(Tokyo Shimbun: February 22, 2016 – p. 2)
According to several Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Self-Defense Forces (SDF) sources, the MOD’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) dominated by uniformed SDF officers is demanding that the ministry’s internal bureaus headed by civilian officials give it a considerably greater say in drafting the SDF’s highest-level operational plan, which will fully reflect the provisions of the security bills taking effect in March, including the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, for the first time. The internal bureaus are resisting this demand, so the coordination process continues.
With the amendment of the Defense Ministry Organization Law last June, the “civilian control” system, under which MOD bureaucrats occupied a more dominant position than SDF officers in advising the defense minister, was abolished. The internal bureaus are now on an equal footing with the JSO and the staff offices of the Ground, Maritime, and Air SDF. If the JSO’s demand is granted, this will result in a reversal of power relations in the MOD. Many are concerned that the ministry may even become dominated by military specialists.
According to informed sources, the bone of contention is the “comprehensive basic defense and security plan,” which is designated as a special state secret. This is a five-year plan that is revamped every three years and revised every year. It is used by the JSO for the daily operations (strategic control) of the three SDF services based on the latest assessment of the strategic situation.
The next version of the operational plan will fully reflect the new Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation Guidelines revised last April and the new security laws for the first time.
The drafting of this document used to undergo three stages: (1) the defunct operation and planning bureau decided on the minister’s guidelines which served as basic policy; (2) the JSO drafted operational plans based on the guidelines; and (3) the operation and planning bureau sought the minister’s approval.
However, the JSO is now asserting that since the operation and planning bureau was abolished last year and SDF operations (strategic control) have been unified under the JSO, it has the power to draft all operational plans. It is asking that the internal bureaus also turn over stages (1) and (3) in the drafting process.
On the other hand, the internal bureaus argue that operations are different from strategy. They also assert that Article 8 of the Defense Ministry Organization Law stipulates that the internal bureaus are responsible for the “basic aspects and coordination of matters relating to defense and security” and “basic administrative matters relating to SDF operations.”
Another basis of the internal bureaus’ argument against that JSO in maintaining that they are in charge of overall coordination is that (1) and (3) are functions carried over from the operation and planning bureau by the current Defense Policy Bureau.