Japanese House of Councilors on Wednesday approved an amendment related to Defense Ministry (MOD) that takes away the power of the civilian defense bureaucrats over uniformed Self-Defense Forces officers.
Further, the amendment places them on an equal footing, Various Japanese media reported Wednesday.
Lawmakers passed the bill in a majority vote, with support mainly from the ruling coalition and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), at a plenary meeting of the House of Councilors.
The revision, which weakens civilian control over the SDF, reflects the increasing importance of the judgment of SDF commanders as the forces’ roles have expanded to include U.N. peacekeeping missions overseas and disaster relief.
The revised clause calls for the secretariat and bureau heads, along with the chief of staff at the Joint Staff Office and those at the Ground, Maritime and Air SDF, to assist the minister jointly.
The defense bureaucrats will provide assistance in policy terms, while the uniformed SDF officers will give advice from a military aspect. However, the senior bureaucrats will retain the charge of comprehensive policy coordination under a separate clause added to Article 8 of the revised law.
The organizational change “will enable swifter decisions on SDF deployment,” a senior ministry official was quoted as saying. The government said that the move is aimed to reduce procurement costs. The bill cleared the House of Representatives in May.
Article 12 of the previous law stipulated that the head of the defense minister’s secretariat and ministry bureau chiefs assist the minister in directing and supervising top uniformed SDF officers.