A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator recently called for a reduction of senior military personnel to normalize the country’s ratio of generals to troops, which remains relatively high despite a series of military personnel streamlining programs that have made a large number of generals redundant since 1997.
While lauding the military’s “remarkable courage and executive ability” to downsize 101 senior military officers under the current streamlining drive — a move that he said met much criticism — KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the number of high-ranking military staff should be further reduced.
“Taiwan’s relatively high ratio could negatively impact its international image because only countries that are in a state of war or have yet to be democratized boast such a high general-to-troops ratio,” Lin said.
Senior military officials comprise 0.45 percent of the US’ armed forces and 0.6 percent Japan’s. By contrast, Taiwan’s high-ranking military staff is expected to make up approximately 0.72 percent of its armed forces following the completion of the current streamlining project, Lin said.
Lin said that the program, titled the Chingtsui project, was initiated last year to reduce the imbalance, following two similar projects — the Chingshih project and the Chingching project — which were implemented in 1997 and 2004 respectively.
The Chingtsui project aims to bring the ratio of military personnel and ranking generals from the current 393 generals for every 275,000 troops, to 292 for every 215,000 by 2014.
However, the Ministry of National Defense announced in April that the highly publicized project — which it started developing in 2008 and planned to implement between last year and 2014 — would be extended to 2015.
Further reducing the number of officers would also make rank promotions in the military more difficult, which could deter senior military officers from adopting a passive attitude to their jobs, Lin said.
“In addition, such a move would also reduce government spending on personnel costs and retirement pensions,” Lin said, adding that adjustments should be made to the Chingtsui project as needed as the implementation of an all-volunteer military service progresses and considering the general economic environment.
“I believe there is still room for more reductions [in the number of generals],” he added.
Meanwhile, ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said there was no global standard for the general-to-troops ratio and that one country’s standard should not be applied to all because the arrangement of military personnel varied with each nation’s specific situation, historical background, and the size and organizational structure of its armed forces.
The number of Taiwan’s armed forces stood at as many as 1 million soldiers — including about 1,000 generals — after Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) retreated to Taiwan in 1949 with hundreds of thousands of military personnel.
Chiang and his son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), then started streamlining the military to ease the burden on state coffers.
Despite their efforts, Lo said that the total number of military officers based in Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Mastu was still about 600,000, including approximately 800 senior personnel during Chiang Chi-kuo’s administration.
The number only showed a noticeable decrease during the administration of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who launched the Chingshih project in 1997, he added.