Several lawmakers yesterday expressed concerns that a plan to slash benefits for veterans as part of the government’s efforts to reform public servants’ retirement benefits would undermine efforts to create an all-volunteer military system.
Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) echoed those concerns during a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee to discuss proposals to reform the military’s benefits system.
The government must come up with “incentives” to encourage young people to serve in the armed forces, he said. He did not elaborate on what he had in mind as “incentives,” but said the government should loosen the criteria for veterans to receive post-retirement assistance.
Citing recruitment numbers from last year, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the plans to reform the military’s welfare system would make it more difficult to attract volunteers.
The military recruited 1,452 people last year to serve in the frontline Army, less than half its target of 3,124; while 828 people were recruited for non-combat positions, more than the target of 599, Lin said.
Only 304 people were recruited for the Marine Corps, far short of the target of 784, while 247 people were recruited for Coast Guard Administration (CGA), which had hoped to recruit 658, Lin said.
Lin said that only six people signed up to join CGA personnel on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea last year, and only two signed up for CGA positions in the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島).
The ministry hopes to have an all-volunteer force by the end of next year.
Kao said he remained optimistic and believed the ministry would achieve its goal, though he acknowledged difficulties ensuing from benefit reform proposals.
Kao said lowering the threshold for veteran benefits might be an option. At present, service members who are decommissioned or dismissed from the military qualify for veteran benefits if they have served for 10 years.
The threshold should be brought down to make more volunteers eligible and resources should be made available for retirees to continue their education, Kao said.