rank of Lt. to Lt. Colonel serving in various combat arms (Infantry, Mechanised Infantry, Armoured Corps and Artillery); combat support arms (Engineers and Signals) and services (Army Service Corps, Ordnance, etc). For example, if there were 1,000 officers in a particular arm/service and the other arm/service had 500 officers on its strength at a particular time, then the number of vacancies at the level of Colonel would be in the ratio of 2:1 for these arms/services. The Kargil Committee Report had recommended that the age profile of commanders at the Unit and Brigade levels (Colonels and Brigadiers, respectively) of the combat arms should be younger for better operational effectiveness. The A.V. Singh Committee that was appointed for cadre review of the Armed Forces had also made recommendations regarding reducing the age profile of Commanding Officers and Brigade Commanders.

    Based on this felt need, the Army Headquarters considered two aspects: the command appointments and command tenures. The command tenure of the Commanding Officers of the units of the Infantry was fixed at 2.5 years, that of Armoured/ Mechanised Infantry and Artillery at 3 years, that of Engineers and Signals at 4 years and for Services at 5 years. The logic, perhaps, was the degree of difficulty of the prevailing operational environment and nature of tasks that the units were required to carry out. Unless the command tenure of frontline commanders was reduced, it would not have been possible to reduce the age profile of commanders at the Battalion and Brigade levels. It was also felt that unless some incentive was provided to the combat arms, the number of cadets opting for these arms will reduce.

    The ‘command exit’ policy, therefore, entailed moving out of commanders to staff and instructional appointments, at that level only, after completing specified command tenures. This created a positive discrimination in favour of officers from the combat arms wherein officers in these arms started getting promoted faster than those in combat support arms and the services. The stipulation was that the number of vacancies, after implementation of the A.V. Singh Committee Report, will not go below the number that existed till 2008. That notwithstanding, the promotion prospects are uneven in various arms and services based on operational considerations. Officers other than those from the combat arms feel that they have been discriminated against. The case is presently sub judice.

    Posted on July 29, 2015