President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday got the size of the nation’s military wrong again — marking the second time he has made the mistake in less than a month.
Ma received a group of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts yesterday at the Presidential Office and praised their performances in the Scouts programs.
“The scouts programs have seen vigorous growth and now number 51,000,” he said.
“That is nearly one-third of our nation’s military personnel. [Scouting] is an army with a mighty strength,” the president said.
According to calculations using Ma’s figures, the armed forces should number 150,000.
However, a Ministry of National Defense plan aims to cut military personnel by up to 20 percent to between 170,000 and 190,000 from 215,000 over the next five years.
Ma also got the numbers wrong during a meeting on Feb. 13 in Taipei with retired US Navy admiral Robert Willard, who commanded the US Pacific Fleet from 2009 to 2012.
On that occasion, Ma said that there were nine military personnel for every 1,000 people of the total population.
If that number were to be lowered to a ratio of six or seven in 1,000, the armed forces could still maintain national security and have sufficient defensive capabilities, he said.
If the ratio of six or seven in 1,000 people is calculated in a population of 23 million, that would be a military force of about 150,000.
This figure falls short of the ministry’s recruitment program, which targets a force of 180,000.
Ma subsequently corrected his calculations by saying that the ministry’s planned recruitment target is for a ratio of eight in 1,000 people in the nation’s population.
An unnamed official said yesterday that Ma’s words are insulting to Taiwan’s military.
He got the numbers wrong again and it was inappropriate to compare scouts to the nation’s professional fighting force, the official said.