President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has failed to realize its promise to meaningfully increase military spending, academics affiliated with the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) National Policy Foundation think tank said yesterday, criticizing the feasibility of the government’s submarine program and continued recruitment difficulties.
“They only have empty words and are planning to ‘fight tigers with their bare hands,’” the foundation’s National Security Division convener Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said, criticizing the administration for cutting NT$10.3 billion (US$342 million) from the military investment budget this year, bringing it to NT$88 billion.
While flagship programs such as developing an indigenous submarine deserve support, there are serious concerns about their feasibility, he said.
“The government should avoid throwing away money,” he said, adding that major expenditures on the submarine program should be avoided unless US support is guaranteed.
A total of NT$2.9 billion is to be budgeted through December 2020 for the design of the vessels, according a ministry report to the Legislative Yuan, with ministry officials stating that assistance and technologies from the US would be required.
KMT Legislator Ma Wen-chun (馬文君) criticized the contracting of CSBC Corp, Taiwan to build the submarines despite failing to provide proof of relationships with international firms to acquire the necessary parts.
“There are really only two results — either money is going to be washed away, or we will be forced to choose from a pile of rubbish,” she said. “If you cannot get the key technologies, even if you manage to design it successfully, you could still run into a situation where people will not sell you the parts you need, forcing you to accept second-hand or bad pieces.”
“The navy is smart in that they have only budgeted funds for an evaluation of the submarine program,” said foundation consultant Herman Shuai (帥化民), a former army lieutenant general and KMT legislator, when questioned about the value of the program given China’s overwhelmingly superior destroyer and submarine fleets.
“The whole structure of the army is rotten, including low morale and a serious lack of soldiers and officers — why are they so focused on spending money on new weapons?” he asked.
Recruitment for volunteer military service is 21 percent lower than budgeted targets, Lin said, adding that difficulties in recruiting has forced cuts in targeted areas.
“The army is starting to look like a besieged city — many are fleeing and only a few people are entering,” he said, adding that only 1,158 new military officers were named last year, while 2,404 retired.
Recruitment difficulties also plagued the application of a fully voluntary military service under the previous KMT administration, with Lin citing “poor military discipline” when asked for a connection with DPP policies.
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