Overhaul military procurement

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Overhaul military procurement

A joint civilian and military committee to end corruption in defense procurement decided to prevent active generals and colonels working at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) from returning to their military offices until they were discharged. The new regulation was drawn up after discovering that officials who worked at the procurement office were behind many relatively recent defense procurement irregularities.

It also increased the number of civilians on the various boards tasked with reviewing new procurement projects, up from 25 percent to 35 percent, to prevent collusion in the military and business circles. Additionally, retired DAPA officials could not be rehired in a related line of work for five years, up from the current three years.

These moves could help, but they will likely fall short of rooting out irregularities. Last week’s joint investigation results showed that even the wife of a chief of staff had allegedly attempted to exercise influence over the purchase of a weapons project worth 1.3 trillion won ($1.1 billion).

She reportedly sought advice from acquaintances on how much she should pocket when the businessman who secured the deal visited to thank her. Talk among the generals’ wives shows just how widespread bribery practices are in the military community. It also shows how ignorant the military may be if a relative can get involved. This is why military procurements have been made not on expert judgment, but through acquaintances and connections.

The government must start systematically grooming weapons experts. And they must be treated well so that they have a sense of pride in their job and evaluate procurements based on national rather than personal interests.

It should also consider licensed lobbyists. The system may not sit well with the Korean public when business deals are made largely through connections, but clandestine lobbying activities could be made more transparent through budgeting and accounting audits.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 22, Page 34

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