The position of Deputy Commander of the Indonesian National Army, known as TNI, was revived. The position was abolished by the 4th Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid alias Gus Dur through a Presidential Decree (Keppres) dated 20 September 2000.

More than 19 years later, President Joko Widodo plans strongly to revive the position of the Deputy Commander of TNI, as stipulated in Presidential Regulation (Perpres) No. 66 of 2019 concerning the Organizational Structure of the TNI. Deputy Commander TNI will be filled by four-star high-ranking officers.

Three TNI Chiefs of Staff had a great opportunity to occupy this position, accompanying the Commander of TNI, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto. They are the Army Chief of Staff, General Andika Perkasa; Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Ade Supandi; and the Air Force Chief of Staff, Marshal Yuyu Sutisna.

“Yes I think the heads of staff have a chance for that,” said Chief of Staff of the Presidential (KSP), General (Ret.) Moeldoko in Jakarta, Thursday (11/07/2019).

Moeldoko said that the TNI Commander had the authority to appoint who would serve as their deputy. However, that does not mean there will be no interference from the president. The mechanism for the appointment of Deputy Commander, said Moeldoko, has been regulated through the regulations of the TNI Commander because it was not mentioned in detail in Presidential Regulation No. 66 of 2019.

In the Presidential Regulation, the position of the Deputy Commander is directly under the TNI Commander as the leadership element, in accordance with Article 13 paragraph (1) letter a. It was also stated that Deputy Commander was the coordinator of the formation of TNI forces in order to realize interoperability or the Integrated Tri Matra that was located below and was responsible to the TNI Commander.

The duties of the TNI Field as stipulated in article 15 paragraph (2) consist of four things. First, it helps in carrying out the daily duties of the TNI Commander. Second, giving advice to the TNI Commander regarding the implementation of national defense policies, the development of postures, doctrines, military strategies, and the formation of the TNI.

Third, carry out the duties of the TNI Commander if he is temporarily or permanently absent. Fourth, the TNI Deputy will carry out other tasks ordered by the TNI Commander.

Institute for Democracy and Peace (Setara) assesses that members of the Navy unit are suitable to be Deputy Commander accompanying Mr Tjahjanto. Deputy Chairman of the Setara Institute, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, said that the Indonesian Navy was suitable because it could optimize the government’s program in developing eastern Indonesia dominated by territorial waters.

“The Navy can help government programs in the eastern seas of Indonesia,” Bonar said in Jakarta, Thursday (11/07/2019).

In addition, Deputy Commander is expected to be able to play a role in arousing TNI defense equipment.

Create Interoperability?

The discourse of reviving the position of the Deputy Commander had triggered criticism. One of them is Muradi, Chair of the Center for Political and Security Studies at Padjadjaran University, Bandung.

According to him, if the duties were not strictly regulated, the reappearance of Deputy Commander position could potentially lead to “twin suns” within TNI. The reason is that the Deputy Commander proposed by Moeldoko has the same rank as the TNI Commander and has the authority to take over command functions.

Similar statement was expressed by military observer of the Indonesian Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, Rizal Darma Putra. Rizal said that if the commander and his deputy had the same duties and functions, the commander would complicate the chain of command in the TNI.

Interoperability is indeed an important issue for the TNI because the capability of the three TNI forces is not yet optimal to operate together in joint operations. The need to increase interoperability has also been one of Mr Tjahjanto’s main focuses since being inaugurated at the end of 2017, one of which was by formalizing the establishment of the Special Operations Command (Koopssus).

The assignment of specific tasks in the form of increased interoperability seems also to be a way for the government to avoid overlapping tasks of the commander as well as being an answer to the view that later the Deputy Commander will be stand idle. However, the potential for the emergence of “twin suns” remains in view of this Presidential Regulation also stipulates that the Deputy Commander ranks of four stars and one of its tasks is to “carry out the duties of the TNI Commander if he is temporarily or permanently absent”.

Meanwhile, until the end of 2018, there were at least 150 starred officers and 500 colonels without positions. The starred officers were spread over land, sea and air dimensions. These generals and colonels have offices only to attend the daily apples, without the burden and responsibilities of work.

Returning to Deputy Commander, if he had already started serving, certainly needed support staff such as assistants and expert staff. Automatically there will be additional posts for new positions that can be occupied by TNI officers. In addition to helping TNI resolve the officer surplus problem, the presence of the Deputy Commander post also seems to be an effort to maintain TNI loyalty as a source of President Jokowi’s political strength.