Overruling opposition from defence scientists, the Union government is proceeding with implementing the recommendations of a high-powered committee, led by former principal scientific advisor Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan, to revamp the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the country’s premier defence research agency.

The DRDO headquarters has set up an Overseeing Committee to ensure review and implementation of the proposals, with a deadline set for August 31, as per the latest communication note issued by the government.

Earlier, the top hierarchy of DRDO had met defence minister Rajnath Singh on the matter and followed it up with a detailed representation to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to share their reservations. However, the government appears to have made up its mind to speed up implementation of the big reforms.

The PMO-driven, nine-member VijayRaghavan panel had submitted its report, ‘Redefining Defence Research and Development’, in early January. But its implementation has been stuck as higher-ups in the DRDO have opposed some of the structural changes suggested. While there is no disagreement about the overall aim of the report—which is to cut flab in the organisation and make it an efficient and agile R&D entity with a faster turnover of cutting-edge projects—it is in the methods proposed to obtain the results that problems have arisen.

After multiple rounds of deliberations, the government backed the VijayRaghavan panel’s proposals for change, and is now going ahead with their implementation. As per the latest communication note issued on behalf of the government, Dr Samir Kamat, secretary-Department of Defence Research and Development and DRDO chairman, has constituted 13 separate committees, headed by DRDO directors general, to implement the recommendations of the ‘Defence Review Committee’.

Up for implementation are multiple institutional reforms, such as mechanisms to avoid delays in DRDO projects, evaluating projects and scientists, maximising industry, MSME and academia participation in defence technologies, financial framework to encourage risk-taking research, review of the DRDO project management and procurement processes, and digitisation of the organisation, including an enterprise-wide integrated automation system.

Also picked up for faster implementation are reforms such as making the DRDO attractive for the brightest talent, stimulating critical research in deep tech areas, intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance, creation of a Defence Technology Council, reorganisation of labs and their functions, and making the DRDO headquarters leaner.

The Overseeing Committee is headed by Dr Kamat and has two seniormost director generals of the DRDO. For any specific recommendation that cannot be fully implemented by the August 31 deadline, milestones achievable by that date will be specified along with an overall timeline for completion.


The first meeting of the Overseeing Committee is expected to be held by the end of this month, wherein a roadmap will be presented for completing the process by August 31, states the government order.

The Vijay Raghavan panel has stated that nearly 60 per cent of the delays in DRDO projects are caused by internal issues, such as absence of required technologies, and another 18-odd per cent due to the armed forces’ proclivity for changing goalposts and specifications constantly. Bureaucratic red-tape, too, chokes projects.

The DRDO, which has an outlay of ₹23,264 crore in the 2023-24 budget estimate, has often been criticised for delayed projects and cost overruns. The organisation, which has huge manpower and extensive infrastructure, currently has no major new projects.

The DRDO operates close to 50 labs with a total staff strength of about 30,000, of which only 30 per cent are from the scientific community. Besides, there are over 10,000 contractual employees attached to various DRDO labs.

Reforming the DRDO is central to the government’s plans to boost defence manufacturing, through initiatives such as Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and reduce India’s over-reliance on imports. It is also intended to give a fillip to defence exports, for which an ambitious target of  ₹35,000 crore by 2025 has been set.

(With Agency Inputs)