Several Control Yuan members yesterday called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to implement the goal of seeing a civilian Minister of National Defense exercise leadership over the armed forces, an idea that was enshrined in the two national defense acts passed 10 years ago.
“Over the past 10 years, the country’s commanders in chief have shown concern about civilian control of the military and the military hasn’t been ready for such a development, which would be a symbol of military modernization,” Control Yuan member Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) said.
Huang and his colleagues Yu Teng-fang (余騰芳), Lee Ping-nan (李炳南) and Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平) called a press conference announcing their review of the implementation of the National Defense Act (國防法) and the Organic Act of the Ministry of National Defense (國防部組織法).
The two acts established the principle of civilian control over the armed forces, but aside from Michael Tsai (蔡明憲), who was unexpectedly appointed defense minister after his predecessor, Lee Tien-yu (李天羽), resigned over an alleged scandal, other defense ministers were all members of the military.
During that period, three defense ministers were transferred directly from the position of chief of general staff — Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明), Lee Jye (李杰) and Lee Tien-yu — while former defense minister Chen Chao-ming (陳肇敏) and incumbent minister Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) became minister after being discharged from the army after four years and five years respectively.
“It is a shame that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not accomplish the goal during his term and now the opportunity is in Ma’s hands,” Huang said.
Lee Ping-nan said there was plenty of room to improve the defense ministry’s policy of enlisting more civilian officials in the ministry.
“While it is true that it takes time for practices imported from Western society to take root in this country, 10 years should be enough time,” he said.
Huang said that Kao supported a suggestion by Control Yuan members that the law should require that individuals with a military background could only be appointed defense minister after having been discharged from the military for a number of years.