Procurement: March 26, 2005


In March, 2005, representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force met with officials from the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense and Taiwanese weapons contractors. This is part of the American Foreign Comparative Testing Program, established in 1980, to identify foreign weapons technology that can be used more quickly and cheaply than a American-created alternative. The program identifies mature foreign technologies that can be easily transferred to the U.S. military. Since its inception the U.S. has spent approximately $6 billion abroad. The latest mission to Taiwan was not to buy specific systems at this time, but to identify Taiwanese systems for potential future acquisition, in the next few years. Mentioned specifically was the need of the U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command), which manages acquisition and logistics of anti-terrorism weapons and systems for US commands worldwide. It was thought that SOCOM had brought with them a list of more than 300 items, including aircraft components, ammunition, laptop computers, satellite telephones, and infrared equipment.

Unstated, but likely a substantial part of this visit, is the message it sends to China regarding the dispute over Taiwanese independence. It was probably no coincidence that, during the visit, the local media reported efforts  to increase pressure for the passage of a nearly $20 billion bill to pay for US weapons that have been held on the back burner since 2000. A government spokesman noted that China has just announced a 12.5 percent increase in its annual military spending.

The Taiwanese government believes that to ensure continued Taiwanese freedom from outside aggression, his country must spend at least two-thirds as much of an increase as a potential aggressor in order to have a fighting chance of winning an armed conflict. To date, Taiwan remains far behind this ratio with China. However, the Ministry undoubtedly did itself no favors by continuing its pitch with the argument that defense issues may be just too important for a vote in the national legislature a statement sure to inflame opposition to such a defense bill, which would provide to the island nation such weapons systems as the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile, 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, and up to eight desperately needed modern air-independent propulsion submarines.

The Ministry is going full bore with a three part effort in its campaign. It is not only brow-beating the legislature and individual legislators but also going directly to the public in print and on TV with such slogans as one cup a day, referring to an argument that if each Taiwanese foregoes just one cup of tea a day, that money would help in un-stalling the proposed weapons purchases. Opposition legislators have countered by asking the Ministry to start by cutting the $20 billion by up to one-third.

China against the background of its increasingly flammable warnings against Taiwanese sovereignty -- may succeed in doing more to boost Taiwans weapons budget than could the Taiwan Ministry of Defense and the US DOD alone. K.B. Sherman


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