The Ministry of National Defense has proposed earmarking NT$5.5 billion (US$180 million) each year to increase the monthly salaries of voluntary recruits in a bid to counter the difficulty it is having in getting people to volunteer to serve in the military.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) yesterday questioned the efficacy of the military’s promotion of the all-volunteer service during a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
Citing military statistics, Lin said that the Missile Command had aimed to recruit 510 volunteers this year, but only 152 people had signed up so far, from which just 89 had reported for duty.
The figures show that acquisition rates are as low as 17.5 percent, the legislator added.
Furthermore, only 8 percent of the 89 who showed up at the command held college degrees, while the rest were senior high-school graduates, Lin said.
“The promotion of the all-volunteer system has been carried out inadequately and it appears to be very difficult to achieve the recruitment targets,” Lin said.
“I suggest that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) propose holding a national referendum to have the public decide whether to have a conscription or all-volunteer system,” the lawmaker added.
In response, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) said that the military proposes allocating part of the yearly budget to raising voluntary recruits’ monthly wages.
According to the ministry’s proposal, all military volunteers would receive a NT$4,000 monthly raise starting next month, Yen said.
He added that the change from a mandatory to a voluntary service is a major transition and expressed hope that rearranging the military’s personnel budget to support the wage increase would help facilitate the change.
The establishment of an all-volunteer recruit system was one of Ma’s main campaign platforms when he was seeking re-election.
On Thursday last week, Ma pledged that the government would continue to push the all-volunteer system, but said that the goal of recruiting 170,000 volunteers was perhaps too high and therefore may be reduced.