Procurement: India Declares An Ammo Emergency


November 21, 2016: India is again invoking its emergency FTP (Fast Track Procurement) procedures which enable immediate purchase of essential military items without the usual political and procurement delays that can add years, sometimes a decade or more, to obtaining needed items. In this case the FTP is being invoked to purchase a billion dollars of ammunition (mostly), small arms and replacement parts for some weapons. The urgency was triggered by the increasing possibility of a border war with Pakistan.

While it is normal for well-prepared armed forces to create a realistic war reserve of ammo and other items to sustain heavy fighting for at least 30 days, India is not normal when it comes to military procurement. Aside from the fact that a country with such a huge (and industrialized) economy as India cannot produce its own ammo and many other items of military gear it must import, there is the additional problem of ignoring a war reserve. India has had a hard time doing this even though as recently as 2012 the army made it clear that if there was going to be a war its stocks of ammunition (especially tank and artillery shells) were too small and out-of-date. The army said publically that it would cost over $5 billion to remedy the problem. In 2012 the army specified that ammo needs included a lot more of missiles (anti-tank and anti-aircraft) in addition small arms and artillery ammunition. The government was reluctant to spend all of this money because of the many military procurement disasters since the 1990s that were still very much a problem. Most involved bribes and other forms of corruption, which is also why India does not build its own ammo. Officially, the government is all over this sort of misbehavior, but the reality is that there are still a lot of procurement officers and officials who cannot be trusted.

Invoking the FTP is risky because if it is done too frequently and too many incidents of related corruption are later uncovered FTP will more difficult to use and might even be eliminated. Since 2004 FTP has been made easier to declare under the assumption that government efforts to clean up the corruption and other problems with the military procurement process to make FTP unnecessary. That has not happened.

The problem India has with corruption is compounded by a resistance to prosecuting the senior Indian politicians and bureaucrats who keep these corrupt practices alive. Since the 1990s there has been growing popular pressure to shut down the corruption that pervades every aspect of government and commercial enterprise. Indian officials went along with this public sentiment as much as they could without actually halting the practice and the huge amounts of cash that ended up making so many politicians rich. To do this the politicians pushed the idea that it was not Indian officials who were demanding bribes to favor one foreign supplier over another but the foreign suppliers who insisted on paying the bribes. The politicians demanded that foreign firms accused of corruption be banned from doing any business with the Indian military until found innocent. Since many Western defense firms are parts of a smaller number of larger corporations a ban on one subsidiary halts progress on any other contracts a subsidiary has with India. A 2016 example of this not only prevented the Indian Navy from getting needed Black Shark torpedoes (leaving newly delivered Scorpene subs much less effective) but halted several other deals. The torpedoes were on order until the corruption problems surfaced. But because of this other military contracts (for helicopters and such) were also frozen.

The damage this sort of Indian approach to corruption in military procurement has been experienced before. In 2013 Indian corruption investigations revealed that large bribes were paid to Indian officials to make Israeli Barak missile system sales happen. Those naughty Israelis joined naughty Swedes, Italians, and evil foreigners from several other nations that had made major weapons sales to India via Indian officials demanding bribes. It's not like India is the only nation that has corruption problems in the military procurement area. All nations do, but the extent of the corruption varies quite a lot and India would like to move away from the top of the list. This will please Indian taxpayers, as well as those concerned about defense matters, especially people in the military. When military suppliers are selected mainly on the basis of how large a bribe they will pay, you often do not get the best stuff available. With so many of the best foreign weapons suppliers now on the Indian blacklist it is becoming difficult to find anyone willing, or able, to provide the modern weapons India wants. Thus the need to wait for a clear emergency and then invoke FTP.




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