· Prolonged Absence from Direct Command of Troops. Command of troops is tough, challenging and risky. Many officers are wary of command tenures as they fear exposure of their incompetence. They prefer to play safe by doing minimum mandatory terms and revert to higher headquarters in good peace stations. Prolonged absence from command of troops makes them lose touch with ground realities and they become mere file pushers.Bureaucrat versus CommanderSome of the commonly recognised factors that contribute to the conversion of psyche, approach and conduct of commanders are discussed below:-
· Bureaucratic Culture is Infectious. By its very nature of laid back, safe and process-centric functioning, bureaucratic culture is highly infectious. Even highly enthusiastic officers get disillusioned in no time when they find cases moving at a snail’s pace despite their best efforts. Initially they feel frustrated but soon adopt the same culture. Innovative ways are found to ‘put a case in orbit’ by seeking comments of all and sundry to defer taking any definite action.· Upgradation of Appointments. With a view to improve promotional prospects of officers, a large number of appointments have been upgraded. The command structure of the field forces could not be disturbed. Thus, all higher headquarters have become highly bloated and overstaffed. This has resulted in emergence of multiple tiers in decision making and bureaucratized functioning. As every link in the chain wants to remain in the loop and retain its relevance, urgency becomes inconsequential.· Zero Error Syndromes. “It is better not to take a decision and play safe rather than take one and risk one’s career,” is the common refrain. Non-acceptance of mistakes committed by subordinates has created an environment of treading warily even in trivial matters. Penchant for playing safe is thus, one of the significant triggers for bureaucratization.· Change in Role Definition. Unfortunately, many officers have a tendency to redefine their role when posted out of command of troops. They feel that their new assignment of managing resources is distinctly different and they disassociate themselves totally from command functions. Change of hat causes change of outlook and mind-set.Coping with the MalaiseBureaucrats have been defined differently by different dictionaries. The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy says that the term bureaucrat is often used negatively to describe a petty, narrow-minded person. It is perhaps an extreme and unfair description. According to another dictionary, he is an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment. However, a bureaucrat is generally defined as an official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.There is no doubt the armed forces suffer when its own commanders turn bureaucrats. Worse, as always happens with the newly converted, they become more fanatic adherents of the adopted genre. The services are used to career bureaucrats’ way of indifferent functioning and have come to accept it. But, when service officers adopt the same approach, they cause immense despair as troops feel let down. Such officers are considered insincere to their troops and are commonly equated with political defectors.It is generally agreed that the malaise cannot be fully eradicated as it pertains to human character and conduct. However, the following steps can be initiated to minimize its prevalence:-Prolonged staff tenures should be avoided. Command and staff tenures should be equitably balanced out.· There should be more delegation of powers to cut out red-tapism.· Decision making should be encouraged by backing subordinates if things go wrong.· A system should be put in place to oversee and curtail proclivity for deferring positive action. If required, appropriate attributes should be added in annual confidential reports.One of the special features of a service officer’s training is to prepare him to take quick decisions and to initiate definite action to implement them. During the floods of 1971, Gomti was threatening to inundate the town of Lucknow. Noticing an ominous breach, the Army Commander ordered that a cement loaded military truck be driven into the breach to plug it. The town was thus saved from flood devastation. Military command is all about accomplishing assigned mission.A military commander has to be capable of exploiting all fleeting opportunities in battle. He can do that only if he is trained for quick decision-making and prompt action. Vacillation and excessive adherence to procedure make him lose focus. A commander with bureaucratic mindset is a liability to the services as he tends to drift into a mode of indecisiveness and inactivity. Raison d'être of military leadership is mission accomplishment while ensuring welfare of troops under command. Everything else is of peripheral importance.