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Defense procurer toughens vetting of military equipment

Jan. 13, 2011 - 18:37 By Song Sangho
Blocking defects in weapons and military equipment is to be a key goal of South Korea’s military acquisition agency this year, the agency said on Thursday.

This goal is apparently aimed at addressing public concerns over several military accidents due to flaws in military supplies and equipment in recent years.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration also said that it would seek this year to promote closer cooperation between small and large defense firms, advance defense research and development, and reinforce infrastructure for organizations specializing in defense acquisition.

DAPA announced these and other policy goals for this year, which aim to enhance efficiency in its operations, shore-up public trust and strengthening competitiveness of the local defense industry.

To produce “zero-defect” military equipment and weapons, DAPA has decided to have a military unit evaluate systems for about a year before mass-producing them. Critics have said military equipment had not been sufficiently tested before being put into mass production in the past.

DAPA is seeking to use outside verification agencies to prevent defects in key components of military equipment.

The agency also plans to increase the number of staffers at the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality who are in charge of verifying the quality of the military equipment.

To encourage well-performing small- and medium-sized firms, DAPA plans to offer a special mark of recognition for good performance.

The agency will also seek to establish a special fund to help defense firms export their products, officials said. The agency has set its defense export goal for this year at $1.6 billion.

To prevent defense technology development being hampered by too many small defense firms competing against each other, DAPA plans to support mergers among them, officials said. The agency will seek ways to offer tax reductions or loans for firms seeking mergers.

Last year, faulty military boots caused a stir in Korea. The heels of the new-style military boots, produced by five civilian firms, came off easily. Last year, some 405,000 pairs were produced and distributed. But 5,201 of these pairs, produced by five firms out of the total 11 suppliers, had faulty heels.

K-series military equipment also caused problems. A K-21 armored vehicle sank in July, killing one soldier. The incident followed the sinking of another K-21 vehicle in December 2009.

By Song Sang-ho (