Assembly slashes budget for arms procurement

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Assembly slashes budget for arms procurement

In the aftermath of a recent series of irregularities in the defense industry, the National Assembly has slashed the budget for the arms procurement programs, while increasing the money allocated for projects aimed at improving the welfare of soldiers.

The Ministry of National Defense said on Wednesday that the National Assembly approved on Tuesday a defense budget of 37.45 trillion won ($33.66 billion).

That amount is 4.9 percent greater than this year’s budget.

The ministry said it will command 26.44 trillion won of the total budget, while the rest will be used by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

During their deliberations, lawmakers slashed 248.5 billion won from the government’s proposal on major arms procurement projects. Instead, they added 144.5 billion won to plans to improve the welfare of the nation’s troops. Money for projects to modernize the barracks and provide reception-only mobile phones was included in the expanded budget.

According to the ministry, a reform committee, formed by experts from the private sector, government and military, was launched in August. They came up with suggestions after site inspections and collecting public opinions. Among the recommendations, a few urgent projects were selected and the government has allocated budgets for next year.

The ministry said 23 billion won will be spent to improve the lighting, ventilation and sanitary facilities of 208 aged barracks.

About 7 billion won was put toward a trial program to hire private companies to maintain and clean military installations and pull weeds in order to increase education and rest time for soldiers. Two divisions at the border, two marine divisions and one Army ammunition depot will be selected for the program to evaluate its effectiveness.

Another 1.2 billion won was allocated to provide reception-only mobile phones to soldiers. The ministry said phones are installed in the administrative office of each unit but soldiers have experienced difficulty making private calls. The ministry said the program will allow easier access to conscripts so that they will more easily communicate with their families.

A new emergency patient support center will be created and further events will be arranged to invite families to visit the barracks.

However, lawmakers largely slashed the budget for arms procurement programs. After a series of irregularities involving past procurement projects came to light, the Park Geun-hye administration launched a massive investigation last month into DAPA, the military and the defense industry.

The military received 11.14 trillion won to improve defense capabilities next year, but that amount is 151.8 billion won lower than what the government had requested.

Lawmakers kept most of the government proposal for the budgets to develop the Kill Chain, designed to preemptively strike North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, and the Korean Air and Missile Defense system, an independent, low-tier missile shield. Both are key military capabilities for its independent countering of the North’s nuclear and missile threats.

The lawmakers cut 30 billion won from the government proposal for the next-generation military satellite communication system, 60 billion won from the large attack helicopter project and 63 billion won from plans to improve the capabilities of the military’s KF-16 fighter jets.

The Boramae project, aimed at developing advanced multirole fighter jets, received additional funds. Lawmakers added 25.2 billion won to the government’s proposal and the project secured 55.2 billion won. The lawmakers also wrote up a new budget of 40 billion won for the Tactical Information Communication Network, a digital command-and-control system.

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