Senior Self-Defense Forces officers are demanding a bigger role in drafting the next overall operation plan, in what is viewed as a power struggle with civilian bureaucrats in the Defense Ministry, according to sources close to the matter.
The bureaucrats have so far refused, out of concern that uniformed SDF personnel could further extend their influence and reverse the power relationship following the enactment of laws last June that removed some of the control that civilian officials had over the SDF, the sources said Sunday.
The legal change put uniformed SDF personnel on an equal footing with civilian bureaucrats in assisting the defense minister.
The next overall operation plan for the SDF will reflect for the first time the contentious security laws enacted last year that expand the types of roles Japanese troops can perform overseas. The law will enter into force in March. The operation plan is revised every three years.
It will also take into account Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines that were revised last April to expand the scope of bilateral cooperation and expand the SDF’s role abroad.
Under the legal revision last June, a ministry bureau that had exercised control over the SDF’s basic activities was abolished and its functions were partly incorporated by the Joint Staff.
According to the sources, the senior SDF officials have requested a significant transfer of authority in formulating the overall operation plan. Before the legal amendment, they were allowed to work on it only after defense bureaucrats had developed the basic policy.
Under the current operation plan, the Joint Staff has taken command of daily SDF operations. But with the abolition of the ministry bureau, the SDF officials claim they should also have the authority to devise basic plans and seek the defense minister’s approval.
However, civilian defense officials maintain the ministry’s Defense Policy Bureau, which has taken over some of the functions of the abolished section, should continue to devise basic policy and seek the minister’s approval.