Looking back at the year of 2020, the Ministry of National Defense stated that the military has been, as usual, tirelessly committed to protecting the country and ensuring the nation’s security and soundness. While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to trespass on our maritime and aerial territories and relentlessly provokes our nation with military operations, the ROC military is dedicated to defending national security around the clock through close, thorough monitoring and is always prepared to respond accordingly to keep our sovereignty intact. In addition, the military has invested enormous efforts in promoting national defense autonomy and facilitating military procurement to boost its overall combat readiness, the results of which have been witnessed by the year of 2020. Looking forward, the MND pledges to initiate reforms of armed forces, enhance training for human resources and reinforce military discipline to build up more military capabilities. The following is a summary of major achievements based on the 2020 national defense policy and an outlook of future perspectives.
I. Responsiveness to Threat
(1) Close monitoring enemy intelligence
The military has been well-prepared to monitor all the activities of aerial and marine vehicles in waters surrounding Taiwan by means of well-orchestrated surveillance, reconnaissance and investigation systems. The year of 2020 has been a particularly complicated one for Taiwan, as the country has been buzzed by some 380 flights of Chinese fighter jets trespassing on the Southwest airspace. The MND has updated the military activities of the Chinese planes on a regular basis since September 16, 2020 both on its official website and Twitter page in Mandarin and English to inform the public of potential threat and brief them on the military’s response while making it clear to the international community that it’s China that is sabotaging peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
(2) Persistent training for readiness
The Han Kuang Military Exercise NO.36 was conducted in 2020, which featured a total of 22 major operations, including joint maneuvers by the Army, Navy, and Air Force, joint anti-landing drills by the three militaries, anti-landing operations on outlying islands. All of the three militaries have been mobilized in accordance with defense and combat requirements in the operations, which also benefited enormously from coordinated resources and efforts allocated by the civil society as well as the public and private sectors. The armed forces were able to validate their reserve forces as well as air, naval and ground defense capabilities through such operations.
II. Concerted Efforts against COVID-19
(1) Establishment of Epidemic Command Center
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early 2020, the military has been devising preventive measures in accordance with the guidelines stipulated by the Central Epidemic Command Center (“CECC”), treating the fight against the virus as real warfare. The Center for Response to COVID-19 was established by the MND on January 22 to conduct daily review and briefing of the latest developments in the armed forces following the CECC’s instructions. The National Armed Forces Epidemic Command Center was launched on October 26, tasked with coordinating anti-COVID measures and keeping them up-to-date.
(2) Dedication by the military to mitigation
All the military hospitals have been designated as health care institutions charged with treating COVID patients and conducting community-based testing. These facilities are required to treat and look after patients in separate compartments and sequences based on meticulous medical classifications. There are 35 isolation wards with negative room pressure and 41 reserve wards without. The MND has prepared 1,172 shelters designated for the COVID quarantine cases throughout 9 military camps in Taiwan, 2 of which are reserved for admission of inbound passengers from abroad for their temporary isolation. A total of 1,491 people have been accommodated. On the other hand, in response to the dire need for additional of supply of face masks in the beginning of the outbreak, the military dispatched some 70,503 troopers to assist the Ministry of Economic Affairs (“MOEA”) with domestic demand of face masks, helping the nation reach its target output. The MND has also delegated chemical task forces of up to 1,491 members to assist with disinfecting operations upon arrival of inbound flights and 988 vehicles to transport the arriving passengers to temporary shelters to contain spread of the virus.
(3) Disaster prevention and relief
The year of 2020 saw major disaster relief operations carried out in the aftermath of the 0522 Flood, Typhoon Hagupit, Typhoon Mekkhala, Severe Tropical Storm Atsani and Lumpy Skin Disease. In 28 general emergency relief missions, there were 4,502 men deployed as well as 717 assignments of ground, engineering, aerial and marine vehicles dispatched. The MND also worked in concert with the Ministry of Economic Affairs to produce artificial precipitation in response to drought alerts by sending 6 flights of C-130 transportation aircraft. The same model has been taken advantage by the emergency evaluation plans in Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu devised by Ministry of Transportation & Communications (“MOTC”), in which the MND participated by sending 32 flights and evaluated 2,030 people in the said areas.
III. Lean Armed Forces
(1) Recruitment targets met
With the generous support from the authorities, the MND has endeavored to retain our manpower. The recruitment goals for 2020 have been reached for commissioned military officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, 77.9% of whom are willing to continue their service. The overall target of 90% volunteer manpower has been reached, marking a brilliant shift from conscription to enlistment of volunteers on the way to building modern armed forces that are moderate in size and characterized by selected military professionals with remarkable readiness.
(2) Multiple channels of recruitment
The MND has engaged 390 middle schools of 506 in the entire country by signing a National Defense Preparation Program initiative. An MOU has been entered into with 130 out of 139 institutions of higher education respectively. Eight colleges have established a Bachelor’s program on National Defense in conjunction with the MND, including National Taiwan University (“NTU”), National Tsing Hua University (“NTHU"), National Cheng Kung University (“NCKU”), National Chengchi University (“NCCU”). The academic initiatives are intended for inclusion of more talented professional soldiers as volunteer forces.
(3) Promotion of elite military talents
Going forward, military manpower recruitment will be based on the balanced retirement and recruitment quotas while taking both quality and quantity into consideration. The criteria of recruitment will be lifted, as the nation intends to recruit only highly qualified professionals through academic initiatives such as the National Defense Preparation Program, ROTC and National Defense Bachelor’s Program. Meanwhile, active duty members will be assessed with rigorous standards and subjected to stringent discipline in order to retain only elite military professionals.
IV. National Defense Autonomy
(1) Indigenous Shipbuilding Initiative
The government has attached significant importance to national defense autonomy. The submarine initiative was launched on November 24, 2020. A brilliant milestone was reached on December 15, when the first High-Speed Minelayer vessel and Ta-chiang, the improved hull of the first ship of the Tuo Chiang class, were launched in Suao, Yilan.
(2) Indigenous fighter jets
The debut flight of the new advanced jet trainer (AJT) prototype was completed on June 22, 2020. The MND has also screened and selected contractors in response to 141 upgraded jets of F16A/B fighter and 66 F-16V jets to be procured from the US. A Center for Maintenance & Overhaul was launched at the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (“AIDC”) for the F-16V jets on August 22. With integrated industrial resources, the center aims at receiving certifications from major aerospace makers before becoming a nexus of production of aerospace parts and components and a hub of maintenance & overhaul tasks in Taiwan. The establishment is expected to largely shorten the timeframe of overhaul tasks and facilitate availability and readiness of aircraft.
(3) Defense privatization
In response to growing defense budget, more business opportunities may be released to the private sector to serve purposes such as procurement and maintenance of arms, weaponry, general military supplies. A number of domestic companies have benefited from some NT$100 billion within the past five years from 2016 to 2020, stimulating domestic economy.
V. Efficient Boost of Combat Readiness
(1) Procurement of advanced weapons
Faced with increasing threat, the MND is seeking procurement of HIMARS, Improved Mobile Subscriber System, Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems (“HCDS”), MQ-9B Sea Guardian, MS-110 pertaining to F-16 from the US. These items have been given green light by the US government at different points in 2020 and are expected to be a significant boost of nation defense capacity.
(2) Battalions of mixed military specialties
The 586 Armor Brigade witnessed a successful trial of organizational reform in 2019 by forming battalions of mixed military specialties. They completed their comprehensive manpower system for ground forces in the first half of 2020 and formed a task force that is equipped with prompt responsiveness and independent combat capabilities in both wartime and non-wartime. Such institution enormously enhances coordinated and independent combat capabilities.
(3) Reform of reserve manpower
The MND is currently carrying out a project to promote combat readiness of reserve forces. Taking a holistic approach to the defense strategy, the project aims at reforming organization, armed forces, training of mobilization recalls, reserve manpower management, equipment coordination and privileges granted to reserve forces. While enhancing the overall combat readiness of the reserve manpower, these aspects will contribute to a well-orchestrated system of mobilization, which is a major support to the nation’s defense capabilities.
VI. Care for Troopers
(1) Improvement of residential and office facilities
The Xin-an Project has been promoted to facilitate remodeling and reconstruction of aging buildings of military camps. As of 2020, 63 tasks have been initiated. The year of 2021 will expect to witness another 24 so that our troopers may benefit from modernized offices and residences. There will be special budgets allocated for those not included in the Project. As of 2020, 131 military buildings have been remodeled, with 114 to be done in the year of 2021.
(2) Affordable child care
Corresponding to the government’s child care policy, the MND sponsored the Dazhi Nonprofit Preschool in conjunction with the Taipei City Government. There were 8 classes consisting of 212 children as a favor for active duty members, the underprivileged, and residents living in the neighborhood, echoing the “the country raises children from 0 to 6 years” child care policy of the current administration—a policy that helps raise children aged 0 to 6. A total of 20 facilities have been chosen in 10 cities throughout Taiwan for public child day care, with the estimated goal of 64 classes offered by 2022 in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
(3) Social housing
The MND offers 64 sites throughout the Taipei Metropolitan area and Taoyuan for public housing construction needs at the request of the Ministry of the Interior. 23,771 households are expected to be built at these sites, 1,000 of which will be reserved for lower-ranking military officers, soldiers, and contracted employees of the MND so they will be able have an affordable housing option.
(4) Long-term care policy
Resonating with the government’s “long-term care 2.0” policy, the MND plans to build 2 more daycare centers accommodating 60 people per day in 2021 on top of the current 3 facilities accommodating 98 people per day. In addition to the 10 existing nursing homes with a capacity of 931 beds, one more such nursing home dedicated to long-term care will be built by the end of 2022, which is expected to have 110 beds. Furthermore, the MND has accomplished its long-term care 2.0 policy package by converting and upgrading military hospital spaces for nursing care. 4 more long-term care residence-style facilities are expected to be launched between 2024 and 2029, providing 640 beds in total for military dependents and civilians.
VII. Heightened Military Discipline
(1) Military Discipline Reform Project to be implemented
Military discipline is an essential indicator of a country’s combat readiness and is often a representation of the military’s image in the eyes of the public. Thanks to all the dedication by the all the active duty members to upholding military discipline, disciplinary incidents have trended downward incrementally: 0.375% in 2018, 0.292% in 2019, 0.281% as of November 30, 2020. The MND has scrutinized with a practical standpoint all the factors that may have impact on military discipline performance to enhance integrity and reinforce military discipline. These factors include institutional reform, training, execution, assessment and review, which are all encapsulated in the Military Discipline Reform Project. The project was promulgated in September, 2020 and underwent revision after a 3-month trial validation period. The project is expected to go into effect on January 1, 2021.
(2) Legal investigation hierarchy introduced
A three-tier legal investigation hierarchy was introduced on October 1, 2020, encompassing a tier-based system of investigation with the MND being the highest tier, followed by command headquarters of different militaries and regiment command headquarters. Each tier is presided over by military judges who have been through rigorous training in criminal investigation and administration proceedings. Major cases will be accompanied by ad hoc committees with experts invited from the civil society and will be witnessed by either the spouse, immediate relatives, or those of kinsman of the third-degree consanguinity of the victim, or the lawyer chosen by the said qualified family members. Those involved in the delinquency will be subject to disciplinary actions in their respective units for their misconduct and/or prosecuted by the ROC legal system where applicable.
(3) Cross-departmental military integrity investigation
The MND has created a Driving under influence (“DUI”) inquiry platform in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation & Communications (“MOTC”), which provides immediate access to cases of such nature. In August and October, 2020, respectively, the MND also worked with the Directorate-General of Highways and the National Police Agency in instituting an inquiry database of those rejecting DUI test and involved in narcotics/drugs. Offenders will not be tolerated, as justice will be served to maintain the highest integrity standards.