The prospective all-volunteer military service has a shortage of low-ranking leaders, prompting the adoption of policies to fast-track promotions for non-commissioned officers and bolster reserve officer training programs at universities.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration intended that the transition to a fully-voluntary military force be completed by 2014, but insufficient sign-up numbers pushed back the policy’s realization.
Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) in December last year said that the nation would successfully transition into an all-volunteer military service by the Lunar New Year, with 90 percent of the military made up of volunteer soldiers and officers.
However, the military lacks mid to low-level officers, sources said, adding that as of May, only 70 percent of its allotted officer positions were occupied.
Only 81 percent of captain’s billets, or 9,994 positions, were filled, while the military had only 4,762, or 54 percent, of first and second lieutenant positions filled, sources said.
The military requires at least 2,200 more volunteers to meet its 80 percent target of first and second lieutenant volunteers.
Non-commissioned officers make up 88 percent of staff sergeants, 87 percent of sergeants and 62 percent of corporals, accounting for 79 percent of non-commissioned officer positions.
The nation’s declining birthrate is the primary reason for the lack of low to mid-level officers, as military academies are not seeing the expected recruitment numbers, said a military official who declined to be named, adding the transition to an all-volunteer service has removed the necessity of recruiting reserve officers for compulsory service.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said the lack of low to mid-level officers is because of changes to the system.
The government should mull more changes, such as implementing measures that would enable junior officers and sergeants to change careers after retirement, Tsai said, adding that extending the minimum grade was also an option.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) said the government’s pension system revisions should be investigated and ameliorated to offer military personnel more security, which would attract more people to sign up for the military.
She also encouraged the ministry to launch military leadership courses.
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