Parlous procurement processA nation’s military power depends on how to secure credible weapon systems appropriate to battlefields without hitches or a margin of error. However, the ongoing regular audit of our military by the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly has turned into a venue for bombshell revelations. According to the data obtained by committee members, 18 of 24 explosive devices on the Navy’s Yulgok Destroyer used to divert enemy torpedo attacks have rusted because they were not equipped with the plugs needed to block inflows of sea water.
As a result, the sophisticated Aegis destroyer that is supposed to be capable of thwarting enemy air raids or missile attacks has been exposed to potential torpedo attacks for the past two years. That’s not all. Speed boats and frigates have been out of order as many as 80 times over the last six months; the anti-aircraft 20-millimeter M61 Vulcan guns could not detect or trace targets in the sky; and anti-tank weapons were incapable of penetrating the armored surfaces of North Korea’s newest type of tanks. The loopholes in our weapons systems are very large and very embarrassing.
In addition, our major weapons systems - including the rescue ship Tongyeong, the K2 Black Panther battle tank and the K-21 armored vehicle, to name a few - were critically damaged because most of them have been sitting on the sidelines without being used. The Ministry of National Defense currently spends a whopping 36 trillion won ($33.9 billion) a year in projects aimed at augmenting our defense capability and operating those weapons. Despite the input of a huge amount of government funds, provided by our trusting taxpayers, our military has failed to secure combat capabilities befitting such a large expenditure budget because of defects in weapons acquisition systems.
The unfathomable situation in which expensive and high-end weapons systems cannot function as originally intended can only make our citizens more outraged than ever. The authorities must get to the bottom of the obviously rampant corruption among officials at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and their counterparts in the civilian sector, most of them former high-ranking officers in the military.
The government must find precisely what went wrong in the defense ministry’s military procurement systems and their operation and management. If necessary, the government must seek professional consulting from civilian agencies with expertise in the field. If the administration leaves the situation as it is - using the excuse of secrecy needed for the nation’s weapons procurement - it will be a critical dereliction of duty. The nation’s security is at stake.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 17, Page 34