MND floats ‘defense donations’ schemes for service exemptions

The China Post staff

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) proposed two forms of “defense donations” yesterday as part of its efforts to reform the country’s military service system. One of the proposals would allow conscripts to pay a required amount of money for exemption from mandatory military service.

The other proposal demands that all citizens pay additional defense taxes to raise funds for implementing an all-volunteer military recruitment system. Both proposals drew criticisms immediately from opposition lawmakers. People First Party Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung said the “cash for exemption from military service” proposal is ridiculous and unthinkable. If the measure were to be implemented, Liu said, the quality of Taiwan’s armed forces would decline substantially. Moreover, the measure is tantamount to a discrimination against poor families. MND officials said they understand the “defense donation” proposals are controversial. Extensive discussions would be needed if the measures would truly be implemented, they added. But an MND opinion survey found that 71 percent of those interviewed support the proposal to forge a national defense donation system. Furthermore, survey results showed that many local students support the proposal to exempt those who have donated a specified amount of money from mandatory military service. Nevertheless, the poll also found that local parents are almost evenly divided over the proposed “cash for exemption from military service” measure.

The MND’s military conscription system research panel conducted an opinion survey in May to explore local people’s attitudes toward the reform of the country’s military service system.

The survey found that 76 percent of college students interviewed gave a thumbs up to the proposal to formulate a defense donation system, and only 24 percent said they opposed the measure.

Among the proponents, 32 percent said they backed the idea to deduct the mandatory military service period for those who have made a certain percentage of “defense donations”; 31 percent said they support the proposal to completely exempt those who have donated a required sum of money from military service; and 13 percent said they support the establishment of a defense donation system in a manner other than the above mentioned two forms.

In contrast, 45 percent of parents interviewed said they disagree with the implementation of a so called defense donation system, while 25 percent said they back the proposal to offer a deduction of the length of military service to those who have made defense donations. Meanwhile, 16 percent said they prefer to see the complete exemption of military service for those who have donated national defense funds, and 13 percent said they support other forms of defense donations.

Analyzing the survey results, an MND official said since local people have not yet come to a consensus on the defense donation system, the ministry should make a further review before deciding whether to put it into practice.

According to the survey, most of the respondents support the country’s current conscription-and-recruitment mixed military enrollment system.

The poll further found that local people have little interest in pursuing military careers. For those who are willing to become a professional soldier, job security is a major attraction, according to the report.