The Yomiuri Shimbun
Implement procurement, export of defense equipment strategically
A framework has been put into place for Japan to efficiently procure defense equipment and expand its technological cooperation with countries with which it has friendly ties. The nation should advance its equipment policy strategically.
The Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency of the Defense Ministry was recently created as an external bureau of the ministry. It is in charge of defense equipment-related tasks ranging from research and development to procurement and export. It has a staff of 1,800 and will manage a yearly budget of about ¥2 trillion.
Previously, the ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute handled research and development involving defense equipment, while the ministry’s internal bureaus and the ground, maritime and air wings of the Self-Defense Forces separately carried out procurement.
It is quite significant that an organization capable of implementing equipment administration in an integrated manner has been created by doing away with administrative functions that was to be used vertically divided.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, in instructions to the agency’s staff, said the ministry will attach importance to this country’s ability to maintain technological capabilities that will be one step ahead of others, indicating his intention to expand R&D and technical cooperation with other countries.
With the three principles on the transfer of defense equipment and technology that were approved and adopted by the Cabinet in April last year, export restrictions on defense equipment have been greatly eased, creating an environment for this country to expand equipment cooperation with other countries.
Based on the principles, Japan has started joint research on missile technology with Britain. It is also studying the possibility of implementing the joint development of submarines with Australia, and discussing with India Japan’s export of amphibious search-and-rescue planes to that country.
Japan’s security cooperation with other countries is part of its strategy touted as “proactive contribution to peace,” and will lead to enhancement of the nation’s deterrent power. It will also contribute to the maintenance and fostering of defense technology and the nation’s production base.
With the passage of security-related legislation, the SDF’s international activities will be expanded. It is important to pursue equipment procurement that accords with defense policy. Budget allocations among the three SDF arms should also be reviewed.
The new agency is also tasked with an important role of making weapons procurement more efficient.
Procurement of equipment separately by the three SDF arms had been an obstacle to the joint operation of the SDF. They were even unable to share ammunition.
In the days ahead, the designs of Maritime Self-Defense Force’s transport vessels will be changed so that the vessels, which were capable of hosting only MSDF helicopters, will be able to carry Osprey transport aircraft, which the GSDF plans to adopt.
Equipment such as interceptor missiles and surface-to-air guided missiles will also be standardized among the three SDF branches.
Under the severe fiscal circumstances, the ministry, in its Mid-Term Defense Program (fiscal 2014-fiscal 2018), has set a target of securing ¥700 billion by making equipment procurement more efficient.
In April this year, special legislation was enacted to save procurement costs through lump-sum purchases of equipment under long-term contracts.
From fiscal 2016 onward, the ministry plans to use this policy to reduce procurement costs by ¥153 billion in the purchase of Ospreys and other equipment. By also cooperating with defense-related industries, the ministry should also make use of this method in the introduction of large equipment in the days ahead.
High-tech equipment such as fighter planes tends to become exorbitantly expensive. Thorough cost-reducing efforts are vital.
Defense equipment procurement has seen spates of corruption and bid-rigging scandals for many years. To prevent the ministry from forming cozy ties with the defense industry that may lead to corruption, comprehensive monitoring of equipment procurement must not be neglected.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 4, 2015)