The Diet has begun deliberations on a bill to abolish a legal mechanism that ensures the supremacy of high-ranking civilian officials of the Defense Ministry over uniformed officers of the Self-Defense Forces. The bill was tabled just as the Abe administration is seeking to substantially expand the scope of the SDF's activities overseas, including collective self-defense missions with Japan's allies and greater cooperation with the U.S. military on a possibly global scale.
If enacted the bill, which will revise Article 12 of the law for establishment of the Defense Ministry, will remove a key layer of civilian control of the SDF, making it more difficult for civilian defense officials to keep tabs on the actions and decisions of uniformed SDF officers. The Diet should carefully scrutinize the bill and expose its dangerous nature to the public.
Article 12 currently says the head of the defense minister's secretariat and the heads of various bureaus of the Defense Ministry will assist the minister in matters concerning the policies and basic plans of each branch of the SDF and the Joint Staff Office, and the minister's instructions to and oversight of the SDF and the office. This provision serves as the basis for the supremacy of high-ranking civilians defense officials over uniformed SDF officers. Under the proposed revision, the head of the ministry's secretariat and the bureau chiefs will assist the defense minister at a level on par with the chief of each SDF branch and the head of the Joint Staff Office.