Military budget questionsThe new plan for the nation’s defense recently announced by the Defense Ministry seems to be better organized than the one first established in 2005. It reflects the changing reality of defense conditions, such as the agreement on the transfer of wartime operational control to the South Korean Army scheduled for 2012; North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009; and the unprecedented global economic meltdown.
Now is the time to devise multifaceted security measures in preparation for the asymmetrical threats coming from the North.
The measures could include 24-hour monitoring of all of North Korea, improving precision firepower and introducing a guided missile system designed to prevent marine attacks.
One new part of the plan includes the establishment of “cooperative bodies by function,” which aims to ensure efficient management of combined operations between South Korea and the United States. We expect that its successful implementation will contribute significantly to eradicating suspicions of impropriety concerning the 2012 transfer of wartime military operational control. It would also be desirable to organize a standing army comprised of 3,000 soldiers with a mission to be actively engaged in various global peacekeeping operations. But there are questions about whether the reform plan can be implemented in its current form. Above all, we have to decide whether the planned increase in the national defense budget is realistic.
The 2005 defense plan allowed for a 9 percent annual increase in spending until 2010. But the actual rate of increase for the past four years has hovered at around 7 percent, presenting considerable difficulties for the plan’s implementation.
For example, the cost for the introduction of state-of-the-art weaponry for 2006-2010 was estimated at 12 trillion won ($9.4 billion), but the actual amount allocated in the end was no more than 800 billion won.
Considering that, the new defense plan is designed to maintain the yearly increase at a range of between 7.2 percent to 7.8 percent until 2020. Still, we cannot deny that there continues to be doubt about whether our economy can accommodate a 7 percent increase in national defense spending over the next 10 years. Chief military executives should bear this in mind.
The budget for the new national defense plan should reflect such variables as the changing security environment, weapons development and the low birthrate. And as these are conditions that change quickly, the need to implement more fundamental reforms has grown even stronger.
We should not simply rest with this plan, and we must spare no effort to yield better results.