• Yomiuri Editorial
  • Uniting technology with national security

Promote cooperation among industry, government and academia

It is impractical to separate cutting-edge scientific and technological research into civilian and military areas. The government should remove this boundary and create a concrete mechanism to utilize science and technology achievements.

Advanced research that is “dual use,” utilized for both civilian and military purposes, has been a point of discussion in meetings of a government expert panel on strengthening defense capabilities. Many panel members are said to have stated that the current situation in which science and technology are separate from defense must be rectified.

The cross-utilization of technology for civilian and military purposes is a global trend. In the United States, a research organization under the Defense Department developed the global positioning system in cooperation with the private sector. In the future, countries may utilize research on artificial intelligence, quantum technology and other fields for military purposes.

Japanese academia has been reluctant to conduct defense-related research on the grounds that doing so would make academics “complicit in war.”

However, state-of-the-art fighter jets and destroyers already use a variety of civilian products such as electronic devices. Outdated thinking about the matter is no longer acceptable.

It is important to incorporate a security perspective into science and technology policy.

The defense minister should be a member of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council. It is worth discussing a system in which the National Security Council, the command post for diplomacy and national security, is involved in the compilation of the science and technology budget.

It is the role of politics to coordinate the use of technology so that it does not become heavily weighted toward the military. One idea would be to establish organizations in the Cabinet and the Diet to assess the situation.

In truth, an advisory council made up of experts charged with safeguarding information and information oversight panels in the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors are meant to fulfill these roles when the Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets is applied.

The panel on strengthening defense capabilities has proposed establishing a base outside universities to gather researchers from the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA) and the private sector. Also, an idea has been floated within the government to set up a new research institute where industry, government and academia can cooperate.

While this is an understandable aim, the ATLA has research organizations in each of the Self-Defense Forces (Ground, Maritime and Air), and the Future Capabilities Development Center, which is responsible for new fields such as space. There are also many research institutions under the jurisdiction of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. If a new organization is to be established, the consolidation or abolition of existing organizations should also be considered.

Researchers must also change their mindsets. In July, the Science Council of Japan adopted a position to effectively permit cutting-edge dual-use research. It is hoped that they will take specific action.

The government has established a fund of about ¥10 trillion to boost research and development at universities, and plans to select several schools to support. It is essential to channel basic research based on unrestricted thinking into the development of defense equipment.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 28, 2022)