[EDITORIALS]Half-baked military plansAt a meeting of senior military leaders presided over by Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-woong, worries about a defense reform plan were voiced. The defense leaders discussed the major problem of funding the program, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “If preconditions for the reforms are not satisfied, we must change the implementation plan.”
Now, shortly after the outline of the draft reform plan that focuses on fielding elite troops armed with state-of-the-art weapons systems was made public, the military leadership has started to worry about money for the program. More embarrassing is that the Defense Ministry is not able to give reasonable explanations of why they only started worrying about that problem now.
The overhaul, with a planned completion date of 2020, will cost 289 trillion won ($282 billion) for investments in better combat capabilities. But the ministry has no detailed financing plan, and only suggests that it will consult with the budget authorities about getting a higher rate of increase in the defense budget. The budget is rising by 6-plus percent annually now, and the military wants annual increases of 11 percent by 2015.
Even such increases might not be enough. In order to provide 289 trillion won, 19 trillion won should be allocated each year for the next 15 years. But only 7 trillion won is allotted to upgrading our soldiers’ arms in this year’s budget. The numbers can vary depending on assumptions about the size of budgets in the future, but counting on 11-percent annual increases seems very over-optimistic.
If wages and other operational costs are added to the budget for high-tech arms, we will need astronomical amounts. That is why the military and the National Assembly are worried. The ministry must stop proposing unrealistic plans. It must present a persuasive design for funding, and at a minimum must tell us how its plans would affect our tax bills. Defense reform can’t be allowed to gut spending on other important programs like social welfare.
In addition, there are many other problems, such as military downsizing and military relations with the United States, that need to be worked on. The military should cast a wide net in gathering opinions and come up with a plan supported by legal provisions that will plug the holes in its present proposals.