Military reform a top priorityWhen North Korea sank the Cheonan warship, a Blue House official lamented that it took almost three days until he received a report about the incident from the Defense Ministry. The logjam stems largely from the bureaucracy prevailing in the government. Even though the original report was drafted by a lieutenant colonel, it still required four to five senior officers’ signatures before it could make its way to the Blue House. Simply put, military reform is aimed at cutting red tape to enhance our military capability at times of crises.
However, implementation is not that easy because the scope of the reform is so vast. It ranges from what areas should be augmented to how we can increase the joint operability of the three branches of the armed forces. The astronomical cost is an entirely separate issue.
Still, it’s hard to understand why previous debates on military reform were never put into action. It was the Roh Moo-hyun administration that launched reforms by strengthening the Navy and the Air Force and shortening the compulsory military service period, all in the name of “Military Reform 2020.” But due to erroneous assumptions about an increase in the military budget and a scorching financial crisis in 2008, it ended up a failure.
The situation under the current administration is even worse. The government vowed to improve “Military Reform 2020,” particularly on the grounds that Roh’s plan ignored the standing threat from the North. But the government appears to lack substance in the rejuvenation. A presidential committee on enhancing the military has so far proposed to the president 71 tasks, including the creation of a combined military command incorporating the existing three branches of the forces.
But the top brass is reportedly timid about the reform agenda, which reminds us of the Army’s earlier thwarting of the government’s efforts to change its focus to become a new, high-tech force.
Eventually it all depends on the firm will and wisdom of the president as the commander in chief. Considering how our military responded to the North’s targeting of the Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, it’s difficult to deny that our security is completely reliant on whether our military reform will succeed or not. We hope President Lee Myung-bak will choose an appropriate reform agenda and push it ahead for the remainder of his term. The irksome practice of setting up a committee whenever a crisis occurs should be stopped now.