Japan’s New Approach to Defense Technology

Western media outlets (such as the Wall Street Journal and The Economist) focused on the controversial security legislation Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed through the Japanese parliament in September. Yet Western media have paid far less attention to another significant change now well underway. In June of this year, legislation passed for the establishment of a new defense acquisitions agency under Japan’s Ministry of Defense. The new Acquisition Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA) opened its doors for business on October 1.

The purpose of ATLA is to bring together disparate parts of the Ministry of Defense working on defense R&D, procurement, and exports under one roof. The goal is to improve efficiency, and eliminate organizational bureaucracy and duplication. Compared to similar agencies in Japan’s peer countries like the United Kingdom and France, ATLA is small, at 1,800 people and with a budget of about 2 trillion yen ($16.3 billion). Yet this is a massive agency by Japanese standards, representing a third of the total MOD budget. Creation of ATLA follows MOD’s shift away from the 1970 policy of indigenous development and production (former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s kokusanka houshin) to its new “Strategy for Defense Production and Technological Bases.”

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