Sun, Apr 23, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Military needs efficiency, not Aegis

Before an Aegis weapons system or any new missiles can substantially improve Taiwan's military capabilities, training and improved efficiency are necessary

By Michael Tsai 蔡明憲

A strategic troop reduction does not just imply large cuts in the number of soldiers serving in the military, but means an increase in the efficiency of existing fighting forces. It should imply an increase in the ability of armed forces to carry out military missions while lowering the amount of weaponry and materials needed.

Changes to Taiwan's system of compulsory military service and the coast guard are two important milestones in Taiwan's troop reduction, but a reduction in the number of officers and enlisted men is mostly a technical matter. What will be more difficult for the armed forces, is increasing their fighting efficiency while lowering their overall numbers.

Taiwan is an information nation. The International Data Center (IDC) conducts an evaluation of how various countries around the world rank in terms of computer and Internet use, information technology and the social infrastructure of information technology, producing a yearly International Social Index (ISI), which ranks countries by "national information strength." In 1998, Taiwan ranked 21st overall.

Western nations and Taiwan are worried about mainland China's ability to wage electronic warfare, but China only ranked 53 on the ISI rating. Information may be a multiplier of a nation's military strength, but Taiwan's strength in terms of information technology has not significantly increased Taiwan's military preparedness for electronic warfare.

A country's ability to wage electronic warfare is based on that country's information infrastructure, and should not be reduced to China's ability to throw a couple of computer viruses toward Taiwan. This seriously underestimates China's ability. An advantage in terms of information multiplies a country's military strength by allowing one side to concentrate its forces and win even with a smaller overall force. An army with an informational advantage is able to reach their objectives using a smaller amount of firepower, and fewer troops.

The armed forces in Taiwan once had manpower to waste. It was feasible to send a company to do the work a platoon could easily accomplish. Moreover, the attitude in the armed forces was to keep the soldiers as busy as possible. Troop numbers have been falling over the past decade, but this management philosophy has remained largely intact. Even today, you might see an officer spend a day just trying to put in a repair order or get some document stamped by the correct people; or a company leader might spend two or three days getting orders and attending meetings. Nowadays, even students go to class on the Internet, but troops in Taiwan remained tied to their time-consuming ways.

Effective management will be reflected in better results from training, and may eventually be seen on the battlefield. Many battalions only began making firing calibrations during the missile crisis of 1995 and 1996 when they went into battle readiness. Soldiers were not familiar with their own weapons even as they were potentially going to battle.

Why? A large number of low-ranking officers say that they would like to carry out more training, but are hampered by meetings, official business, vacations, etc. Perhaps only half of a company of soldiers is ready at any one time. Still, the demands of their superiors have remained the same and the number of troops under their command will only continue to decline in the future. Training will be the first thing to go if present trends continue.

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