Every day we are assaulted by a miasma of bewildering acronyms and abbreviations in official documents, newspapers and on television, all guaranteed to drown millions of us in thick alphabet soup.
But this confusion is possibly paramount in India’s defence acquisition procedure, that remains a deadly cocktail of abridged and shortened terms that even its originators, at times, find difficult to comprehend or unravel. Service officers and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials concede that the ‘alphabetic morse code’ that comprises almost all their internal communications and those with equipment and other vendors, pose a ‘formidable comprehensible’ challenge even to themselves.
The acronyms are, without doubt, confusing; but many even in their expanded forms are incomprehensible. In many instances, these have little to do with what they directly mean or purport to convey. A glossary is included in the manuals, but it fails miserably in accurately communicating matters into intelligible English, or transmitting the document’s intended gist.
To add to this confusion, innumerable sentences in the recent Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020, unveiled in September of that year, run into hundreds of words and paragraphs into countless sentences, severely challenging comprehension, as one tends to forget the beginning of the text by the time the end is reached. Interlacing it with equally confusing acronyms further taxes the decipherer.
A relatively easy sentence, for instance, from previous editions of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) says that the HQ IDS (Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff) is responsible for preparing the 15-year LTIPP (Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan), while in reality it was widely believed that the LTIPP was nothing more than a compendium of the LTPPs (Long Term Perspective Plans) of the individual services.
Thereafter, the revised DAP 2020, aimed at simplification, has revised this only to make it even more convoluted.
It now reads: the HQ IDS would now be required to prepare 10-year ICDPs (Integrated Capacity Development Plans) and translate them into ‘appropriate problem definition statements and R&D establishment and industry would be given time and resources to enable transition from technology development for testing, trials and production to take place’.
In the same vein, the manual goes on to add: the HQ IDS will ‘cull out’ 5-year DCAPs (Defence Capability Acquisition Plans) from the ICDP, based on which each SHQ (Service Headquarters) will prepare a two-year roll-on AAP (Annual Acquisition Plan) in four parts. These AAPs will then be consolidated by HQ IDS to serve as the ‘basis for initiation of every acquisition proposal for Acceptance of Necessity (AoN).
An AoN is officialese for the MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) – or a lower authority, depending on the estimated cost of the proposed acquisition – according approval to a purchase or acquisition in its periodic meetings. In reality, however, the AoN is little more than a time-barred gateway to commencement of the complex tendering process for varied defence materiel.
If the above appears complicated, try this:
The (AoN) proposal could be for undertaking projects like the P75I (India) and Project 1135.6, turn-key projects like MAFI-II or developmental projects like FICV (Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle), BMS (Battlefield Management System) and TCS (Tactical Communication System). It could also be for acronymised ordnance stores like VSHORADs (Very Short-Range Air Defence) System) or ECWCS (Extreme Cold Weather Clothing Systems).
It gets worse.
Equipment vendors respond to MoD tenders by submitting technical and commercial bids, of which the former bids are opened by the TOOC (Technical Offer Opening Committee) and scrutinised by the TEC (Technical Evaluation Committee). Thereafter, vendors conforming to SQRs (Service Qualitative Requirements) are asked to present their equipment for FET (Field Evaluation Trials) on an NCNC (No-cost-no-commitment) basis.
The FET comprises one or more of several trials: User Trial, Technical Trial, MET (Maintainability Evaluation Trial), EMC/EMI (Electro Magnetic Compatibility/ Electro Magnetic Interference) Evaluation, and Secrecy Testing.
QA (Quality Assurance) instructions are also contained in the tender which, among other things, provides details of the AHSP (Authority Holding Sealed Particulars), whose role has been nebulously defined in DAP 2020. As part of the QA, the vendor is also required to submit draft ATP (Acceptance Test Procedure) which is finalised during the FET. The ATP forms the benchmark for the PDI (Pre Dispatch Inspection) and JRI (Joint Receipt Inspection) which are mandated protocols before any equipment is shipped to, and accepted in, India.
That is not all.
The DGQA (Director General of Quality Assurance), DGAQA (Director General of Air Quality Assurance) and DGNAI (Director General of Naval Armament Inspection) too play a pivotal role in the FET, PDI and JRI.
Alongside, great effort goes into making the SQRs, which must be approved by the service-specific SEPC (Services Equipment Policy Committee), which is referred to as the GSEPC, NSEPC, ASEPC by the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, respectively. The JSQRs (Joint Service Qualitative Requirements), of course, need to be approved by the JSEPC (Joint Services Equipment Policy Committee).
The issuance of an RfP (Request for Proposal) follows the AoN. The RfP specifies requirements in great details. The product support, for example, may entail AMC (Annual Maintenance Contract)/CAMC (Comprehensive Annual maintenance Contract), ESP (Engineering Support Package), Life Cycle Support Contract (LCSC), or PBL (Performance Based Logistics).
The RfP may also include the B&D (Base and Depot) or On-board Spares and require the bidder to submit the MRLS (Manufacturer’s Recommended List of Equipment) for maintenance, duly supported by R&M (Reliability and Maintenance) report. Other terms and conditions in the RfP, depending on the peculiarities of the case, include ERV (Exchange Rate Variation), PVC (Price-variation clause), BNE (Buyer Nominated Equipment) and BFE (Buyer Furnished Equipment).
All vendors are also required to submit PCIP (Pre-contract Integrity Pact), backed by IPBG (Integrity Pact Bank Guarantee) while bidding for contracts exceeding Rs 20 crore; successful bidders, in turn, need to submit the APBG (Advance Payment Bank Guarantee), PWBG (performance-cum-warranty bank Guarantee), apart from supplementary guarantees.
The ISPL (Itemised Spare Parts Price Lists) for all spares or LRUs and SRUs (Line/Shop Replaceable Units) of the equipment, along with their base price, annual escalation, delivery period and the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure), where applicable, too have to be provided by the equipment supplier along with his offer.
The final lap is also riddled with equally confounding syntax; abbreviations like CNC (Contract Negotiation Committee), CFA (Competent Financial Authorities) and CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) dominate this stage before a contract is signed.
But there is still some soup remaining.
For after the contract is awarded, it is the responsibility of the SHQ and the MoD (Acquisition) to monitor and execute it. This, of course, may involve giving out BPC (Bulk Production Certificate) in cases involving validation of the FoPM (First off Production Model), issuing the EUC (End User Certificate, verification of IC (Indigenous Content), and, of course, the most important of them all – imposition of LD (Liquidated Damages) on the vendors for every week of delay in supplying the goods, for which the contract may have been signed after several years of struggle.