Explained: What Chief of Defence Staff Means to India

In a path breaking move towards the integration of the all three defence services, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 24th December approved the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who will be the single-point military adviser to the government.

“The government has approved the creation of a post of Chief of Defence Staff. The officer to be appointed as Chief of Defence Staff will be a four-star General and will also head the Department of Military Affairs,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said at a media briefing in the capital today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced on August 15 from the ramparts of the Red Fort that India would have a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Outgoing Army Chief, General Bipin  Rawat, is considered one of the hot favourite to become the first CDS.

The CCS also approved the report of a high-level committee, headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, which finalised responsibilities and the enabling framework for the CDS.

It is explained below what is the scheme of things for setting up the new institution:


  • Indian military should not have a fragmented approach. Entire military power will have to work in unison. All the three (Services) should move simultaneously at the same pace.
  • Changing nature of war and security environment; Government conscious of National Security challenges.
  • Recognition to military expertise in department’s decision making.
  • Breaking Silos: Integration, collaboration, convergence and rationalization.
  • Meritocracy: Right person to do the right job.


  • Vajpayee Government– Victory at Kargil- lessons learnt (Kargil Committee/ GoM)- steps towards integration
  • Vajpayee + – culmination of process started at that time. Also more integration and further enhancement of role to meet newer challenges.
  • Not mere creation of a post but institutional reforms to achieve national security aims.


Aims and Objectives for the reform of the Higher Defence Management

(i)      To bring about jointness between the Armed Forces of the country in training, procurement, staffing and operations.

(ii)      To enhance the quality of Military Advice to the Political Leadership through integration of service inputs.

(iii)     To develop and foster expertise in military affairs in particular and in defence matters generally.


  • Creation of a new department (Department of Military Affairs) within MoD.
  • Work exclusively pertaining to Military matters will fall within the purview of the Department of Military Affairs, while the Department of Defence will deal with larger issues pertaining to defence of the country.
  • The Armed Forces will fall under the ambit of Department of Military Affairs (DMA). Which will have appropriate expertise to manage military affairs.
  • Chief of Defence Staff will head DMA. This will enable CDS to fulfil his role and functions.
  • The Department of Military Affairs will have the appropriate mix of civilian and military officers, at every level. The department will promote jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services. Facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands. Promoting use of indigenous equipment by the Services.
  • CDS will also have second role. He will be the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. In this role, he will be supported by the Integrated Defence Staff.
  • As the Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, CDS will also perform the following functions:
  • CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Raksha Mantri and Defence Planning Committee chaired by NSA.
  • Function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.


Role and responsibilities of CDS

(i)       Act as the Principal Military Adviser to Raksha Mantri on tri-Services matters. The three Chiefs will continue to advise RM on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services;

(ii)      CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs;

(iii)     CDS will administer tri-services organisations. Their military command, will be with the Chief of the duly notified Service, which has a predominant role in effective functioning of that specific tri-service organization. However, Tri-services agencies/organizations/ commands related to Cyber and Space will be under the command of the CDS.

(iv)    Provide integrated inputs of the Services to relevant authorities.CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council and Defence Planning Committee.

(vi)    Bring about jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, etc. of the three Services within three years of the first CDS assuming office;

(vii)    Ensure optimal utilization of infrastructure and rationalizeit;

(viii)   Enhance the share of indigenous equipment;

(ix)     Evaluate plans for ‘Out of Area Contingencies’, as well other contingencies such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief;

(x)       Implement Five-Year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP), and Two-Year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP), as a follow-up of Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP);

(xi)     Assign inter-Services prioritization to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget;

(xii)    Integrate and rationalise international cooperation plans;

(xiii)  Prepare strategy papers on military matters for consideration of the competent authority;

(xiv)   Bring about reforms in the functioning of three Services aimed at augmenting combat capabilities of the Armed Forces. This may, inter-alia; entail rationalization of facilities. Use of indigenous equipment across the whole spectrum. He will identify and end obsolete practices, which may have crept in due to the colonial legacy.

(xiv)   Build trust and confidence in the rankand file.

(xv)    Prepare for Raksha Mantri an empirical and objective Report on annual achievements in jointness during the year


  • Four-star General.
  • Not eligible to hold any Government officeafter demitting the office of CDS.
  • No private employment without prior approval for a period of five years after demitting the office of CDS.


Nitin A. Gokhale