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  • Japan Searches for New and Stronger Leadership
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 4:37 PM on Jun 03, 2010

    A change in Japan’s government may usher in some longer term improvements in defense modernization and missile defenses, say U.S. analysts.

    “No one expects the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to regain control because they are not viewed as being forward thinkers,” says a Japan-based analyst. “U.S. and Japan talks will be fruitful as the alliance is back on course. I'm hoping this will permit the Japan government paralysis to come to an end and let clear thinking prevail [in defense programs]. “Keep an eye on CX program [for fielding a new, longer-range, military transport aircraft]. It's been very quiet recently. If positive news breaks, watch for a major investment [by the Japanese government]. If not, there is a lot of defense budget not accounted for.”

    Japan’s defense program for 2005-09 -- in part aimed at building up the country’s own defenses against cruise and short range ballistic missiles and upgrading its F-15J fighter fleet -- has been stalled since last year’s election brought the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and Hatoyama to power.

    “There is pressure to downsize the military, but Japan is very interested in missile defense and it is easy to sell politically,” the analyst says. “Patriot upgrades are easy for them to understand. Combat air patrols with long-range missiles are harder.” A possible strategy for procuring advanced capabilities is to allow co-production of U.S. sensors and weaponry in Japan.

    The Japanese Air Self Defense Force, for example, is looking at long-range radar upgrades for up to 120 F-15Js (extending the sensor range to 150-mi., from 50 mi.) and the introduction of long-range, air-launched missiles that could strike short-range ballistic missiles in boost phase initially and possibly (with additional algorithms) in descent. An endo-exoatmospheric capability also opens the door to operations against low-flying satellites. (AW&ST, May 31, p. 30) And it would be compatible with Japan’s Aegis ship-based missile defenses.

    Also on tap for review, but now delayed, were changes in the structure of internal bureaus to improve administration of defense policies, the establishment of a Joint Staff and reorganization of the three self defense services to reinforce joint operations. In addition, the Defense Intelligence Headquarters was being eyed for placement under director authority of the Director General of the Defense Agency.

    U.S. critics of the new government say it had a “politically correct leadership” that was staffing defense posts with civilians and forcing out military specialists such as pilots. As a result, the civilian-dominated Internal Bureau – responsible for rationalizing requests from the services – is thought to be making less well-informed decisions about important defense acquisitions.

    This lack of experience is demonstrated by the new government's inability to function in the acquisition arena. “They don’t even know how to generate requests for proposals” to start new programs, the U.S. analyst says. “The government is unable to make decisions, the civilian decision-makers know nothing, and [as a result] nobody knows the future of Japan.”

    By this point in the year, the initial draft budget for Japan’s Fiscal 2011 draft budget should have left the Defense Ministry and be under consideration by the Internal Bureau’s civilians who prioritize programs among the three services. The final draft budget request is supposed to be submitted to the Internal Bureau and the Ministry of Defense at the end of Aug. It is forwarded to the Diet in late Nov. for review and approval by the end of Dec.

    “The next budget has been delayed because the new government also does not know how to put together a 5-year plan,” the U.S. analyst says. 

    A one-year extension of the five-year Mid-Term Defense Program was made to allow the government time to formulate a new plan by the end of 2010. That plan may now be in limbo and could be further delayed by the executive and legislative turmoil.

    Yearly revisions of the program are required to adjust expenses and the scale of plans to improve major defense equipment. But the DPJ has no experience in creating defense plans. It has only produced critiques.

    The existing Defense Program had introduced the priority of “effective response” to replace “deterrence by presence.” The new emphasis included:

    * Improvement of readiness, mobility and defense capabilities,

    * Integrated operation of the ground, maritime and air self-defense forces,

    * Acquisition of new capabilities aligned with technological advances,

    * Rationalization of efficient procurement of defense equipment,

    * And, the strengthening of Japan-U.S. security arrangements.

    Hatoyama alienated the U.S. by threatening to abandon agreements to shift a Marine Corps base to a less populated section of Okinawa and subsidize the relocation of 8,000 Marines to Guam. He also faced pressure from North Korean threats of war against South Korea, aggressive Chinese military surveillance and military patrolling of disputed areas in the East China Sea. In addition he faced an international financial downturn that threatens Japan’s status as one of the top three economies in the world.

    Tags: ar99, Japan

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