(Tokyo Shimbun: February 26, 2016 – p. 6)
On Feb. 25, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff and the highest-ranking uniformed officer at the Ministry of Defense, told the press, “The issue is an administrative matter and we are not trying to seize power.” The admiral made this comment regarding the Joint Staff Office’s request that the internal bureaus transfer a significant amount of authority to the Joint Staff for formulating the highest level operational plans for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).
With the reform of the Defense Ministry implemented last year, the Bureau of Operational Policy that had been involved in drawing up operational plans was closed. “Somebody has to take over the work that the Bureau of Operational Policy used to perform,” said Kawano. “The question is whether the internal bureaus or the Joint Staff Office will divide the work.” The admiral added, “We will eventually find a point at which both sides will be able to compromise by determining the best solution.”
According to multiple officials connected to the Defense Ministry and the SDF, the point at issue is the formulation of “the joint defense and basic security plan” that will fully reflect for the first time the security legislation incorporating the right to exercise collective self-defense to be effectuated this March.
With the closure of the Bureau of Operational Policy, the Joint Staff became solely responsible for SDF operations (operational command) and most members of the Joint Staff are uniformed officers. For this reason, the Joint Staff is requesting that the authority held by civilian bureaucrats in the internal bureaus be transferred to the uniformed group. Specifically, the Joint Staff is asking for “decision-making authority based on the defense minister’s guidance for basic policy” and “authority to request the minister’s approval” in relation to the formulation of the joint defense and basic security plan.