New Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) said yesterday that his ministry would continue streamlining the military, with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of military personnel to 200,000.
Chen made the announcement in his first report to the Legislative Yuan since being sworn in a day earlier, along with the other members of the new Cabinet under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Speaking at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Diplomacy and National Defense Committee, Chen said that the ministry would conduct a complete review of the various branches of the armed forces as well as the ratio of high-ranking officers to enlisted personnel in carrying out the streamlining program.
He said the streamlining plan would include all ranks of military personnel, not just low-ranking soldiers.
He answered legislators’ questions on various military topics, including the introduction of a volunteer recruitment system, arms purchases and the neutrality of the military.
The minister said that promoting the introduction of a fully professional, voluntary military recruitment system was one of Ma’s policies and that his ministry had to work in line with this policy.
Nevertheless, Chen said, the ministry would not rush to introduce a voluntary system regardless of the consequences just for the sake of change.
As all countries that have adopted such a system face problems regarding the quality of recruits, Chen said that one of the main considerations of his ministry in studying the full implementation of such a system was whether the quality of military personnel could be maintained.
Chen said another reason for continuing the military streamlining plan launched under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration was that a voluntary recruitment system could not be completed all at once under the current defense budget, which stands at 3 percent of GDP.
He said the number of military personnel, which currently stands at 270,000, would first have to be cut to 250,000 before gradually being reduced to the final goal of 200,000.
The minister added that the statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) that had been removed from military bases last year would not be restored, but the remaining ones would stay where they are.
“We should show some respect for Chiang Kai-shek, because, after all, he was the founder of the Army,” Chen Chao-min said. “But, due to a decreased budget, we will not restore the statues that have been removed.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG