Delays plague counterterrorism center

SETBACK::An official said Washington planned to use a counterterrorism training center, which was due to open next month, to train its other allies in the region

By Lo Tien-pin and Yao Yueh-hung  /  Staff reporters

Wed, Jun 04, 2014 - Page 3

A project to build a national counterterrorism training center that was scheduled to be completed next month has been postponed due to construction delays.

Even with a successful retender, the project will still not be completed until the end of next year at the earliest, said a national security official, who declined to be named, expressing concern that the delay might impact a plan for Taiwan-US counterterrorism cooperation.

The official said the US has been closely monitoring the progress of the training center, as it expects its burden of carrying out antiterrorism missions in the Asia-Pacific region to be lightened once Taiwan has a counterterrorism training site that is on a par with international standards.

The official further revealed that there is a politically sensitive plan for cooperation by the two countries that has not been made public.

The plan is to have Taiwan train counterterrorism special units for other US allies in the region under Washington’s guidance.

However, the delay to the construction of the facility means the plan might be negatively affected.

The government allocated a budget of NT$55 billion (US$1.83 billion) to build the training center in Taoyuan. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in July 2011 and was presided over by the then-minister of the interior, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺).

At the time, the ministry and the National Police Agency made an announcement that the project would be completed by the end of last year and the center would open next month.

Jiang said at the time that Taiwan is seriously lacking in counterterrorism skills and equipment, and to counter this deficiency in the ability to respond to terrorist activities and the lack of training sites and equipment, the police agency’s plan to build the center would enhance the nation’s counterterrorism force, deter potential terrorist attacks and ensure the safety of the public.

The agency said the training center would not be able to meet the deadline because the contractor had failed to finish the project due to financial problems and two new tenders had failed since the Construction and Planning Agency made the announcement in October last year.

The agency is in the process of holding another round of bids for the project.

The official said that while the national counterterrorism training center is a police agency project, it is not solely to be used to train the police agency’s special forces squad.

The Coast Guard Administration’s special forces and those of the military would also use the facility to practice their combat drills, the official said.

The official said that the US plans to send experienced counterterrorism experts when the center is ready for use to help raise the training center’s standards to international levels and that Taiwan-US counterterrorism collaboration would also be raised to a new level.