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Defense budget up to raise combat readinessBy
Published : Sept. 27, 2011 - 20:14
The government has earmarked some 33.15 trillion won ($28.13 billion) for the 2012 defense budget, up 5.6 percent from this year’s budget, aiming to make the military “truly combat-ready,” officials said Tuesday.
It seeks to set aside 23.02 trillion won for the operation of the military power and 10.1 trillion won for enhancing defense capabilities, the Defense Ministry said. It will submit the plan to the National Assembly for approval on Friday.
“We have drawn up the budget plan with a focus on nurturing combat-ready forces that could be deployed immediately and win a war,” Vice Defense Minister Lee Yong-gul told a press briefing.
“The plan also focuses on bolstering our key military power currently in preparation to take wartime operational control (slated for December 2015) and on keeping up our defense reform drive.”
What is noticeable in the plan is that the government did not earmark any money for initiating a project to introduce a presidential airplane.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration requested a budget of 7 billion won for the project, which had been canceled last year due to monetary constraints. But the Finance Ministry has rejected the request.
“The budget for the presidential plane was not included as there has been a difference within the government over whether we should lease it on a five-year contract or introduce a new plane,” a Defense Ministry official said, declining to be named.
The government approved the project in 2009. In April last year, it chose Boeing of the U.S. and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company as bidders for the competition.
After EADS quit the bidding process, the government negotiated with Boeing over the price. Seoul stopped the project in September that year as it failed to narrow price differences in negotiations with Boeing.
The government also seeks to spend 20.4 billion won to vaccinate all military recruits against meningitis, a deadly infectious illness that attacks the brain and spinal cord. It also seeks to offer influenza vaccines to all soldiers.
It also set aside 5 billon won for the first time to address contamination issues involving the bases that the U.S. returned to South Korea without environmental surveys before May 2003.
The U.S. returned more than 80 bases between 1990 and 2003 without environmental inspections as the environmental rules, established in the Status of Forces Agreement in 2001, took effect in May 2003.
For the next-generation fighter jet procurement project, it has set aside 54.3 billion won. Seoul seeks to secure a high-end fleet of some 60 stealth fighter jets with an aim to deploy them from 2016.
The government also plans to spend 15.6 billion won on securing attack helicopters to better deal with North Korean provocations and 12.7 billion won on purchasing helicopters for maritime operations.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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