Press Conference

Press Conference by Defense Minister Ishiba ( 9:00-9:30 A.M. May 23, 2008 )

Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date:9:00-9:30 A.M. May 23, 2008
Place: The MOD Antechamber in the House of Councilors

(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and the abstract of the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purpose only)
The original full text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

None

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
The Ministry has drawn up its reform plans. These plans were apparently responded to by voices calling for cautiousness at the meeting held at the Prime Minister窶冱 Office the other day. There are also those saying that the MOD plans would not be directly reflected into the report that will later be compiled by the Panel of Experts for Reforming the Ministry of Defense. What do you think about these standpoints?

Minister:
The MOD plans were not presented as the Ministry’s final conclusion. They were meant to show several proposals with the advantages and disadvantages of each scenario. I do not recognize that they were presented as the solid MOD plans and met with criticisms. At the meeting, the participating experts showed no opinions opposing the five sets of key words which I had proposed to address the issues concerned. Moreover, the participants agreed unanimously as to how to realize the reform.
I understand that based on such agreement, there were opinions urging the Ministry to show a clearer picture of the relations between its reform plans and the series of its misconducts including the issue of the former Vice-Minister of Defense; the error in the amount of refueling; the collision of the DDG Atago; the fire on the DDH Shirane; and the leakage of information. There was also a view that while the general direction of the proposed reform was agreeable, a process of careful simulations was necessary to avoid a situation where the Ministry, an organization required to respond to events immediately 24 hours a day, 356 days a year, would fail to address such events in an adequate manner, attributing it to its organization which is still on its way for reform. Furthermore, while the modality of the relation between the Internal Bureau and Staff Offices is in question, the Ministry plans aim at creating an organization that combines uniformed and civilian personnel. Here we have to distinguish the two concepts of relations: one between the Internal Bureau and Staff Offices and the other between the uniformed and civilian personnel. It has been said that civilians were given more advantages than uniformed staff, for reasons that the Internal Bureau stood on the upper part of the Ministry’s vertical structure and that the chiefs of the staff offices indirectly support the Minister of Defense through advisory structures by civilian Director Generals. However, numerous uniformed officers working within the Internal Bureau have naturally helped alter the picture of uniformed staff and civilians confronting each other. These aspects were apparently recognized in slightly different ways among the participants of the Panel of Experts for Reforming the MOD.
With all these considered, I believe that the most notable opinion presented in relation to the realization of these reform plans was the one that called for clear accountability for links between such plans and the misconducts and accidents caused by the MOD and SDF. While the MOD Panel for Reviewing Fundamental Reform Measures for Prevention of Recurrence of Incidents and Accident and the Ex-Post Facto Responses is scheduled to have a meeting today, it will be of no benefit to describe such misconducts and accidents in abstract ways. After focusing on the Maritime Self-Defense Force at the last meeting, the Panel will today look into the Ground and Air Self-Defense Forces and the Internal Bureau.
While these are all relevant to efforts for organizational reform, such reform alone will naturally not prevent the recurrence of misconducts. Instead, preventive measures should be elaborately built involving various dimensions. This does not, however, mean that the issues of organizations can be totally dismissed from discussions. Prevention of recurrence requires a multi-layered combination of organizational reform and various other measures unrelated to organizations. Organizational reform alone is not a magic wand for achieving everything.
All these aspects should be thoroughly reflected in the comprehensive report to be compiled at a later date. I expect that when the Ministry of Defense reform plan is created as a total set of proposals, it will present an overall package covering measures to prevent recurrence of misconducts, organizational reform aiming at more functional SDF, and through civilian control.

Question:
I understand that you have presented your own ideas on reform on various occasions. While the latest MOD plans include a number of options, are all of your ideas reflected in them?

Minister:
Well, my ideas have been presented in the form of key words. One set of such key words is to ensure the “safety against the SDF,” together with “safety through the SDF.” Others are “shifting from partial optimization to overall optimization,” “ensuring optimization of human resources distribution,” “minimizing the distance between the regional units and the central organization,” and “changing the attitude of civilians and uniformed staff of shifting responsibility onto the other.” I believe that these ideas were included in all options of the reform plans presented by the MOD.

(For the remainder of the press conference, please refer to the Japanese version.)

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