Funds should be used to strengthen foundation for making equipment

Given the deteriorating security environment surrounding the nation, it is only natural for Japan to strengthen its defense capabilities. To secure the necessary budget, the government must make efforts to provide careful explanations to gain the understanding of the public.

The Defense Ministry has requested a record ¥5.5947 trillion budget for fiscal 2023. Defense expenditures are expected to exceed ¥6 trillion when the amounts are specified for many items whose figures the ministry has yet to make clear at this stage.

China, which has beefed up its military might, has been stepping up its activities around Japan. North Korea poses an immediate threat with its nuclear and missile development programs. It is hoped that the Self-Defense Forces’ equipment and personnel will be improved so as to cope with every possible situation.

The possession of counterstrike capabilities is the key plank in the ministry’s budget request. As a means toward this aim, the ministry has been developing missiles capable of launching strikes against enemy targets from a long distance. For next fiscal year’s budget, the ministry has made unspecified requests for mass-producing the Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, currently being upgraded, and the surface-to-surface hyper velocity gliding projectile.

Deterrent effect will be enhanced if an enemy is made aware that Japan can launch a counteroffensive if it comes under attack. It is essential for the government to specify that Japan will possess counterstrike capabilities in documents such as the National Security Strategy, which will be revised at the end of the year.

During its recent military drills around Taiwan, China made threats by deploying many drones. The SDF did not focus on drones until recently, but the Defense Ministry has made budget requests for the next fiscal year for acquiring various types of drones to be used for such operations as reconnaissance and mine disposal. Another crucial issue is to ensure the capability to use these drones.

Efforts by the government as a whole will be essential to boost the nation’s defense capabilities amid tight fiscal conditions.

Japan’s budget for the science and technology field exceeds ¥4 trillion. However, more than 60% of this is used by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. The amount spent by the Defense Ministry accounts for a mere 4% or so.

With such a small budget, it must be difficult for the ministry to facilitate sufficient research and development activities regarding defense equipment. In addition to reviewing the method used to allocate funds in the science and technology field, the government should consider spending more of the expenditures for civilian technology in the security sector. It is hoped that the academic community will also extend a helping hand in this regard.

In recent years, a number of domestic companies have withdrawn their businesses from the defense industry partly due to an increase in the purchasing of U.S. equipment. The ministry should consider a mechanism to strengthen the base for technologies related to defense equipment, production and the passing on of important technologies.

More than just increasing defense spending, the government will also have to work harder than ever to be more efficient in procurement.

It has been pointed out that the procurement of transport planes, among other equipment, has sometimes turned out to be more expensive than initial estimates. It is an urgent task to scrutinize costs and improve skills to negotiate with foreign entities. It is hoped that the government will also make efforts to reduce procurement outlays by, for example, purchasing equipment in bulk.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2022)