Early departure is serious! The Taiwan military volunteers will be reduced by 10 battalions next year

7 days ago • 2 pageviews

Taiwan's "Ministry of National Defense" will usher in one-year compulsory service next year, with an estimated total of more than 9,100 people. However, the island found that next year's volunteer posts will have a negative growth for the first time since 2020, which is equivalent to reducing the volunteer manpower of nearly 10 battalions, which will have a considerable impact on the combat effectiveness of the Taiwan military.

According to Taiwan's "China Times" reported on the 11th, Taiwan's "Ministry of National Defense" budget documents show that the budget posts of volunteer officers and soldiers in 2020 were 169,300, which increased to 171,400 this year, but next year's budget posts showed the first negative growth since 2020, reduced to 166,300, which is not only a sharp decrease of 5,187 people compared with this year, which is equivalent to reducing the volunteer manpower of nearly 10 battalions, but also sets a new low since 2020. Of the 5,187 people reduced, 99 percent are non-commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers who are the backbone of grassroots units, of which the number of noncommissioned officers dropped by 300 from 14,600 this year to 14,300; the number of noncommissioned officers dropped from 75,200 this year to 73,600, a decrease of 1,600; and the number of soldiers dropped from 44,900 this year to 41,670, a decrease of more than 3,200.

Jie Zhong, associate researcher of Taiwan's "National Policy Research Foundation," said that from next year's budget for "increasing the number of combat troops and increasing the supply of volunteer service," we can see a significant reduction in volunteer manpower. This year's budget for this expenditure is about NT$4.3 billion, but next year only 4.1 billion yuan, a reduction of 5 percent, shows that the total number of volunteers in the combat units of the Taiwan military may decrease by 5 percent next year, which will inevitably lead to a decline in the "staffing ratio" (the ratio of the actual number of people to the budgeted number) of the main battle troops.

Data map of the officers and men of the 542 Brigade of the Taiwan Army. Pictured from Taiwan's Zhongshi News Network

As for the reasons for the sharp reduction in volunteer service budget posts next year, Jie Zhong analyzed that first of all, the situation of Taiwan military volunteers leaving the camp early has not been alleviated, and may even be more serious. This can be seen from the fact that Taiwan's "Ministry of National Defense" will both increase the income of "compensation for volunteer soldiers who are not suitable for active service" and "compensation income for officers and non-commissioned officers who have not completed their service years." Among them, the former increased from 176 million yuan this year to 191 million yuan next year, an increase of 9 percent; "compensation income for officers and non-commissioned officers who have not completed their years" increased from 50.85 million yuan this year to 81.634 million yuan next year, a big increase of 61 percent. As for the reasons for leaving the camp early, a research report published on the official website of Taiwan's "Legislative Yuan" shows that the highest proportion of reasons for volunteer service leaving the camp is "life planning", accounting for 35%; followed by "inflexible and unfree working hours" at 23%; Other reasons are "excessive discipline in the unit, poor working environment and facilities, heavy work, frequent transfers, hindered promotion, and inability to gain a sense of achievement from work". Some respondents believe that signing up for 4 years is too long, and if there is an unsuitable situation in the middle, they must lose money and leave.

Secondly, due to the inflow of some men into compulsory service, the gap between the salary of compulsory service and volunteer service has narrowed, resulting in a decrease in the willingness to volunteer, coupled with factors such as the declining birthrate, Taiwan's "Ministry of National Defense" is pessimistic about the recruitment results of volunteer manpower next year. It is understood that on January 1, 2024, the current compulsory service period of the background army will be restored from 4 months to one year, and the salary of the second soldier of compulsory service will also be adjusted, from about 6,510 yuan per month to 26,307 yuan. However, volunteer soldiers still maintain a monthly salary of 35,320 yuan, and volunteer soldiers bear higher risks, pressures and responsibilities than compulsory service, regardless of peacetime and wartime, but their salary is less than 10,000 yuan more.

Taiwan's "Lianhe Pao" said on the 11th that Taiwan's three armed forces have experienced the dilemma of insufficient recruitment of main battle troops, ships, and outer island troops for a long time, and long-term negative growth of manpower, and they all hope to make up for the ratio of personnel with compulsory service manpower and restore the "glory" on the manpower account. Public opinion on the island speculated that the Taiwan military was obviously "secretly cutting" the posts needed for volunteer service. However, Jie Zhong said that due to the difference in functions between volunteer service and compulsory service, coupled with the rapid turnover of volunteer personnel, which makes it difficult to maintain training results, although this measure can reduce the shortage of main battle troops, the improvement effect on the loss of combat strength is very limited. In particular, in the next 3 to 5 years, the Taiwan military will receive at least 15 kinds of new equipment, and if there is a rapid decrease in volunteer personnel, it will have an adverse impact on the formation of combat strength and follow-up maintenance of new equipment.

At the same time, Jiezhong mentioned that although the number of volunteer service budget posts will be drastically reduced by 5,187 next year, the budget number of volunteer service on the outer islands will rise against the trend, from 14,200 this year to 14,700 next year; if the 700 compulsory service personnel scheduled to be distributed on the outer islands are added, the number of Taiwan military troops stationed on the outer islands will increase by 1,200 next year, or as high as 8 percent. The "Golden Horse Award" jokingly called by the former service men has returned, but Jie Zhong believes that this should only fill the long-standing shortage of troops on the outer islands, in line with the regulations of the "Ministry of Defense", and may not necessarily expand the army on the outer islands.

The United News Network commented on the 11th that conscripts, whether in function or training, are different from the members of the volunteer units, and to be placed in the volunteer units in the way of "filling gaps", not only the management is facing challenges, but also the relatively stable combat power accumulated by the volunteer service system will be gradually lost due to the frequent retirement of compulsory service manpower.

Responsible editor: Yue Yutian