25 July 2017

News Story: Japan's R&D misfire for defense reform

Kawasaki C-2 Cargo Aircraft (File Photo)
By: Paul Kallender-Umezu 

TOKYO — Since the October 2015 establishment of the 1,800-strong Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, Japan’s Ministry of Defense has been attempting to streamline its acquisition process and facilitate private-sector research and development. Results have been mixed.

In doing so, the MoD launched a new program to funnel more spending to Japanese scientists. The same year, ¥300 million (U.S. $2.7 million) was budgeted for the program. That doubled to ¥600 million (U.S. $5.4 million) in fiscal year 2016 and is set to rise to ¥11 billion (U.S. $98 million) in fiscal year 2017 as the MoD tries to build a research cadre in Japan’s academic sector that will benefit defense procurement later.

The establishment of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, or ATLA, came on top of an April 2014 relaxation of defense export rules allowing cases that will contribute to global peace and serve Japan’s security interests, leading to the July 2014 sale of Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missile interceptors to the United States. ATLA’s new job is to try to better connect disparate R&D efforts to produce new outputs.

“We understand that China is very active, and we always want to stay ahead and secure technological superiority, and we are using this fund more actively to stimulate research in industry and academia,” said Takahiro Yoshida, director of ATLA’s Aircraft Project Management division.

Backers of the new strategy are banking ability or likelihood of success based on leveraging a series of Japanese civil technologies such as robotics, AI and machine learning and advanced materials, said Steven Ganyard, president of Avascent Global Advisors.

“The rise of a belligerent China and [North Korea] means that Japan can no longer afford a defense procurement process divorced from reality. Japan builds … products like C-2, P-1 and F-2 when they could be buying the best in the world for a fraction of the price. No other country in the world operates like this,” he said.

Read the full story at DefenseNews