TAIPEI — Taiwan's military has undergone a major reshuffle among its top brass with naval officials rising to top positions — which could bode well for the service in future budgets. The turnover marks the first time the Navy has taken the top slot of minister of defense since Adm. Lee Jye served from 2004-7.
The Jan.uary 27 resignation of the Minister of National Defense Minister Yen Ming also lacks the conspiratorial or scandal-laden atmosphere of past leadership reshuffles. The chief of the General Staff, Adm.iral Kao Kuang-chi, replaced Yen, a former Air Force general, in an atmosphere of goodwill.
Lin Chong-Pin, a former deputy defense minister and vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said it was a good initiative and Kao and Yen are "both capable and professional officers."
"The Navy has gotten the short end of the stick in terms of budget allocations over the past decade and would like to see this redressed," a Taiwan defense analyst said. "Indeed, of the major FMS [US Foreign Military Sales] purchases funded since 2007, only the P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft and the sub-launched Harpoon missiles were Navy programs."
"It's a good initiative," said York Chen, a DPP member and defense policy expert. The personnel moves will help with the military's stability until the election, he said.
"According to the modus operandi of the top brass rotation, all the service heads will remain in their posts during the initial stage of the next presidency; it will be a positive factor for the stability of power transition in 2016," said Ching Chang, research fellow for the conservative-leaning ROC Society for Strategic Studies. Unless the US announces new arms sales, expect a "banal, but stable path" for the military until after the next president is sworn in.
Alexander Huang, chairman of Taiwan's Council on Strategic and Wargaming Studies, said this would also serve to "facilitate rejuvenation of the senior officer corps."
Arthur Ding, a cross-strait military affairs expert at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, agreed. "Downsizing has made top leadership look too old and is not good for raising younger leadership, so it is a combination of political and personnel administration considerations."
Chang said new naval investments before the election were unlikely as the budget process for fiscal year 2015 has been completed, and that means "the new leadership may only conduct the existing programs already established by their predecessors."
He also said restricted budgets are a challenge for the next administration and will give the new defense leadership less room for change, though the "new defense leadership may have the capacity to shape some rough edges ... the possibility of fundamental change is less likely to happen in the foreseeable future."