Of the 10 points raised by President Chen Shui-bian (
Former president Lee Teng-hui (
Although both the government and the opposition parties reached consensus on this, the actual implementation has met with obstacles and interference, especially from officers who still believe that Taiwan should keep a large land army for the long-discredited and abandoned purpose of reconquering China.
"Up to now the military still likes to procrastinate. It likes to dodge pressure from the legislature and the government," said World United Formosans for Independence Chairman Ng Chiau-tong (
Ng said that when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the opposition party, it always advocated reduction of the size of the armed forces and in particular the army.
But when Chen took power in 2000, he had to spend more time and effort on personnel issues than the military structure. Inheriting armed forces that often saw themselves as simply a tool of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Chen had to spend time selecting and promoting an officer corps that was more in line with his own vision of a professional, non-political military dedicated to the defense of Taiwan.
Only when this was complete was he free to start on questions of force structure.
Former NSC deputy secretary-general Antonio Chiang (
Chiang says that even in former president Lee had to go through six years of very careful personnel planning in order to gain control of the military, and thereby actualize his national defense goals. When Chen assumed office in 2000, there was an air of instability among the middle-ranking military officers.
Chen sought to prioritize stability, emphasize both principles of morality and professionalism, and slow down personnel reshuffling. This was a fundamental step in military reform, Chiang said.
Military specialist and former NSC senior advisor Su Chin-chiang (
This means that Chen is determined to reduce the size of the army to 250,000 before the end of his term. This is a far greater speed of reduction than was anticipated and is taken as a sign of determination to have a smaller but better quality military.
"The organization of the military in the last few years has been through various phases of trimming and streamlining. But in fact only positions left empty or unfilled were really removed. From now on trimming really does mean the actual reduction in the number of serving soldiers, especially officers. Combined with reducing the term of compulsory military service to one year, the goal of trimming 100,000 military positions can definitely be reached," Su said.