(Mainichi: April 17, 2015 – p. 1)
The government began discussions on April 16 on the appointment for the first time of an active duty Self-Defense Forces (SDF) officer as assistant chief cabinet secretary in charge of contingency response/crisis management, one of the three assistant chief cabinet secretary positions, in personnel changes scheduled for this summer. Assistant chief cabinet secretary is a vice-minister level position directly connected to the prime minister and the chief cabinet secretary. Up until now, this position has been held by bureaucrats of the Defense Ministry. Since the government anticipates that SDF missions will be expanded if the security-related bills are enacted, it judged that it will be necessary to appoint an SDF officer who is familiar with unit operations on the ground.
The position of assistant chief cabinet secretary was first created in the reorganization of central government ministries and agencies implemented in January 2001. The position is responsible for general coordination on both domestic and foreign political affairs, as well as contingency response and crisis management. The past five appointees for crisis management were all director-generals of the former Defense Agency and the current Defense Ministry. Nobushige Takamizawa, a former director-general of the Defense Ministry’s Bureau of Defense Policy, assumed the position in July 2013 to work on SDF’s overseas deployment for disaster-relief activities and responding to terrorism incidents.
The government aims to submit the security-related bills to the Diet session by the end of May and enact them by early August. The pillar of the legislation is the revision of the Law Concerning Measures to Ensure National Independence and Security in a Situation of Armed Attack, which will allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. If the bills are passed, the scope of SDF activities will be expanded and their authority to use firearms will be broadened. As the government predicts that “the importance of SDF operations will grow,” according to a government official, a lieutenant-general class officer from the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) is likely to be appointed to the position. GSDF Western Army Commanding General Koichiro Bansho are Eastern Army Commanding General Koichi Isobe have emerged as possible candidates for the position.