Plans to introduce an all-volunteer military could be implemented next year if the defense budget reaches about NT$300 billion (US$10.39 billion), the nation’s top defense official said yesterday.
Minister of National Defense (MND) Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) told a meeting of the legislature’s national defense and foreign affairs committee that the government’s promise to have a fully professional military next year would not be broken.
“Calculations by the ministry show that if the all-volunteer military program is to be implemented smoothly next year, the military will need about NT$300 billion — not the NT$400 billion as estimated by the Executive Yuan,” Kao said.
To reach that goal, the military hopes the defense budget for next year will reach 3 percent of GDP, or at least 2.9 percent, Kao said.
“And then we can have an all-volunteer military program,” he said.
However, Kao said the defense budget proposed by the Executive Yuan for next year was less than NT$300 billion and he would work to see it increased.
Attaining a defense budget of 3 percent of GDP was another campaign promise that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made. Three years into his presidency, he has yet to achieve that goal.
This year’s defense budget stands at 2.19 percent of GDP.
Another of Ma’s 2008 campaign promises was to have an all-volunteer military within four to six years.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民) said Kao needed to be insistent and utilize his ministerial power as a bargaining chip to demand a defense budget of no less than 3 percent of GDP.
“I promise to do that,” Kao said.
Kao said the Executive Yuan had formed a taskforce led by Vice Premier Sean Chen (陳沖) to find ways to finance an all-volunteer military system.
Kao added that he would ask for Chen’s support on the matter.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Peng Shao-chin (彭紹瑾) said the media had reported that the military could seek to defer payment for some US arms purchases and delay certain procurements to save money to finance the all-volunteer military program.
Peng said it looked like arms procurement could be sacrificed for the sake of fulfilling the promise to move to an all-volunteer military.
However, Kao said no such deferrals were in the offing.
“I promise that the weapon systems we need for our defense will be procured and that no delays will be made,” Kao said.