National

Top MSDF officer admonished for meddling in helicopter procurement process

Kyodo

The Defense Ministry has said it admonished Adm. Tomohisa Takei, the Maritime Self-Defense Force chief of staff, for undermining — through “thoughtless” remarks to subordinates — the procurement process for new helicopters.

The results of a ministry investigation released Friday found that Takei mentioned a specific type of helicopter during the process and subordinates took action to make it the MSDF’s preferred model.

Takei, 59, told a news conference that he had no intention to exert pressure on them and expressed “deep regret” for the matter, especially because it delayed an acquisition intended to improve Japan’s defensive capabilities.

The government decided in late 2013 to buy nine multipurpose helicopters to base on MSDF destroyers to counter China’s moves in the East China Sea and other operations.

A probe into the selection process was launched after a whistle-blower said the MSDF’s preference had been improperly changed.

“As a result of our inspection, we did not confirm any lobbying efforts by people in the industry, but confirmed that fairness was not fully ensured in the helicopter selection procedures,” the Defense Ministry said Friday in a press release.

According to the investigation, MSDF officials involved in the selection process reported to Takei in March 2015 that the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. SH series, a cheap midsize helicopter, might be the best choice.

Takei responded, “Don’t we need a large one like the MCH-101?” a view that was adopted at a meeting in 2011.

The MCH-101 is made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.

After Takei’s remarks, his subordinates decided that the MCH-101 was desirable and rewrote the selection process reports so that a large helicopter would be chosen.

The ministry said it will redo the process after implementing measures to prevent such a recurrence, such as involving people from outside the ministry to improve objectivity.

Takei entered the MSDF in 1979 and is expected to retire soon. He served as MSDF vice chief of staff before assuming his current post in October 2014.

Vice Adm. Gojiro Watanabe, then a senior member of the Maritime Staff Office and currently commander of the MSDF’s Air Training Command, was also admonished for providing inappropriate explanations to officials of the ministry’s internal bureau over the issue. A rear admiral was also warned for similar reasons.