Special Defense Inspection: Lax Organizational Discipline May Have Invited Improper Cozy Ties

Suspicion has surfaced that a dubious relationship between the Maritime Self Defense Force and a major defense industry company has continued for many years. The Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces must eliminate lax organizational discipline.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., which has received orders to repair MSDF submarines, allegedly created hidden funds through fictitious transactions with subcontractors and used the funds to pay for food and drinks with MSDF personnel, as well as to purchase gift certificates and home electrical appliances, among other items, to be provided to the personnel.

The scheme to create the hidden funds began more than seven years ago, and the total amount of the fictitious transactions over the past six years is estimated to likely be more than ¥1 billion.

As there have been scandals over equipment procurement between the Defense Ministry and the SDF on one side and the defense industry on the other, compliance with laws and regulations has been even more strongly demanded.

Despite this, if behavior that could cause public distrust has continued, it must be said that the organizations were lax in discipline.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara has entrusted the investigation to a special defense inspection system, in which former prosecutors and other experts will investigate the matter, on suspicion of violations of the Self-Defense Forces Personnel Ethics Law, which requires that SDF personnel carry out their duties fairly. Kawasaki has also commissioned an external law firm to conduct its own investigation.

The Defense Ministry and Kawasaki should look deeply into the background of the irregularities, conduct thorough investigations and disclose to the public what was going on.

Was there not any overpayment from the ministry to Kawasaki in connection with Kawasaki’s creation of hidden funds? Is the cozy relationship with companies limited to transactions involving the MSDF? Strict investigation into the scandal is needed, including on these points.

Submarines are highly sensitive because they contain cutting-edge technology. Only two companies, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., are allowed to build submarines in Japan. These two companies are also basically responsible for repairing submarines.

When repairing submarines, Kawasaki employees and MSDF personnel worked together for several months at Kawasaki’s Kobe factory, where the personnel were taught in detail how to assemble and disassemble the parts.

A submarine may carry out continuous duties at sea for a month or more. This means the crew must repair the submarine themselves when it malfunctions at sea.

Kawasaki employees and the MSDF personnel spent almost all of their time together while working at the factory. The close relationships that had developed over the years may have led to unduly cozy ties.

In light of the increasingly severe security environment, the government has decided to increase total defense spending to ¥43 trillion over the five years from fiscal 2023. A law for strengthening the production base to vitalize the domestic defense industry was also enacted last year.

Amid these circumstances, a situation that undermines public confidence has come to light. This could shake the foundation of the nation’s defense system.

In recent years, there have been a spate of accidents involving the SDF, such as a destroyer running aground and helicopters crashing into the sea. One cannot help but be concerned about the lack of a sense of urgency among the SDF personnel.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2024)