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Editorial: Will nation support accelerated pace of defense budget increase?

  • December 27, 2021
  • , Asahi , p. 6
  • JMH Translation

It is necessary to take measures to enhance security against challenges of advancement of military technology. It remains to be seen, however, if the Japanese people would support the accelerating pace of the increase in the defense budget. The government must seek a truly effective defense posture based on a comprehensive security strategy that doesn’t only focus on military power and its scale.

 

The first initial budget of the Kishida Administration features a defense budget at 5.4 trillion yen, an increase of 58.3 billion yen from the previous year. This is the largest increase for the eighth year in a row.

 

To include in the FY2022 budget, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) drafted a “16-month budget,” by combining the FY2021 supplementary budget enacted at the last extraordinary Diet session and the FY2022 draft budget, making it a total of 6.1 trillion yen, exceeding 6 trillion yen for the first time. It represents 1.09% of the GDP, more than the initial estimate of 1%.

 

Originally, the role of the supplementary budget is to supply emergency funding for natural disasters and other contingencies that arise after formulation of the initial budget. Although it has been commonplace these days to provide funding for items, including defense-related ones, in a supplementary budget that are not supposed to be covered under the Finance Act, it is highly unusual for a supplementary budget to include new purchases of major military equipment such as patrol planes and missiles.

 

“We achieved a large-scale increase through the integral compilation of budget,” Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo emphasized at a press conference. Behind his remark are the will of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had promised the United Stated to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities in the joint statement issued after the summit meeting in April and had pledged to the voters “to increase defense spending to possibly exceed 2% of the GDP” in the latest Lower House election. The administration may be rushing to demonstrate the increase to those abroad and at home.

 

If the additional spending were truly necessary, then the government should just include it in the FY2022 initial budget. The supplementary budget is deliberated within an extremely tight timeframe, without being discussed at diplomacy- and defense-related committees that have expertise in these matters. The administration shouldn’t keep employing a method that avoids scrutiny of the Diet.

 

The FY2022 draft budget also increased funding for research and development to 291.1 billion yen, a 1.4-fold increase from the previous year. It earmarks 85.8 billion yen for the development of a successor to the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter jet. Testing will start soon, ahead of a joint development of engine parts with the UK. It is a large-scale project that requires more than a trillion yen over many years, but the entire picture of the project has not been revealed.

 

Despite Japan’ increasingly strained finances due to a ballooning cost of national health insurance and COVID-19 countermeasures, the MOD continues to receive a generous allocation. Its budget increase in the past six years has been 3.4 times more than that of public works spending and 4.8 times more than expenditure for science and education by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology. In addition, much remains to be done to reduce defense costs, including procurement of parts.

 

How to allocate the limited budget amount? We hope for vigorous debate on the budget early next year, including cost effectiveness and priorities of items.

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