The funds should be used to strengthen the foundations for the manufacture of equipment

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Given the deteriorating security environment surrounding the country, it is natural for Japan to strengthen its defense capabilities. To secure the necessary budget, the government must strive to provide thorough explanations to gain public understanding.

The Ministry of Defense has requested a record budget of 5.5947 trillion yen for fiscal year 2023. Defense spending is expected to exceed 6 trillion yen when amounts are specified for many items the ministry has yet to clarified the figures at this stage.

China, which has strengthened its military power, has intensified its activities around Japan. North Korea poses an immediate threat with its nuclear and missile development programs. It is hoped that the equipment and personnel of the Self-Defense Forces will be improved in order to deal with all possible situations.

The possession of counterattack capabilities is the key element of the ministry’s budget request. To achieve this goal, the ministry has developed missiles capable of launching strikes against enemy targets at long distances. For the next fiscal year’s budget, the ministry has made unspecified requests for mass production of the Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, currently being upgraded, and the hypervelocity surface-to-surface sliding projectile.

The deterrent effect will be enhanced if an enemy is informed that Japan can launch a counter-offensive if attacked. It is essential that the government specify that Japan will have counterattack capabilities in documents such as the national security strategy, which will be revised at the end of the year.

During its recent military exercises around Taiwan, China has issued threats by deploying numerous drones. The SDF has not focused on drones until recently, but the Department of Defense has made budget requests for the next fiscal year for the acquisition of various types of drones to be used for operations such as reconnaissance and demining. Another crucial issue is ensuring the ability to use these drones.

The efforts of the government as a whole will be essential to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities in a tight budgetary context.

Japan’s budget for science and technology exceeds 4 trillion yen. However, more than 60% of it is used by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The amount spent by the Ministry of Defense is only about 4%.

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 science and technology funds, the government should consider directing a greater share of civilian technology spending to the security sector. It is hoped that the university community will also offer a helping hand in this regard.

In recent years, a number of national companies have withdrawn their activities from the defense industry, in part due to an increase in purchases of American equipment. The ministry should consider a mechanism to strengthen the technology base related to defense equipment, production and transmission of important technologies.

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

It was pointed out that the acquisition of transport aircraft, among other equipment, sometimes proved to be more expensive than the initial estimates. There is an urgent need to examine the costs and improve the skills needed to negotiate with foreign entities. It is hoped that the government will also make efforts to reduce procurement expenses, for example by purchasing equipment in bulk.

(From Yomiuri Shimbun, September 4, 2022)

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