CIVILIAN PARTICIPATION IN THE FORMULATION OF DEFENCE POLICY
Brig Gen J D Hittle
DJ re-producing this article from Air War College Journal with thanks. Wing Comd Sohail Aman has done an excellent analysis
Defence policy refers to a variety of continuous activities, which a state undertakes to ensure its national security. National security in the most commonly understood terms, means protection of territorial integrity and sovereignty. This is a very limited explanation of the term. This limited meaning restricts national security to the military use against an external aggression. However, there is much more to this when we come to think of national security. Security is the development of confidence amongst citizens of a nation that their territorial integrity, sovereignty, national core values and interests would not be attacked by any hostile force. It also addresses the issue of protecting the country from internal threat and divisive forces. National security would also include concern for education, health, culture, environment, values, provision of basic human needs like shelter, food and preservation of ethical, moral, religious and historical values. National security is an absolute value, and all other values as well as resources are subservient to it. It is only possible through the provision of favourable international environment, economic and military self-reliance and a stable political system. An effort is to be directed towards achieving these objectives. There are four pillars around which the issue of national security revolves. They are as follows:-
(a) Foreign Policy. A successful foreign policy is the basic requirement for achieving the objective of meaningful national security. It helps secure allies, weaken enemies and gain support of neutral nations. It paves the way for use of force or otherwise as deemed necessary. To accomplish the task effectively foreign policy should ascertain correct magnitude of threat and own ability to respond. Initiative in foreign policy is always determined by these two critical factors.
(b) Economic Potential. National security does not depend upon the wealth a country possesses but rests in her economic, scientific and technological base. The pace of technological development has become so brisk that a country which misses the boat is sure to jeopardize her national security even without fighting an enemy.
(c) Strategic Intelligence. This factor is, at times, equated with national survival. A decision in strategic planning requires accurate intelligence inputs. It is the integration of strategic intelligence with national policies which makes them viable.
(d) Defence Policy. Defence policy directly relates to national security both in terms of protection against external threat and internal centrifugal forces. The political leadership must ensure that the country's other vital policies are in line with the defence policy.
Formulation of Defence Policy
Defence policy making is never a one time show, but a continuous endeavour to stay abreast of matters of national security. As it critically rests upon the interface of foreign and domestic policies, any change in these must not only be vigilantly monitored but also quickly addressed. Such promptness requires effective political control and a number of specialist institutions to undertake necessary research. The armed forces are to be employed for execution of policy and not as a formulating tool. However, their expert opinion on military strategy, employment of forces and development of military hardware is considered indispensable.
The process of defence policy formulation begins with ascertaining total threat (external & internal) and the country's ability to counter it. The measure of external threat encompasses enemy's physical abilities and her intentions. Whereas, physical abilities are easier to establish, enemy's intentions are difficult to gauge. Diplomacy, alliances and defence capabilities greatly affect enemy's intentions. The internal threat emerges from economic imbalance, political instability and religious, ethnic, linguistic, or regional issues. After analyzing the threat, future goals are established under a broad policy by the Higher Defence Organization (HDO). This body concentrates upon strategic assessment of environment, response of foreign alliances, internal enigma, budgetary compulsions, and defence capabilities. The broad defence policy is translated into specifics and implemented through Ministry of Defence (MoD). The military policy is evolved by Joint Services Headquarters (JSHQ) from the defence policy. This is the pattern followed in our case.
A comprehensive base of scientific knowledge and wisdom to appreciate strategic environment are considered essential for shaping an effective defence policy. The interface of two is the art of defence policy formulation. It is for this reason that in the last decade, most of the western countries have developed a new category of civilian experts who specialize in various fields pertaining to economics, sociology, education, health, international relations, regional and strategic studies. It is this category of specialists which helps the government and agencies in collection, compilation, evaluation and analysis of multifarious defence related data.
Major Factors Affecting Defence Policy
The following major factors affect the formulation of a defence policy:-
(a) Geo-Political Setting. A country's geographic location and its relations with neighbouring countries determine the basis of her defence policy.
(b) Global and Regional Security Environment. The interest of influential nations in the area and regional conflicts affect the security consideration of a nation.
(c) Own Resources and Designs. A nation's major resource potential rests in her economy, population and technological growth. The country's leadership directs these resources according to national security goals.
(d) Political Structure and Diplomacy. Stability of the political system and a well-conceived diplomacy wards off a threat to great extent. Such a system is known for shaping a conducive but silent defence policy
Responsibilities for National Security
National security is the responsibility of every individual of a nation. The responsibilities of civilians and military personnel are:-
(a) Civilians. As the major intellectual talent rests with the civilians of the country, therefore, the tasks of policy making in the fields of diplomacy, technology, strategic threat assessment, force structuring and budgetary planning/allocation should also rest with them.
(b) Military. The armed forces must help the government in developing correct threat perception. Their task is to develop a sound military strategy, based on given defence policy and also conduct professional training.
A nation's military system is only as effective as the political system that directs it. Within the parameters of effective civilian control, due importance should be accorded to military advice. An interface between the two elements is mandatory to develop and execute a comprehensive defence policy.
Defence Policy Formulation in Pakistan
After independence, Pakistan armed forces received heavy responsibilities in terms of refugee settlement, 1948 war and 1950-51 warlike situation. Due to such security compulsions common citizen started to believe that a strong Pakistan meant strong armed forces. The country's military leadership joined hands with bureaucracy and slowed the maturing process of democracy. Ayub Khan became the architect of our alliance and military aid from United States of America (USA) between 1951 and 1958 while being commander-in-chief (C-in-C) as well as defence minister. It is interesting to note that our constitution was amended to appoint a serving military chief as the defence minister.
The long spells of martial law (1958-1971 and 1977-1988) witnessed abrogation/suspension of constitution and dissolution of assemblies. With no civilian parliamentary legislative or executive authority available. Formulation of defence policy passed exclusively to military hands. Even in the period of civil or semi-civil governments which largely remained shortlived, defence planning was strongly influenced by the military. The wars of 1965 and 1971 clearly indicated a need for unity of effort and institutionalization in matters of national security. Prime Minister Bhutto's government, on 11 May 1976 issued the country's first white paper on HDO, in order to inform the people about the hierarchy and mechanism of country's defence. The major objectives of HDO include; establishing political control, developing defence related institutions and ensuring co-operation between all relevant agencies.
The main responsibility of formulating and updating the defence policy rests with Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC) whereas Defence Council (DC) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) act as advisory bodies only. The Ministry of Defence is to perform the role of implementing the policy with the help of bureaucrats. This elaborate network of politicians, technocrats, and military advisors began gaining strength, but martial law in 1977 again impeded the civilian participation and institutionalization. However, it is heartening to note that since 1988 the nation is endeavouring to establish a democratic system and supremacy of civilian authority over the military. There is a strong realization that competent political guidance in policy making is indispensable for national security and prosperity.
Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC)
The highest body in HDO is political in nature. Chaired by the prime minister (PM), its charter is to develop and update defence policy in co-ordination with economic, foreign and domestic policies. The PM determines the national aim and directs state's potential to achieve it. He/she is to establish institutions for co-ordinating various resources. When the PM holds the portfolio of defence minister, he normally appoints a minister of state for defence, who assists him in ensuring adequate civilian participation in war effort and co-ordination of agencies like Defence Division, Defence Production Division and Joint and Services Hqs. The permanent members of DCC include ministers of defence foreign affairs, interior and finance. Any other minister who is required by the DCC can be called upon to attend the meeting. It is important to note that the chairman JCSC and the services' chiefs are not the members of the committee. They remain in attendance only. The objectives laid down for DCC are lofty and laudable. These include unity of effort, continuity of planning, co-ordination, integrated defence, modern strategy and economics. But practically these have turned out to be more rhetoric as the implementation process lacks desired civil-military interface. Although the entire structure is woven around politicians and technocrats, yet the military leadership generally carries the last word.
Defence Council (DC)
Although included in the HDO, Defence Council has mostly stayed dormant. Its task is to translate defence policy into the military one. It also ensures the implementation of defence policy and aids the DCC by recommending measures on the assigned task. DC is chaired by the PM if he happens to be defence minister also. If there was a full time defence minister, he would chair its meetings. In its present composition wherein the prime minister is also the defence minister, the body assumes close resemblance to DCC. This makes the DC redundant and inactive.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC)
Our two wars with India amply highlighted the need for co-ordination between the three services not only during the war but also in peace. JCSC's role is to establish effective joint strategic and integrated logistic planning. Headed by the chairman JSCS, its members include the three services' chiefs. The secretary of defence division is to be in attendance during the meetings.
The chairman is responsible for joint planning of the armed forces, yet he has no executive powers over individual services. The three chiefs of staff continue to act as advisers to the PM, DCC and the defence minister. It provides them a direct access to the chief executive. This arrangement has made the office of chairman JCSC less effective. The situation in war is likely to be worsened. Despite its shortcomings, the body meets regularly and whenever the chairman and services chiefs agree on an issue, it carries considerable weight and mostly sails through bureaucratic and political channels. In a recent decision, where chief of the army staff (COAS) has also taken over the responsibilities of the chairman JCSC, the body is likely to function more effectively.
Ministry of Defence (MoD)
The MoD has two major divisions namely, Defence Division and Defence Production Division headed by separate secretaries. It does not have a mandate for evolving new policies, goals or objectives. It is a British legacy and has been reduced to a mere coordination committee. MoD has a blend of civil bureaucrats and retired/serving armed forces officers. The bureaucrats are capable officers; however, their posting in MoD is on rotation basis rather than their expertise in defence matters. This lack of competence, grooming and typical bureaucratic delays have made the organization perform less than desired.
Parliamentary Committees on Defence
The parliamentary committee system is established all over the world. The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the American Congress has described them as 'the eyes, the ears, the hands and often the brain of the house'. In Pakistan this structure was provided under article 67 (a) of 1973 constitution. The committees assist the senate and the national assembly in legislative business, bills and matters referred to them under rule 179 and 226 of the constitution.
In 1985, the senate constituted six committees. Convinced of their importance, it raised the number to 21. The national assembly has 34 such committees. The standing committees on defence are among these. Defence committees have power to recommend, but possess no authority of holding accountability of defence budget or arms procurement. However, other parliamentary committees are empowered to hold accountability in their respective areas. Under the rules, there are sub-committees formed which deal with defence budget and major weapon system procurement. These sub-committees submit their deliberations to the standing committees on defence. There are a few experienced members in the committees on defence. However, the resources, expertise and access to information are badly wanting. Classified material cannot be placed at their disposal under section 308 of 'Rules, Procedures and Conduct of Business in National Assembly, 1992'. The support staff is virtually non-existent. There are only one to two junior research officers to a big number of committees. Despite such snags, the committees have proven useful over the years in making policy inputs in areas of defence production, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra, Al-Khalid tank project, Naval submarines and PAF Mirages. These have also been instrumental in assessing public criticism on defence matters. Their dynamism reflects the fact that the senate's committee on defence has met 19 times since March 1994.
The parliament has a research cell. However, it is unfortunate to observe that the quality of available defence related study material is obsolete. This has been highlighted by Senator Manzoor Ahmed Gichki in his recent paper, titled 'Significance of Policy Research in the Working of Parliamentary Committees'. In short, the major problem areas with regard to HDO in Pakistan may be summarized as follows:-
(a) Lack of integration with civil intellectuals and think tanks.
(b) Excessive military involvement in defence policy formulation processes
(c) Lack of knowledge and expertise on defence matters both in political and bureaucratic spheres.
(d) Military or bureaucracy dependent on weak political structure.
(e) Lack of civil-military interface.
(f) When the PM holds responsibilities of Defence Minister, the DCC and DC assume close resemblance.
(g) Typical bureaucratic delays lead to inefficiency at MoD.
(h) Lack of expertise at the Parliamentary Committees on Defence.
(i) Absence of research facilities at senate research cell, defence related institute and think tanks.
Adoption of Measures to Address the Problem
Need for Civilian Experts. National security in the modern environment is all encompassing. Matters related to the formulation of defence and national security policies require that the larger civilian sector is actively associated with the same. Leaving the formulation into the hands of only professional experts who largely do not have the overall picture available to them, would not be appropriate. There is certainly a need that the civilian expertise is associated with this important area of national life. This is needed because of the following:-
(a) The concept of total war requires expertise of every individual of a country in national security effort.
(b) The subjects like defence economy, alliances, budgeting, management, strategic intelligence and threat evaluation need specific expertise.
(c) Research and Development (R&D) organizations are the life line of a country's technological growth. These ought to be manned by exuberant civilian scientists.
Need of an Institutionalized Approach. Matters relating to national security are too critical to be left to the individuals. Policies must be consistent, based on prudence and rationale. The leading countries of the world integrate civil intelligentsia with the military, bureaucratic and political leadership and develop defence policy in an institutionalized manner. Change of a player brings no significant variation in policy. Institutionalized approach is viable as long as it receives direction from the top political leadership and the co-ordinating agencies function as designed.
Civilian Contribution to Defence Policy of Pakistan
The constitution of Pakistan precludes the extremes of civil or military control. It condemns objective control where military becomes tool of a civil government and also rejects subjective control, in which military participates in institutional, class and constitutional politics. Unfortunately the country's political institution could not mature and the desired political guidance was replaced with military authority. Civil universities and institutes are scarce and lacking in required expertise. Research facilities are almost non-existent. However, a beginning has been made by establishing a few defence-related institutes. These are:-
(a) Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISS). ISS was set-up by the government in 1973. It is funded by the foreign office, which uses it sparingly. A similar institute in India (Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis New Delhi) is funded by MoD and focuses on military issues. Although ISS produces regular journals/papers on security related topics, holds seminars and conducts workships, yet its direct input in defence is non-existent; nor do services contact ISS for specific studies. Institute can be made more effective. It has the potentials to become a meaningful body.
(b) Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad (IRS). IRS was founded by General Zia-ul-Haq in order to provide academic and media support to his 'Peace Offensive' against India. Ever since IRS has turned into an India focused research centre. Though its direct contribution in defence policy making is minimal, yet its publications have helped in study of India and threat assessment.
(c) Institute of Policy Studies - Islamabad (IPS). Controlled and funded by Jamaat-e-Islami, this centre was also founded in Gen Zia's era. Presently, it is headed by Prof Khurshid Ahmed, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami who has an intellectual background. However, their work is largely biased because of their political leanings. Still, inputs from this Institute, may at times be useful.
(d) Defence and Strategic Studies Department - QA University. The department of defence strategic studies at the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad was also established during General Zia-ul-Haq's rule with the intention to promote civilian interaction with the armed forces. However, the department has not been able to achieve this objective. Its existence is 'cosmetic'. The department, however, has the potential to contribute significantly to the defence-policy-making process. It needs restructuring. The department needs to have professional military staffers besides civilian theorists and needs to be actively helped and supported by the three services.
(e) Think Tanks. A number of small, weakly funded think tanks exist which attempt to provide an invaluable forum for public debate on defence related issues. The retired civil/military officers and intellectuals find an outlet to express themselves. Sometimes their ideas interest serving personnel. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) and services headquarters extend a token contribution in co-sponsoring or funding these seminars. There is certainly a need to have these think tanks formed into groups and organizations to promote meaningful and unbiased studies on national issues. These studies could become useful for government agencies responsible for formulation of defence policies.
(f) Research Facilities. There are very few research facilities like updated libraries, computer networks and conducive atmosphere. Although there are civilians who are interested in defence oriented research, they normally give up because of inadequate research opportunities. Unfortunately our political, bureaucratic and military hierarchy also lacks the culture of extensive reading and writing.
There are other defence policy related spheres where there is a growing need to acquire civilian support for the formulation of policies. Some of the important areas are as follows:-
(a) Defence Economics. Today's world is the world of economics. Modern politics is nothing but economic tug of war. This is a subject, which has assumed greater importance. The basic job of preparing budgetary grounds has been over shadowed by its strategic task i.e. study of relationship between defence and civil spending and their effects on national security. Unfortunately, in Pakistan we have no such specialist whereas in the west, students receive doctorate degree on the subject. In UK, defence economy experts proposed a system, which helped the government reduce defence budget by 20-30% and divert it to education. Our universities have the expertise provided it is channelized and encouraged to study this important aspect.
(b) Accountability on Defence Spending. Defence accountability promotes respect of the armed forces in the masses. Each year Pakistan spends 6% of her Gross National Produce (GNP) approximately $ 3 billion on defence. News have surfaced from time to time of misappropriations in defence spending both by civil and military authorities. The defence committees of the senate and the national assembly, unfortunately, have no accountability powers. The audit team has largely remained ineffective. In August 1997, three former Chiefs of Air Staff strongly urged the PM to pass a 'Defence Agents Prohibition Act' in order to eliminate kickbacks on defence purchases.
(c) Role of Media. Media has gradually assumed a very important and significant role in building up public opinion. Media, specially the English print media in Pakistan, is independent and largely responsible and serious. Defence and defence related issues in Pakistan have always remained shrouded in mystery and treated as 'sacred cow'. This posture is gradually giving way to openness. The armed forces and the defence issues, today, are under great public scrutiny. The media can play a very important role in helping a meaningful formulation of policies pertaining to national defence and security if it is taken into confidence and given proper respect and weight. The objective should be to achieve consensus on major national issues. A council of leading newspaper editors and journalists of the country needs to be formed and interact with the policy makers to achieve this aim. The editors of newspapers like The Dawn, The News, The Nation and The Frontier Post and of Monthly Herald, Defence Journal, News Line and weeklies like the Pulse, be requested for the membership of the council. There is also an urgent need for our media to become effective by using satellite communication. There is a serious lack of credibility at the national level with regard to our electronic media which needs to be looked into seriously.
(d) National Values Preservation Body. National identity and the value system are very important for a society which claims its existence on an ideology. We have been lagging behind in this area. India is utilizing this important medium for her projection and propaganda. We must have bodies of individuals who are enlightened, educated and credible in the public eyes to act as the guardians to protect national values.
Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan
Political stability and recognition of civilian control and direction by the armed forces, bring equilibrium to civil-military relationship. We have been very unfortunate in this regard. Long spells of martial laws have played havoc with the political system. Our rather unstable political system always looked for military support for its subsistence. The situation is the same even today. It is only a question of degrees. The armed forces of Pakistan, besides providing this support have claimed to be guardians of ideological frontiers of Pakistan thus seeking institutional arrangements to share decision making powers with the political elite. The military in Pakistan had no need for sharing power whenever there was martial law. The former famous troika (President, PM and COAS) shows military's extraordinary strength in influencing state affairs. The role of COAS in many past political and judicial crises has been a driving one. However, it is heartening to note that the civilian elected authority is now reasonably poised to have the final word on national security and control of armed forces. The scrapping of the controversial parts of article 58(b2) of the constitution has been a welcome step. However, the system continues to remain immature and weak. The political system will take time to mature. Our political leadership need to do some serious thinking. It must move with the changing time. It should involve itself more with futuristic planning rather than routine defence budgetary allocations. Civilians and political institutions must be strengthened. This will not happen without making concerted efforts and setting personal example. Army's involvement in running civil affairs is a weakness of the political system. Majority of our politicians are either, landlords or industrialists. The number of intellectuals in our political hierarchy is scarce. The knowledge of even those politicians who deal with defence matters is less than desired. They totally depend upon bureaucrats and military officials, thus weakening their own control and contribution. They need to continuously promote their knowledge on defence matters.
Challenges of 21st Century and Suggested Course
We are about to move into the next millennium. It is going to be absolutely a new order based on information technology and computers. A nation failing to optimally use her resources in order to safeguard her interests, would dwindle into insignificance. Threat to Pakistan's national security is not only a military one, but spreads on a broader spectrum encompassing the following:-
(a) Economic Challenges. Pakistan at present is under a foreign debt of over $ 39 billion. An equal amount is the domestic debt. The country's budget exhausts after debt servicing and defence expenditure. There is hardly anything meaningful left for the other sectors of development. Despite yearly defence expenditure of 7.8% of GDP, modern weaponry is becoming scarce. India spends 3.5% of her GDP, yet she has a defence budget many times than that of Pakistan. The world now focuses on economic growth and not armament race. In order to prevail as a sovereign state in the 21st century, the economic issues would have to be addressed with sincerity and professional competence.
(b) Socio-Economic Challenges. Our society is broadly divided into two classes 'Rich' and 'Poor'. The former being 10% use 85% of the national wealth whereas the latter 90% live on rest of 15%. Though diminishing, yet there is a disparity in development between different provinces. Social injustice among masses is a big threat to our security. The political system is still in a process to mature to address socio-economic threat.
(c) Military Challenges. Indian hegemonic designs, troubled Afghanistan and inconsistent relation with Iran are major players in our security equation. In military hardware our problem is gigantic.
Indigenous effort is a difficult proposition whereas foreign procurement is both expensive and attached to political compulsions. Nuclearization of South Asia has added new dimensions to security threat perception.
We have an elaborate HDO and a sizeable civil intelligentsia, which can participate in defence policy formulation process. However, interface and free dialogue is lacking. It is only through an integrated effort that an effective policy formulation process can be adopted. An analysis of previous policies and their failures remedied with suitable modern practices can make our efforts more productive.
Keeping in view the dimensions and very broad scope of the issue under reference the following recommendations are made:-
Defence policy formulation is a heterogeneous phenomena. The civil military interface in this sphere is considered extremely critical all over the world. The efforts to institutionalize the defence policymaking process started with the increasing complexity of defence technology, defence economy and employment of military assets. Policy choices in defence have become complex and so much dependents upon the scientific developments that no sensible policy maker can operate without extensive research and analytical aids. An indisputable political superiority and direction is mandatory in matters of national defence. The military experts, scientists and other civil intelligentsia being subservient provide essential advice to the government.
The most advanced countries through their strong political system have addressed the issue by institutionalizing the country's civil and military intellect. In these countries sizeable civil intelligentsia is directed towards defence planning. Adequate education curriculum is provided in defence studies to impart suitable expertise. Politicians and bureaucrats involve themselves completely into defence education and policy formulation. An increased regard to public opinion is given in defence matters.
When we compare such a system with the existing one in Pakistan, the situation is not very encouraging. We suffer from unstable political structure, which fails to provide the required direction in matters of national defence. The military at times performs tasks especially designed for political bodies. As the political institutions did not grow, the entire process of institutionalization was marred. A half hearted beginning here, and an individual effort there, is generally what we observe around us.