The armed forces are increasingly getting furious with successive CAG reports divulging their "classified operational readiness reports (ORRs)" for all the world to see.
Getting rapped for financial and procedural irregularities or diversion of funds to buy golf carts and delays in much-needed procurements is one thing but the armed forces are aghast that the operational availability of their aircraft, helicopters, submarines and other platforms as well as radars and missiles is being put in "the public domain" by CAG reports.
"Why make the jobs of our enemies easier? To make matters worse, the latest reports are promptly uploaded on the CAG website, which can be accessed from anywhere in the world. CAG reports must have a classified section, which only a select few of decision-makers must have access to," said a senior military officer.
While the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, could not be contacted since he was abroad, another CAG official contended the reports were prepared "in consultation" with the defence ministry and service concerned.
"Our mandate is that every audit report has to be laid in Parliament. The parliamentary public accounts committee subsequently takes it up. Once anything is tabled in Parliament, its in the public domain," he said. Moreover, dont newspapers regularly report on depleting levels of fighter squadrons in IAF and submarines in Navy? Or, of the poor serviceability of MiG, Jaguar or reconnaissance aircraft fleets and the alarming gaps in radar coverage over central and peninsular India?
"Yes, they do, and often accurately. But they are still newspaper reports," said an IAF officer. In contrast, the reports of CAG, a constitutional authority with access to secret flying logs, equipment and sensor availability reports and other classified stuff, come with an official stamp of authenticity.
"Even if a CAG report describes a fighter only as X, any serious defence watcher will know which particular jet is being talked about. All this makes it easy for our adversaries to know our operational capabilities," the IAF officer said.
"The CAG reports are important. But are any such official reports available in the public domain in either Pakistan or China? Warfare is all about keeping your enemies guessing about your capabilities," he added.
Take, for instance, Indias solitary 50-year-old aircraft carrier INS Viraat. A careful reading of the latest CAG report makes it clear Viraat may just be a paper tiger, left as it is with only eight upgraded SeaHarrier jump-jets to operate from its deck. Similarly, take Indias rapidly-shrinking underwater combat arm. As frequently reported by Media, Navy is left with only 15 submarines 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and one virtually-obsolete Foxtrot at present. And the number may dip to just half by 2015 due to progressive retirements.
Then came a CAG report which held that the operational availability of Indian submarines was as low as 48% due to an ageing fleet and prolonged refit schedules. In effect, this means that if India went to war with Pakistan, it will only have seven submarines to deploy.