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Military Personnel

Taiwan ended compulsory military service on 26 December 2018, when the final group of 412 conscripts was discharged. By 2018, Taiwan had approximately 215,000 personnel in the armed forces (approximately 70 percent of whom were volunteers), supported by approximately 1.7 million reservists and nearly 1 million civil defense volunteers. Taiwans military modernization program envisions a continued decrease in Taiwans active duty force to approximately 175,000 personnel as part of the transition to an all-volunteer force by 2019. This transition has slowed due to severe difficulties recruiting enough volunteers.

The cost savings from manpower reductions provides some margin to improve individual pay and benefits, housing, and incentive pay; however, these savings have been insufficient to cover the full increase in manpower-related costs needed to attract and retain personnel under the new system. The unanticipated magnitude of transition costs has led Taiwan to divert funds from foreign and indigenous defense acquisition programs, as well as near-term training and readiness.

A person in the ROC military may be an officer, a noncommissioned officer (NCO), or an enlisted man. He may be serving on either a volunteer or a conscript basis, and may be on active duty or reserve status. Since 2000, the service term for a conscript, which previously stood at two years, has been cut to around one year. Military personnel were cut between 2003 and 2008 due to political considerations. The move resulted in difficulty in maintaining combat training and abilities, so transition to a volunteer military system was needed to recruit outstanding, dedicated talent and build up a solid standing defense force.

In the past, because the militarys capacity to train new recruits was insufficient, most new college graduates had to wait up to six months to start performing their military service, with only a small fraction of them being able to do so within one or two months of graduation. This delay translated into wasted time for the young men, who could not enter the workforce in the interim period due to the uncertainty of the waiting time. The situation also indirectly contributes to an increase in the nations unemployment rate.

In the past, every year an average of about 100,000 men of conscription age began performing their one-year military service. In 2010, roughly 98,000 will join the military, including nearly 70,000 new college grads who began serving between June and December. In order to reduce the time these young men have to spend waiting, in 2010 the military was ready to train 18 battalions, which translates into about 10,000 new recruits, from June 29 or June 30. In the event this capacity is insufficient, an additional eight battalions would be added to accommodate a further 5,000 recruits. among the 18 battalions of advance recruits from the end of June, 12 will go to the army, while the navy, air force and marines will each handle two battalions.

Implementation of an all-volunteer military system was a major plank in President Ma Ying-jeous 2008 campaign platform. In December 2011, Taiwan further announced that all eligible Taiwanese males who were born after Jan. 1, 1994 will no longer be required to serve in the military. Instead, they will only need to undergo four months of military training. According to the timetable announced by the Ministry of National Defense (MND), local armed forces will be transformed into a full voluntary one by 2015. As part of the transformation, the military also aimed at reducing the number of local troops to around 215,000 from the current figure 275,000 by the end of 2014.

The previous conscription system successfully blocked the PLA with a 'mass force' capability. However, the previous conscription system was badly hit by political interference, which was a serial reduction of military service duration. It was also ineffective because of the widespread belief that war with China was unlikely. Eventually, the conscription system crippled Taiwan's military capability. Based on the government's effort to seek a peaceful solution, Taiwan's military looked for a suitable military service system, which was an all-volunteer force to fix the serious manpower problem of the conscription system.

In March 2011 Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu told the Legislature that plans for an all-volunteer military could not be implemented by 2015 as originally was hoped. However, Premier Wu Deng-yih said candidly that because of fiscal difficulties, the timetable for the transition from the current conscription system to an all-volunteer force system had yet to be decided. Wu said that in the future, the government would continue its plan to gradually phase out the conscription system and increase the percentage of volunteer military personnel in order to maintain the nations defense capabilities.

On 13 December 2011 the Legislative Yuan passed an amendment to the Act of Military Service System, stipulating that males of conscription age must still undergo a mandatory four-month military training even after the country's military switches to full voluntary enlistment. According to the amended rules, Taiwanese men aged 18 and older must undergo the four-month compulsory military training once the current conscription system is abolished. Should the new system fail to attract enough volunteers, the amended rules also allow the government to draft male citizens into military service. In addition, the length of the mandatory military training period is deductible for up to 30 days in accordance with the number of military preparation classes taken in college. Every eight classes taken can be used to deduct one day of the training period.

By the end of December 2011 the Ministry of National Defense (MND) was working to make the transition from the current conscription system to a volunteer system, but no date had been set for ending the enlistment of soldiers. Media reported that people born after 1995 will be required to complete only four months of military training instead of one year of compulsory military service. However, until the four-month program was launched, young men will still have to serve for one year as regular soldiers or in alternative service. Even after the volunteer system comes into force, Taiwan will keep enlisting young men for military training, so there will be no shortage of troops in the event of war

The military planned to streamline total military personnel from its 2004 force level of 300,000 servicemen to 265,000 men by 2009, three years earlier than was projected by former Defense Minister Tang Yiau-ming. According to the 2008 defense budget plan, as of the end of 2009, the number of military personnel was to be reduced to a total of 275,000, including 250,000 on the regular MND payroll. On 05 December 2008 Vice Defense Minister Chang Liang-jen said that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) had started planning to push a fully professional voluntary military service system in a bid to build the country's military into "lean and mean" fighting force.

The fully volunteer military program would be promoted in a gradual manner, with the number of uniformed men and women recruited through a voluntary enlistment system increasing 10 percent year-on-year from 2010 and eventually reaching a fully volunteer force by 2014, Chang said during a forum held in Taipei. According to an MND budget plan, the number of military personnel will have been reduced to a total of 275,000 by the end of 2008, including 250,000 on the regular MND payroll.

On 19 January 2009 the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement that the military was still working on a troop restructuring plan that will be drawn up based on the principles of integrating its service branches for combat missions and maintaining its overall combat capabilities. The ministry issued the statement after the China Times, a Taipei-based Chinese-language newspaper, reported that day that the military will proceed with a plan to slash the number of troops to facilitate its all-volunteer service program. According to the report, the military will cut the country's current 275,000 troops over the next four years, but had yet to decide on the level of cuts. The paper speculated that the final target would be 180,000 troops.

The government's ongoing push to transform its military into a fully volunteer force was launched to meet the local armed forces' needs, not just to catch up with global trends, President Ma Ying-jeou said June 27, 2013. The main reason behind the military system change is because the service term for a compulsory service conscript has been significantly shortened over the past decade, Ma said. The service time for a compulsory service soldier has become too short to meet the defensive needs of Taiwan's military and therefore the government has implemented the conscription system change, the president said.

As the Taiwanese government shifted to a national volunteer force, the freed-up savings and resources are being used for personnel salaries and benefits, but it is diverting funds from foreign and indigenous [weapons] acquisition programs. The program did not meet is objective, with a total of 235,000 people inducted into military service in recent years, far below the target of 270,000.

Taiwan originally planned to transition to an all-volunteer force by 2015 but delayed the date to 2017 on lower-than-expected recruitment figures. Defense Minister Yen Ming said 20 January 2014 that Taiwan was planning to cut the country's military personnel to less than 200,000 by the end of 2019 as it moved forward with streamlining. 'We plan to cut the number of troops to between 170,000 and 190,000' from the 215,000 target for the end of 2014, Yen said. Under the plan, professional soldiers would serve for four years, while other able young Taiwanese men would still have to undergo four months of military training.

According to statistics released 01 September 2014 by the Ministry of National Defense (MND), a total of 21,294 men and women had applied to join the Taiwan military since January. The number is almost double that of the MND's original annual target of 10,557. President Ma Ying-jeou attributed the recruitment success to a salary raise for volunteer soldiers that was approved by the government earlier in the year as well as a series of reforms within the military to offer a better environment for military personnel.

As of 2014 Taiwan aimed to trim its armed forces to 215,000 by the end of the year. Defense Minister Yen Ming said that a planned program to further trim the country's military personnel to below 200,000 by the end of 2019 will be formally implemented in 2015. The goal will be to cut the number of troops to between 170,000 and 190,000, according to Yen.

In order to establish the military officers and soldiers correct cognition toward the nationalized military, the MND actively carried out various propaganda and education in 2012. The proportion of the military education in various troops, organizations, and schools was increased to mold the loyal and brave integrity of not being greedy, not being afraid of death, loving country, and loving civilians, and to shape the military officers and soldiers to have moral integrity and be promising by imperceptible influence.


Officers in the ROC military generally come from three backgrounds. They might be graduates of military academies who become career officers, graduates of different specialized military schools who serve shorter terms of duty, or college graduates who have passed a written test to become reserve officers.

Approximately 15 percent of the officers commissioned each year are graduates from different military academies; another 45 percent are graduates of specialized military schools; and the remaining 40 percent are reserve officers.

The ratio of officers to NCOs is about 1:2.4, while that to enlisted men is 1:2.6. Thus, the ratio of officers to soldiers as a whole in the ROC Armed Forces is around 1:5, which is close to the 1:6 ratio of the US Armed Forces, and almost equals that of the Japanese Self-Defense Force (1:4.98).

Noncommissioned Officers

NCOs constitute the backbone of basic units of the Armed Forces, and are increasingly depended upon to train troops and develop their combat performance. In recent years, however, most senior NCOs have retired, leaving the current proportion of career NCOs too low and the percentage of NCO reservists in service too high. Reservists are on active duty for a very limited period of time, making it difficult for them to keep up with changes in the operation and maintenance of ever-more sophisticated weapons and equipment. Solutions to this problem lie in reconfiguring the NCO organizational structure and recruiting new NCOs.


The Military Service Law of the ROC stipulates that all males in the Republic of China shall fulfill military service. Article 3 of the law states: "Male persons shall be liable for military service on January 1 of the year immediately following the year during which they reach the age of 18, and shall no longer be drafted for service beginning on December 31 of the year during which they reach the age of 45." Citizens who have been sentenced to imprisonment for longer than seven years are prohibited from entering the military.

Under the Military Service Law, military conscription is administered jointly by the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of the Interior. The former is responsible for securing an adequate number of conscripts and training them, while the latter determines the sources of the conscripts and ensures their rights and benefits. Generally, conscripts undergo a minimum of two months of basic training before receiving their 22-month unit assignments.

Male senior high, vocational high, and college students whose studies would be interrupted by military conscription can defer their induction until after graduation. Students who are admitted to a university or college undergo two months of basic training in the summer before their freshman year. Upon graduation, they re-enter the military to fulfill the remainder of their two-year commitment.

Young men in poor health are exempt from military conscription. Those in average health may serve in the National Guard. Draftees from impoverished families may apply for service in this unit, giving them reserve status and allowing them to stay with their families. In addition, the only son of parents who are over seventy may also apply for National Guard service to fulfill his military obligation.

Military conscription is jointly administered by the MND and the Ministry of the Interior ???, with the former responsible for securing an adequate number of conscripts and training them, and the latter responsible for determining the sources of the conscripts and ensuring their rights and benefits. Conscripts generally undergo 22 months of training.

The Implementation Regulations for Substitutive Conscription was promulgated on February 2, 2000, and went into effect on July 1, 2000. Under these regulations, those deemed unsuitable for regular military service could fulfill their required military duties through substitutive conscription, based on interests or specialty. Categories for substitutive conscription include domestic security (police and fire fighters), social services (social, environmental protection, medical, and educational fields), and other categories designated by the Executive Yuan. In 2001, 8,295 eligible young men performed substitutive conscription, and this number increased to 10,055 in 2002.

ROC Armed Forces' Planning for 4 Month Military Training

Stage Stage 1 Stage 2
Timetable Initial Entry Training (8 Weeks) Specialty Training (8 Weeks)
Objective Qualified Rifleman (Warship Soldier) Qualified Specialist
Training Unit Army Recruit Training Brigade, Cadre Training School, Navy and Marine Training Center. Military School, Cadre Training School, and Dedicated Training Units.
Training Content 1. 5 days of training a week, 8 hours a day for a total of 320 hours.
2. General courses, political education, combat training (includes marching training), physical training, combat training, firing training, and basic training.
3. Navy soldiers also receive swimming training.
1.5 days of training a week, 7 hours a day for a total of 280 hours.
2.General education courses, specialty training, and physical training.
3.Marines also receive swimming training.
Qualification Standards 1. Evaluations include 9 items under 4 categories.
2. Physical requirements:
(1) Throw a grenade at least 26 m.
(2) 37 Push-ups
(3) 31 Sit-ups
(4) Run 3,000 m within 18 minutes
3. Rifle Accuracy Hit 4 out 6 shots at 175 m
1. Evaluation items are based on specialty and military school requirements.
2. Basic physical requirements:
(1) 41 Push-ups
(2) 34 Sit-ups
(3) Run 3,000 m within 17 minutes

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