As Taiwan enters a politically sensitive period preceding highly contested legislative elections in December, Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration is traveling along a bumpy path to guarantee Taiwan’s defense and national security. President Chen, having overseen a major transition in defense leadership during the first month of his second term, is consolidating control over the country’s national security and defense establishments and trying to implement a far-reaching force modernization and defense reform program. However, a number of obstacles continue to slow progress.
First, a strategic and rational approach to force modernization is complicated by a highly divided domestic polity in which the opposition is using defense issues as a bully pulpit to further its political agenda. Second, Taiwan continues to suffer from limited choices in its force modernization plan, an issue that is only further complicated by an inefficient defense industrial infrastructure. This quarter’s defense and national security analysis examines the domestic political and economic environment in the lead-up to the December 2004 legislative elections, defense budget and procurement developments, and provides an update on key procurement programs.