The Ministry of National Defense has drawn up a 33.48 trillion won ($32.43 billion) budget plan for next year with a focus on making the military “truly combat-ready.”
The ministry submitted its budget proposal to the Finance Ministry on June 30. The planned budget is 6.6 percent higher than the 2011 budget of 31.4 trillion won.
“In broad terms, we can say that we have significantly increased the budget for battle training, as our foremost priority lies on building up combat readiness of our soldiers,” Ahn Il-hwan, senior ministry official in charge of budgetary issues, said in a press briefing.
“We also placed a high priority on enhancing the troop morale and welfare. However, we have drastically reduced our expenditures on expanding military facilities.”
To raise combat-ready forces, the ministry has set aside 4.27 trillion won. The budget calls for fortifying the five northwestern border islands, upgrading vigilance equipment and increasing surveillance and precision weapons systems, officials said.
In the wake of the torpedoing of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which killed 50 South Koreans in total last year, the military has sought to streamline its command structure further and strengthen combat readiness for North Korean provocations.
For the fortification of the border islands and the operation of the command newly created to protect them, the ministry has earmarked 154.8 billion won. To improve its surveillance and C4I (Command, Control, Communication, Computer and Intelligence) system, it plans to spend 418.2 billion won.
To improve precision strike capabilities and aerial defense systems, the ministry hopes to spend 2.25 trillion won. Under the plan, it will purchase more K-9 self-propelled howitzers, mid-range GPS-guided precision bombs and other strategic arms.
To produce battle-ready troops, the ministry plans to spend 5.06 billion won. With this budget, it plans to increase the shooting training requirement for a soldier from 64 shots to 240 shots a year. It also wants to expand its live-fire training using Joint Direct Attack Munitions and other precision bombs.
To improve the military medical system and hygienic conditions at basic training centers, the ministry seeks to allocate 263.3 billion won.
Of that amount, it hopes to spend 6 billion won to vaccinate all military recruits against meningitis, a deadly infectious illness that attacks the brain and spinal cord.
The move comes after young trainees have contracted and even died from meningitis. The cases have prompted sharp public criticism for the poor medical systems in the military.
To prepare for the takeover of wartime operational control from Washington ― slated for December 2015, the ministry has allotted 1.887 trillion won. Of them, it plans to spend 18.3 billion won on establishing a war game center to enable the South to independently operate in wartime.
Other plans call for spending 16 billion won to procure attack helicopters designed to repel North Korea’s provocations, 13 billion won to purchase helicopters for maritime operations and 55.9 billion won for a fighter jet procurement project.
Meanwhile, a state committee on defense procurement projects has decided to scale down the mid-term proposal for the defense procurement budget, triggering concerns that the reduction could affect a series of key programs to secure high-tech weapons, according to military sources.
The proposal for the 2012-16 period was set at 60.75 trillion won including 10.46 trillion won ― 11 trillion won less than the proposal set in 2009. Critics say that the budget cut could shrink the projects to secure K-2 tanks, K-21 armored vehicles and K-11 airburst assault rifles and other programs.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)