Voluntary service to determine military size: MND

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday said it may further cut down the size of Taiwan’s armed forces depending on the results of voluntary service recruitment in the coming years.

MND Department of Strategic Planning Director-General Cheang Yun-peng (成雲鵬) said the ministry will not rule out the possibility of further cutting down the number of troops from the proposed goal of 215,000. “Now our goal is to downsize our troops to around 215,000 by the end of Nov. 2014,” Cheang said at an MND news briefing. However, he said that there will be room for further downscaling in the future. He would not give an exact number about the possible further downsizing plan. But he stressed that the military will make an official announcement following a comprehensive review.

It is a global trend to streamline the number of soldiers in international armed forces, Cheang noted.

Taiwan’s military will continue to be streamlined into a lean and highly effective force to consolidate defenses and provide an effective deterrent to possible Chinese invasion, he noted. The MND official made the remarks when asked to comment on a Control Yuan report released last week that issued a warning over the government’s voluntary military plan.

The government watchdog said that the voluntary military transformation could fail, given the ongoing sluggish recruitment. If the transition to an all-volunteer force is a government policy that cannot be changed, the MND should “reconsider its target of a 215,000-strong military,” the Control Yuan said. The military originally said the R.O.C. armed forces would be downsized to around 215,000 from the current 275,000 as Taiwan is expected to abolish the existing conscription system and replace it with a full voluntary scheme by Jan. 1, 2015, However, the MND announced this September its intention to postpone the abolishment of the conscription system by two years to 2017 due to sluggish volunteer recruitment numbers. Optimism on Voluntary Military Transformation

Meanwhile, speaking during the same ceremony yesterday, Administrative Deputy Defense Minister Chao Ke-ta (趙克達) said despite the bleak outlook, the ministry is still optimistic that it will complete its mission for the military system overhaul. According to the MND, the armed forces only need to recruit around 10,000 voluntary soldiers per year between 2014 and 2016.

Starting in 2017 when the new system officially hits the road, the military needs to recruit around 7,000 soldiers a year to maintain a defense-capable force. Taiwan’s armed forces have recruited 8,603 men and women in the first 11 months of 2013. Chao noted that the ruling administration has approved a series of measures to boost voluntary recruitment including salary increases for soldiers and offering better environments for servicepeople so that more local youth will be willing to see the armed forces as a potential lifelong career.