Efficiency key to defense

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Efficiency key to defense

The Defense Ministry launched a committee on Monday for promoting the advancement of the structure of the national defense. And for the first time, a civilian scholar has been named the head of the Defense Reform Office at the ministry. It’s a department that oversees matters related to defense reform projects.

President Lee Myung-bak said during a cabinet meeting on Dec. 8 that there are “inherent loopholes” for corruption in the current weapons procurement and manpower administration structures, and that “we need to introduce some radical measures for improvement.”

Lee intended to push for the overhaul of the defense structure before the Defense Reform 2020 project undergoes major revisions next year. And the launching of the new committee and appointing a civilian to the ministry reform office can be read as signs that the president is determined to execute his plans.

The current defense reform measures were introduced in 2005. The gist is to streamline military manpower to about 500,000 and to bring in up-to-date weaponry. But experts have pointed to several issues, including problems that occurred while the measures were being prepared.

Rather than setting a reasonable timeline for reforms and determining the level of security and the appropriate military structure, officials instead collected reform ideas from different branches of the service to complete the project draft. In other words, it was difficult to come up with reform measures that could transcend the self-interest of all branches.

That is why the project is being criticized for being “manpower oriented” or at least “army centered,” even though it ostensibly pursues improvements in Korea’s capabilities in futuristic wars by acquiring the latest weapon systems.

At the same time, it’s become inevitable to spend an inordinate amount of the budget on defense reforms that may be impossible to secure.

Lee Myung-bak has said it would be possible to prepare a budget for defense reforms only if we can save on hidden costs while purchasing weapons systems for the project. We believe it’s a step in the right direction.

In addition, the government must seek ways to provide a more fundamental way to reform the nation’s armed forces.

The national defense reforms are a tremendous task. We need to undertake these steps so that the armed forces that require a huge budget and a great number of people can operate as efficiently as possible.

At the same time, we need to ensure there is absolutely no glaring hole in our national security preparedness. This is the reason we desperately need a deliberate and yet forceful push behind the reforms.
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