TOKYO — Japan’s Ministry of Defense on Sept. 10 requested 4.57 trillion yen ($58 billion) in budget appropriations for the next financial year, starting April 1, 2013, a figure that is 1.7 percent lower than the current budget. This represents the biggest one-year decline in half a century and the lowest total in two decades.
But the request also signals an ongoing restructuring and updating of Japan’s defense posture to counter China, and greatly upgrades command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; ballistic missile defense; and cyber defense capabilities.
Japan’s current five-year Mid-Term Defense Program of December 2010 has tasked the MoD with bolstering defense of the nation’s sea lanes and far-flung southeastern island chain, which extends from Okinawa to a few hundred kilometers from Taiwan. More recently, the MoD has begun to openly acknowledge China, which has an increasingly assertive Navy in the region, as a strategic concern.
In line with this, the ministry has been steadily reinforcing Japan’s marine, antisubmarine and surveillance capabilities. Consequently, the MoD for the next year has requested 72.3 billion yen for an advanced, 5,000-ton antisubmarine destroyer that features a new combined diesel-electric and gas propulsion system that will probably be developed in Japan.
The ministry has also asked for 10 billion yen to upgrade four E-767 airborne early warning and control aircraft, 19.2 billion yen for a 690-ton minesweeper featuring a fiber-reinforced plastic hull and 2.5 billion yen for four amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs).
The AAV request is viewed as the most important new item, said local military analyst Shinichi Kiyotani, who added the Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) were looking to purchase four AAV-7 series vehicles after concluding that a vehicle developed in Japan could not meet cost and capability requirements.
“Japan has no marines or no Royal Marines for remote island protection,” Kiyotani said. “This was a significant purchase for the GSDF and a first for postwar Japan. It represents great progress in Japan’s efforts to deter threats against our islands.”
C4ISR and space systems also are more prominently featured, with the ministry requesting 100 million yen to convert its advanced FPS-5 phased array radar system so it can also conduct space situational awareness duties, in addition to funds for a research budget for a satellite-mounted ballistic missile early warning sensor, and 3 billion yen for an unmanned aerial vehicle-mounted ballistic missile early warning system.
And after several years of trying, the MoD has also requested 21.2 billion yen to set up a new cyber defense force with about 100 people, which will combine previous efforts to create a combined unit, along with 13.3 billion yen to reinforce cyber defense of the ministry’s core Defense Information Infrastructure.
Motohiro Tsuchiya, a professor at Keio University and member of the Information Security Policy Center, Japan’s top-level government cybersecurity advisory body, applauded the move to set up the unit as the MoD has previously been stymied by budgetary restraints in its attempts to set up the unit.
“The MoD has been trying for two years to set up the unit, but the attempts were refused by the Finance Ministry. It is said that the MoD will be finding about 100 staff to man the unit, but it is unclear if they will be 100 new staff, or seconded from other areas,” Tsuchiya said.
The Japanese budget year runs from April 1, with all of the nation’s government ministries putting in their requests to the powerful Ministry of Finance in late August or early September. The budget requests, already the result of haggling and negotiation, are then audited by the Finance Ministry, which generally makes small cuts, announcing the final figures at the end of December. The Japanese Diet then passes the ratified budget into law the following spring.