The system in Taiwan whereby officers in the armed forces holding the rank of colonel or above can transfer to the civil service dates back to the 1960s. At that time, the government was suffering from a shortage of administrative personnel, and it was felt that allowing senior officers who had acquired managerial skills while serving in the armed forces to transfer to the civil service could help with the implementation of various national construction initiatives and other government projects. Over the years, the transfer system has been revised several times, in an effort to keep pace with the changes taking place in the wider society. The present study uses a case study of the transfer of officers in the armed forces holding the rank of colonel or above to civil service positions in the Veterans Affairs Council to undertake an in-depth exploration of various issues related to the transfer system, including the ranks at which transfer takes place, the degree of flexibility in the choice of which civil service departments military personnel are transferred to, and changes in the required period of service, etc.
The transfer system is undergoing an ongoing process of evolution and revision. Some commentators have suggested that the transfer system no longer serves any real purpose, or that the system is really just a form of “outdoor relief” for retired military personnel. In point of fact, the transfer system was established to meet real national needs, and its functions have been adjusted over time as these needs have changed. Today, the Veterans Affairs Council has the responsibility for caring for over one million veterans’ dependants and for the large number of veterans living in veterans’ care homes (whose average age is now over 83), in addition to various responsibilities relating to Taiwan’s efforts to end conscription and institute a fully-professional, long-service armed forces; every year, an additional 8,000 – 10,000 people become eligible for the provision of services by the Veterans Affairs Council. Besides its purely research-related goals, it is hoped that this study will also contribute to the adoption of more reasoned attitudes towards the transfer system and a better understanding of it, thereby helping to build consensus and prevent misunderstandings between those civil servants with a military background and those with a civilian background.
The extent to which ordinary citizens trust the government and feel satisfied with the government is heavily influenced by the quality of the government’s human resources, and by its administrative efficiency and performance. As senior officials, transferred military officers have responsibilities that include policy formulation, planning, implementation and review; their roles, and the problems that they face, reflect their importance and the challenging nature of their work.
The main aim of the present study is to explore the current status of employment of transferred military personnel in the civil service, and the related issues. The study makes use of in-depth interviews, focus groups, and a review of the literature. The research shows that the institution of the transfer system has been effective in embodying several of the key tenets of the Constitution of Taiwan R.O.C. including the effective utilization of high-end human talent, the promotion of social stability, and the strengthening of administrative functions. The system has also created real benefits in terms of the provision of specialist services. However, there are a number of problems affecting the system, including the employment of talented individuals in roles that do not fully utilize their skills, the reduction in income that transferred personnel experience, the restrictions on the agencies in which transferred military personnel can be employed, the disparity in attitudes to the system between officers of the rank of general (who are generally interested in transferring to the civil service) and officers of the rank of colonel (who are less enthusiastic), the decline in the number of personnel being transferred, etc.
In regard to the research findings, the study puts forward a number of suggestions regarding revision of organizational structure, relaxation of the restrictions on the agencies to which transferred personnel can be assigned, the imposition of strict manpower quality controls, overcoming the personnel-related obstacles to effective operation of the system, the creation of additional incentives for transfer, etc. It is anticipated that these suggestions will help to make the transfer system more effective, and more sustainable over the long term.