Our enemy within

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Our enemy within

The government has launched an investigative team to probe defense procurement corruption and irregularities. The team will include officials from nearly all administrative agencies with investigative authority.

The Board of Audit and Inspection will form a separate internal affairs task force to crack down on the network of corruption that has long been mired in defense procurement projects. Various government networks have joined forces to root out shady deals and collusion in state defense procurements and acquisitions. It is the largest investigation since the Yulgok project in 1993, which sent senior military officers to prison for bribery for the first time in Korea’s history.

If we don’t eliminate rampant corrupt and irregular practices in weapons development and purchases, we cannot guarantee the security of our country, which shares with North Korea one of the world’s most heavily armed borders. How can we confidently place our security in the hands of soldiers who were given weapons traded with dirty money?

This year has been tainted with a series of defense procurement scandals. Bribery allegations and faulty parts supplies related to the state-of-the-art Tongyeong salvage ship and special operations craft that had been newly added to the Navy at a cost of 159 billion won ($143 million) were exposed. Fault-finding in more than 40 cases - from K-11 dual-caliber weapons to a software program for submarines - was raised in parliamentary inspections. From guns to submarines, few areas in the arms program have not been smeared by corruption. Moral compromises in the defense industry are also endemic. Weapons performance records and costs were commonly manipulated upon delivery. The network of retired officers from the military and the procurement office working as lobbyists for the defense industry served as fertile ground for corruption. Active officers awarded favorable bids to their retired seniors and in return were rewarded with jobs after leaving the military.

Government and law enforcement investigators should examine not only the corruption network, but the fundamental structure with an eye toward overhauling procurement procedures. We cannot afford waste during an arms buildup, especially in tough economic times. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration must be reborn after serious soul-searching. Corruption in weapons procurement benefits the enemy, and we cannot tolerate enemies within our defense system.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 22, Page 38

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