Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Randall Schriver on Taiwan: Defense: Time to take ownership

By Randall Schriver

Two, the legislature should approve funding for research and development of the submarine program. It should also introduce the notion, either in legislative language, or in associated public statements, that Taiwan should consider an indigenous program to produce diesel electric submarines. Doing so would be consistent with the aforementioned Article 22 and would give new momentum to a program stalled because of uncertainties surrounding foreign procurement of design. An indigenous program could produce a scaled-down -- in terms of gross tonnage -- cheaper and multi-purpose submarine. And the US industry need not fret -- an indigenous program would still involve very significant opportunities for US contracts.

Three, when a particular weapons system or platform can be produced by more than one vendor, the legislature should insist that the Ministry of National Defense ask the US government to encourage competition among qualified vendors.

Competition elicits the best value and provides many such benefits such as lower cost, shorter lead time, better technical and support solutions and increased domestic industrial participation.

It is common practice for the US government to insist on competition for its own major procurement programs.

Competition will empower legislators to demonstrate to constituents that Taiwanese are receiving the most capable platform, at the best possible price.

Four, the legislature should declare victory on the referendum of 2004 and move on.

Pan-blue leaders can note the three-year moratorium after the failed referendum has expired and declare that they are now prepared to deliver a responsible package for defense against PLA missiles.

The legislature should approve funding for PAC-3 missiles and more firing units for missile defense.

The legislature should also direct the Ministry of National Defense to investigate re-engineering of firing units that would permit firing of both Patriot missiles and indigenous Tienkung missiles.

Taiwan must invest in more firing units to spread protection to high value civilian and military command locations and other critical infrastructure. Adding flexibility on the missile used in the firing units could also help sustain domestic support for a program that would be seen as creating more jobs at home.

And finally, in parallel with passage of a defense budget, the legislature should also look at measures to strengthen protection of sensitive technologies and related exports.

Such a move may ultimately help Taiwanese manufacturers become a preferred vendor to the US Department of Defense.

Though Taiwan will never be well placed to sell as much defense articles and services to the US as is the case in the reverse direction, over time the defense relationship could become more of a "two-way street."

These steps are well within the authority of Taiwan's legislature.

They could not only lead to final passage of the defense budget under consideration, but also ultimately to a fundamental restructuring of the way that Taiwan approaches defense procurement.

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