The Minami commission, a public-private consultative body at the Kantei convened under the chairmanship of Minami Naoya, an adviser to Tokyo Electric, has been deliberating on reform of the Defense Ministry since December. The commission formed in response to the corruption scandals at the Defense Ministry that came to light last autumn, but the deliberations have widened to include information security and the organization of the ministry as a whole, in addition to corruption.
Mr. Ishiba has been particularly eager to reorganize the department, consolidating the ministry’s five bureaus into three and mixing civilian and military personnel. What the latter means in practical terms is still unclear — as Mr. Ishiba suggested in this press conference and as revealed in the commission’s documents — but both proposals are already drawing fire from the JSDF, the civilian members of the commission, and certain members of the LDP. Not surprisingly, there is also opposition from within the ministry. Reducing the number of bureaus, and therefore the number of administrative positions, will necessarily anger the ministry’s bureaucrats.
The underlying problem is probably money. A departmental reorganization would be much easier to accept if the agency/ministry’s budget had been rising instead of falling over the past decade. Each bureau — and JSDF service — is already in a defensive crouch, fighting to preserve its share of a shrinking budget. It is unlikely that they will accept reform proposals that attenuate their power within the defense establishment. At the same time, they will also fight for every platform possible, including platforms of questionable value.
If opposition is in fact coming from politicians, the uniformed services, and the defense bureaucracy, Mr. Ishiba’s reform project is doomed before it even gets enshrined in an interim report. (The Minami Commission’s mid-term report, originally due in February, has been postponed until June.) With no signs that the defense budget will grow anytime soon, the Defense Ministry’s current organization is probably here to stay.