[EDITORIALS]Modern defense needs cashThe framework of the government’s draft bill for military reform has emerged. The Army will be integrated under one operational command after disbanding the current three armies, and the number of army corps and divisions will be reduced by half. The Navy and the Air Force will also abolish special corps or headquarters. The government aims to reduce the current 680,000 troops to 500,000 by 2020.
The Korean Army has a complicated chain of command. For an order from the Defense Ministry to reach a combat unit in the field takes eight or nine steps. In the past, there have been some unnerving incidents, such as the case in which the military leadership learned first from the media that a North Korean armed infiltrator had been killed by our troops.
The current defense posture, in which an army division is responsible for the airtight defense of a 20-kilometer sector of the Demilitarized Zone, does not suit today’s warfare. The new plan, we hope, can eliminate most such inefficiencies.
But there are other things that need our attention. First of all, the reform should not damage combat capability. Military reform aims at building elite units equipped with state-of-the-art arms. It is necessary to have an accurate study on how to define the duties of army corps and divisions and what weapons to buy to carry out those duties. If we face a problem after procuring arms hurriedly, we will not only waste huge sums of tax money, but also be stuck in a mire where we can neither change nor cancel those purchases. It is imperative, therefore, that the Assembly agree to the plan only after it sees a complete blueprint for military reform.
The defense modernization plan requires 99 trillion won ($97 billion). But the government has not put forward concrete plans for financing that plan. Now that the restructuring of the Army has started, it must show publicly that the money will be available. Seoul must also ensure that the Korean people understand that we will need a huge increase in the defense budget for modernization despite the reduction in the number of troops.
Earlier administrations have tried to restructure the military, but the attempts failed because of opposition from the military leadership, worried about protecting their vested interests. Such problems should not be repeated. The military must remember that its priority is national security, not the self-interests of its leadership.