Fri, Nov 21, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Defense committee passes budget of NT$260 billion


The proposed defense budget for next year was passed yesterday by the legislature's defense committee, with only a symbolic cut of NT$350 million from the total requested sum of NT$260 billion.

The budget cut was the lowest in recent years, demonstrating that lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties were united in their support for the budget request from the Ministry of National Defense (MND), said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), who chaired yesterday's defense committee meeting.

Yesterday was the deadline for the committee to pass the proposed budget. During the meeting, lawmakers got the job done despite differences in opinion over certain issues.

At issue was whether the domestically built IDF plane should be included in the Link-16 program, which forms part of the command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) project.

The state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), the developer of the IDF, sent representatives to yesterday's meeting to lobby for a share of the project's NT$50 billion budget.

Lawmakers on the committee were divided in their opinions on the issue. Lawmakers supporting the AIDC demanded that the corporation should be given a chance to prove itself by installing the Link-16 system on the IDF.

Other lawmakers argued that it would be a waste of money if the AIDC were unable to handle the task.

Despite this disagreement, the committee still passed the budget for the IDF to be equipped with the Link-16 next year on an experimental basis.

A corporation official who attended the meeting told the press that two IDFs will initially be chosen to be equipped with the Link-16 system.

The AIDC's move to get the IDF into the C4ISR project was not supported by the MND, either. Some ministry officials, who spoke privately, said that the AIDC might think it is capable of accomplishing the task but not many people share that view.

"The AIDC could encounter many problems. First of all, they don't know how to build the Link-16 system into the IDF. Who will tell them?" a defense official said.

Another point of interest at the meeting was the army's plan to purchase land from civilians in Hsinchu County.

The army prepared a fund of NT$3.9 billion to buy 158 hectares of land in coastal Hsinchu County, which the army has been using since the early 1960s as a shooting range for its tanks and heavy infantry.

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