(Mainichi: March 14, 2016 – p. 1)
The Defense Ministry announced on March 11 that as a result of reviewing procedures for formulating the SDF operational plans, some of the procedures will be transferred to the Joint Staff from the internal bureaus. Most of the Joint Staff are uniformed officers, whereas the internal bureaus are civilian bureaucrats. The transfer of authority is associated with organizational restructuring implemented last October, which centralized unit operations in the Joint Staff due to the closure of the Bureau of Operational Policy. As a result, the authority of the Joint Staff will be partially extended. The change will be effective from next fiscal year.
The procedure for formulating operational plans consists of three stages: “drafting the minister’s directions” for determining policies on plans; “drawing up draft plans” for deciding on contents in detail; and “drafting requests for obtaining the minister’s approval” in order to obtain approval from the defense minister or relevant bureaus.
Before the organizational restructuring, the internal bureaus were responsible for the first and the last stages of the procedures, “drafting the minister’s directions” and “drafting requests for obtaining the minister’s approval,” whereas the Joint Staff handled “drawing up draft plans.” However, the organizational restructuring streamlined the responsibilities that had been divided between the Joint Staff and the internal bureaus under the former the Bureau of Operational Policy. As a result, “drafting requests for obtaining the minister’s approval” was transferred from the internal bureaus to the Joint Staff.
At first, some uniformed officers called for all three stages to be transferred to the Joint Staff in view of “operational efficiency.” However, there were concerns within the ministry about authority being concentrated among uniformed officers. As a result, both uniformed officers and civilian bureaucrats agreed on the partial transfer.
Operational plans include the “defense and security plan” and the “Japan Disaster Relief Team plan.” Regarding the partial extension of the Joint Staff’s authorities, a Defense Ministry official explained: “Without the defense minister’s approval, plans don’t become final. The internal bureaus and the Joint Staff will continue supporting the defense minister like the ‘two wheels of a cart’ as they have done in the past.”