View of the top brassAir Force Gen. Park Jong-heon has raised a serious objection to the “National Reform Plan 307” aggressively pursued by the Lee Myung-bak administration in the wake of North Korea’s attacks on us last year. General Park explained why the shakeup poses a serious problem for military operations in times of crises.
“As Air Force operations often start and wind up in just 10 to 15 minutes, the officers in the command chain have to maintain a 24/7 alertness in the situation room. But if the top officer of the Air Force acquires operational control rights too, he has to maintain that level of alertness. But that would force him to be neglectful of his administrative tasks, such as military diplomacy, defense contracts and public affairs,” he said. He also stressed that according to the plan, our Air Force chief - a four-star general - would have to follow the instructions of the U.S. 7th Air Force Commander, a three-star general, even after wartime operational control is returned to Korea in 2015.
Opposition to the reforms is almost inevitable, as seen in previous attacks by former defense ministers, chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the top officers of each military branch. Their typical criticism says that each branch of the military would not only lose its professionalism and identity, but reforms would also pose a serious threat to the civilian control of the military if the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff wields both operational control and administrative power over the entire force.
However, if a disagreement comes from the current Air Force chief of staff, that’s a different story. General Park knows how to maximize the Air Force’s power better than anyone. The public may be wondering what happened to the planners’ supposed goal of consulting the opinion of each branch of the military.
Blue House officials said they’d regard counter-arguments by the top brass as a sign of insubordination. But the issue appears to go beyond that. If the brass objects merely protect their own interests, it would amount to disobedience. Professional officers, however, can and should express their own views about military revitalization efforts if they have genuine problems with the proposals. The government should not cover up its lack of communication with the top brass just because it fears bad publicity.
The Yeonpyeong attack proved that efficient operational command is much more important than expensive weapons. Revamping an inefficient command system is ultimately the key to the reforms.