Attrition: Indian Army Geek Shortage

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July 23, 2007: The Indian Army has been forced to involuntarily discharge 27,000 soldiers. Those with any kind of medical problem will be selected. The reason for this action was someone at army headquarters making an error in calculating how many troops would be lost through normal attrition (health problems, retirements, accidents, combat). Thus the army found itself with 33,000 more people than it was allowed to have (1.1 million.)Many Indians are eager to join the army, but not always the people the army wants and needs.

For example, the army is short 24 percent of its officer strength. The air force and navy are also short, but only by 12-15 percent. But it's not just officers that are hard to get and keep. Technical specialists are in short supply, which is a growing problem as the army adds more high tech gear. The basic problem is that the army must compete with the civilian economy for highly trained or educated personnel. The army maintains high standards for officers, thus trying to eliminate the shortages by more aggressively recruiting young NCOs for officer candidate school doesn't work because too many of the NCOs cannot pass the entrance exam. Moreover, India is at war, with troops getting killed and injured in Kashmir, the northeastern tribal areas, and fighting Maoist rebels in eastern India. The casualty rate is actually quite low, but just serving in a combat zone is hard on the nerves, and not attractive to many educated young Indians.

India has been looking at how other nations solve these problems. They have noted American success (over the last four decades) in outsourcing a lot of support jobs. This is almost a necessity with some high tech specialties, where even civilian firms face shortages. Another American technique, cash bonuses for jobs with shortages, is more difficult for India, which much less money to spend on defense.


 


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