WASHINGTON – Japan’s new agency for defense equipment procurement is tasked with utilizing advanced civilian technology for public purposes and needs to learn from the United States how to make procurement less costly and more efficient, its chief said.
Speaking at a think tank in Washington on Wednesday, Hideaki Watanabe, commissioner of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, said a main challenge for the agency is to “secure a technological advantage” over other countries in the face of an increasingly uncertain security situation surrounding Japan.
The agency, part of the Defense Ministry, was established on Sunday. One of its tasks is to handle overseas transfers of weapons and other defense equipment under the relaxed arms export rules adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government last year, which marked a major shift from Japan’s decades-old arms embargo policy.
“Our big challenge is how better to utilize advanced technology in the private sector for the purpose of (national) defense in an efficient and effective manner,” he said.
The veteran defense bureaucrat who formerly headed the ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute said the strong points of Japanese defense technology are “materials, sensors and robots.”
Watanabe said the fledgling agency needs U.S. advice on streamlining procurement, which has hitherto involved many entities and sections in the ministry as well as the Self-Defense Forces.
“We’re ready to listen to any good advice” about how to procure defense equipment more cheaply and quickly as the SDF will need more highly advanced equipment to respond to the “severe” security situation in the future, Watanabe said.
The agency set up to centralize the Defense Ministry’s logistic and acquisition needs and to deal with development, procurement and export of defense equipment, handles various projects that account for some 40 percent of Japan’s nearly ¥5 trillion ($41.2 billion) annual defense budget.
How Japan will provide weapons and defense equipment as well as relevant technology to other countries in the future is a potentially controversial issue under the Constitution, which the government is trying to reinterpret without a formal amendment.