Taiwan Defense Budget 6.9% Below 2009 Figure
By WENDELL MINNICK
Taipei - Taiwan has approved a defense budget of $9.3 billion, a 6.9 percent drop from the 2009 figure of $9.6 billion, but only moderately below the military's request of $9.45 billion.
The reduction follows 2009's decline from the 2008 defense budget of $10.5 billion.
Part of the problem is justifying continued allocations for arms promised, but not released, by the U.S. government. The military has allotted large amounts of the defense budget for new F-16s, diesel submarines, mine hunter vessels and other arms promised by the Bush administration, but held due to Chinese pressure.
"Every year the military has to return the money back to the government, angering legislators and the general public," said a Taiwan defense source. "The public asks, 'why does the military need all this money when it does not spend it.'"
Taiwan political gamesmanship, which delayed a 2001 arms deal from the United States for several years, also contributed.
"After years of delays, Taiwan needed to show credibility and 'show us the money', but even after it did that by approving budgets for arms acquisition, the U.S. still delayed progress," said a U.S. defense analyst.
However, there are indications the United States is preparing to release new arms within the first quarter of this year. Sources indicate Washington is preparing congressional notifications for 60 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, additional Patriot PAC-3 missile defense batteries, phase II of the Po Sheng C4I/Link-16 upgrade program and a possible release of a diesel electric submarine design program.
However, the future of the defense budget appears dim as the economy continues to slip in Taiwan and the overall government budget is already in deficit. With plans to decrease taxes, few see hope of large defense spending increases in the future despite a need for more arms against China's ever-increasing military modernization program.