A majority of military experts are pessimistic about the nation’s transition to an all-volunteer force due to the difficulties of enlisting sufficient volunteers, according to a Control Yuan report published yesterday.
Control Yuan members Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) and Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平) released their joint report, titled The Latest Developments of the Government’s Facilitation of An All-Volunteer Military, at a press conference in Taipei yesterday afternoon.
“We have spoken to several military experts, including a former minister of defense and a serving chief of staff of the army. Most are deeply concerned about the goal of having an all-volunteer military,” Huang said, adding that Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) is the only official endorsing the system.
The all-volunteer system was originally scheduled for 2015, but was postponed for two years by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in September because of recruitment difficulties.
In the first 11 months of the year, the military enlisted a total of 8,603 volunteers, just 30.15 percent of the ministry’s target of 28,531 recruits.
The report quoted retired navy vice admiral Lan Ning-li (蘭寧利) as saying that the consequences of implementing an all-volunteer system could be “devastating,” as the armed forces would most likely “run out of soldiers” when it could neither enlist sufficient volunteers or convince enough officers to stay in the military.
Former navy commander-in-chief Admiral Miao Yung-ching (苗永慶) was also quoted in the report as saying: “My gravest concern is that the all-volunteer system may not be fully developed by the time the government scraps the conscription system… Is it possible for [the government] to postpone the suspension to a later date?”
Chao said that aside from the recruitment issues, the ministry also faces major financial challenges.
“The all-volunteer system is expected to cost the government NT$50 billion to NT$60 billion [US$1.66 billion to US$1.99 billion] a year more than the conscription system. That figure is likely to increase rather than decrease over time. Where will we get that kind of money?” Chao said.
Huang said the problems would only be exacerbated when the all-volunteer system comes into effect in 2017.
“By then, there may be only three options left for the ministry: Cutting the size of the armed forces, which is also proposed by some of the experts we spoke to; further deferring the implementation of the all-volunteer system; or reinstating the conscription system,” Huang said.
However, the pair declined to give an unequivocal answer when asked by reporters whether they “strongly suggest” that the government abandon the all-volunteer goal altogether.
“Military affairs are vital to the nation, so we must not jump to any conclusions… However, we cannot say we are optimistic [about the all-volunteer system] either,” Huang said.