MILITARY GRANTS ADDED: Ten US officials per year are to study Mandarin and local issues, and return to Washington to bolster understanding of Taiwan’s needs. The US Senate on Thursday passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is to set up a fellowship for US federal employees to work in Taiwanese government agencies, in addition to greenlighting US$2 billion in annual military grants to Taiwan. The first year is to be spent studying Mandarin and related topics, followed by a year working in a government agency, legislative office or approved organization related to their field of expertise, the Taiwan Fellowship Act says. At least 10 fellows from the three branches of the US government — executive, legislative and judicial — are to be selected annually. In the first two years of the program, no fewer than five fellows are to be selected, the bill says. Returnees would be required to continue serving in the US government for at least four years after completing the program, with the goal of enhancing understanding of Taiwan’s central government and regional issues, it says. The American Institute in Taiwan would be required to begin negotiations with Taiwanese agencies within 30 days of the bill’s enactment. The legislation is modeled after the Mansfield Fellowship Program between the US and Japan. Under that program, established in 1994, US government employees are provided more than one year of Japanese-language education and placed in a Japanese agency, where they work full-time for 10 months alongside Japanese colleagues.
While the headlines and focus will be about the amount of US military aid to Taiwan Republic, and the weapon systems transferred, to me this is the most significant breakthrough in this year’s NDAA. Ten American officials per year to Taiwan is not significant – the mental-psychological breakthrough on the part of DC – the real pivot to the Indo-Pacific, understanding the China threat, and realizing the nature of the Chinese threats against democratic Taiwan – those are decades in the making. And one suspects once the breakthrough occurs, more will (and should) follow.
Even just the simple yet monumental step of normalizing the interactions between these two democratically elected national governments of America and Taiwan – official to official, bureaucracy to bureaucracy.
If the billions in direct military aid authorized by the NDAA are funded, and if the Biden administration does not waste more time fighting Congress, then I would expect more American advisors and officials to follow that money. I cannot find a previous case where Congress authorized large military foreign aid without request from the foreign party – nor was such an amount being transferred without direct US involvement (advisors, etc.) Because humans always refer to the most recent historical experience as a template, I have read many articles referring back to the US-RoC Mutual Defense Treaty/US Advisor era. Times change, the nature of the governments are different, and characteristics of modern warfare shift – the era of large contingents of US and Japanese troops stationed in Taiwan makes little sense. Rapidly rotating in units for realistic training and coordination – advisors in key units, teams from the US and Japan to help locate and fix weakest links in Taiwanese strategic and tactical planning, intelligence and counterintelligence, logistics, civil defense, sabotage, and infiltration, etc., in 2023 these will make more difference to the security of the Indo-Pacific and countering the China threat than anything else.
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