To fast-track military purchases, Pranab empowers Defence Minister
In a bid to expedite acquisition of vital weapon systems and overcome the lag of past three years, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has proposed that the Defence Minister be empowered to approve military hardware purchases up to Rs 500 crore.
At present, the limit for the Defence Minister is set at Rs 100 crore.
Mukherjee has also suggested that capital acquisitions only above Rs 1,000 crore be brought to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval. For projects between Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,000 crore, approval could be given with the joint concurrence of the Defence Minister and Finance Minister.
The proposed empowerment of the Defence Ministry is important considering that the current threshold for seeking CCS approval is over Rs 200 crore. It is also large compared to non-defence projects where Cabinet approval is sought when government’s financial involvement exceeds Rs 300 crore.
The new limits were agreed to by Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony and had been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for approval so that the Transaction of Business Rules (TBR) could be suitably amended.
But the PM has apparently desired that the issue be brought before the CCS for approval so that it has the stamp of the apex body with the Foreign Minister and Home Minister in the loop.
Sources said the CCS note recommends greater financial autonomy to the two ministers on grounds that defence purchases are a “peculiar requirement” considering the ongoing defence modernization programme with India adding strategic weight in global terms. A safeguard, it says, is that all matters pertaining to defence finance are monitored by an officer of Secretary-rank as is the present case.
To fast-track military purchases, Pranab empowers Defence Minister - Express India