NEXT Alliance Conference Fall 2023, Annapolis, MD

The third NEXT Alliance Conference (NAC) was held in Washington, DC and Annapolis, MD from October 27 to 29, 2023. It is one of two offsite “retreats” convened each year by Sasakawa USA focused on a priority issue area for the US-Japan NEXT Alliance Initiative. The Fall 2023 NAC explored the modernization of US-Japan command and control relationships to enhance alliance security cooperation.

The US and Japanese delegations began a long weekend of discussions with briefings from US government officials on current alliance initiatives and the status of Mission Partner Environment deployment. The participants then traveled to Annapolis, MD for a 2-day bilateral workshop that explored the status of C2 modernization efforts and potential areas for improvement. The workshop included keynote presentations on “contested logistics” and the role of functional commands vis-à-vis INDOPACOM. Participants included active and retired government officials and military personnel, scholars, and private sector representatives from the two countries.

The conference concluded with a public event on October 30, where some NAC participants discussed outcomes of the conference and shared their ideas for alliance C2 modernization. This included an idea for bolstering US Forces Japan (USFJ or a “NewSFJ”) with some additional staff and command authorities to be a more effective partner for Japan’s new Permanent Joint Headquarters to be stood up in 2025. The panel discussion was led by Sasakawa USA Sr. Director Jim Schoff and featured Dr. Kelly Grieco (Senior Fellow, Stimson Center), Mr. Chris Johnstone (Japan Chair, CSIS), Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Sadamasa Oue (JASDF), and Mr. Hideshi Tokuchi (President, Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS)). An audience of roughly 40 people participated in the event, which was held at The Army and Navy Club in Washington.

The NEXT team will publish a final report for this project later this fiscal year and is already planning the next NAC on economic security in Tokyo in March. The objective of this NAC was to foster substantive bilateral expert dialogue on complex issues surrounding C2 policy coordination within the alliance, and to support greater mutual understanding and broader public awareness of these issues. Specifically, we focused on: 1) a shifting regional military balance that makes integration of allied forces more vital, 2) a combination of technological advances and operational needs that are driving toward more integrated and combined force concepts, and 3) Japan’s efforts to expand its defense capabilities and improve military “jointness,” such as beginning to develop a counterstrike capability and introducing a permanent joint headquarters for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

For the third NEXT Alliance Conference’s (NAC) agenda and participant list, click here.

For the midterm report on US-Japan command and control relationships produced following the NAC Tokyo 2023, click here.


US Government Briefings:

US-Japan NEXT Alliance Initiative Senior Director Schoff delivers opening remarks at the beginning of the US Government Briefings on the first day of the NEXT Alliance Conference on the morning of Oct. 27.

Briefing 1: State Department “Alliance Agenda 2023-2024”

The first government briefing by Mr. Nicholas Snyder, Director, Office of Japan Affairs, US Dept. of State and Mr. Luke Collin, Director for Japan and Australia, National Security Council to discuss priorities for a near-term alliance agenda to support peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Briefing 2: Defense Department “Alliance Modernization Update”

The second government briefing by Mr. Andrew Winternitz, Acting Deputy Asst. Secretary of Defense for East Asia Policy covered alliance modernization efforts to address an increasingly severe security environment by building a more integrated and agile security partnership.

Briefing 3: Joint Staff “Mission Partner Environments”

The third government briefing by Mr. Fred Stanley, Systems Engineer, Coalition Interoperability Assurance & Validation (CIAV), JITC LNO Joint Staff J6 provided valuable technical insights into Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) and the building of Mission Partner Environments for coalition activities.

US Naval Academy Tour:

After arriving in Annapolis from Washington, participants enjoyed a guided tour of the US Naval Academy on a pleasant autumn day before heading to the kick-off dinner.

Keynote Speakers:

Friday evening “kick-off” dinner speaker

Lt. Gen. Leo Kosinski, USAF, Director for Logistics (J4), The Joint Staff

The first speaker of the conference was Lt. Gen. Leo Kosinski, Director for Logistics (J4) on the Joint Staff during the “Kick-Off” dinner on October 27. Following his opening remarks on “Contested Logistics and C2/COMREL,” the group discussed with him how the US and Japan could improve coordinated and complementary logistical operations.

Saturday working lunch speaker

ADM (Ret.) Cecil D. Haney, fmr. STRATCOM Commander and PACFLEET Commander

The second guest speaker of the conference was former STRATCOM Commander and PACFLEET Commander, Admiral Cecil D. Haney, US Navy (Ret.) during the working lunch on October 28. In his remarks entitled “C2 Modernization and the Role of Functional Commands,” Haney urged the allies to work in a more seamless way as best as we can in fluid situations and to work as a team, modernizing the C2 construct to enhance the alliance in a timely and effective manner.

Saturday dinner speaker

Dr. Toshi Yoshihara, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

The third guest speaker of the conference was Dr. Toshi Yoshihara, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments during the Saturday night dinner on October 28. His remarks entitled “What Will China Think?” shed light on how modernization efforts and changes to US-Japan command and control would be perceived by Beijing and what, if any, changes in China’s behavior it might trigger.

Workshop Sessions: 

Participants gathered in the conference room for five sessions of presentations, and discussions on different areas of US-Japan C2 modernizations.

Session 1: The State of Alliance C2 Modernization

The first session began with presentations by Lt. Gen. Koichi (Ret.) ISOBE, Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Lawrence “Larry” Nicholson, US Marine Corps, to review updates on Japan’s progress establishing a Permanent Joint HQ (PJHQ) and related US adjustments for the Indo-Pacific region.

Following initial presentations, session discussants (Professor Hideshi TOKUCHI, President of the Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS) and John Schaus, Sr. Fellow at CSIS) helped kick-off group dialogue to set the baseline for the rest of the workshop.

Session 2: Technology Aspects of C2 Modernization

The second session began with presentations by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Wallace “Chip” Gregson, US Marine Corps and Prof. Satoru MORI, Keio University on relevant technology questions related to info sharing, info security, and industry cooperation related to C2.

Following initial presentations, session discussants Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Burt Field, fmr Commander of US Forces Japan and Mihoko MATSUBARA, Chief Cybersecurity Strategist of NTT) added views from a former practitioner at USFJ and from industry.

Session 3: Korea & other Multilateral Considerations

The third session was moderated by Chris Johnstone, Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and began with presentations by ADM (Ret.) Tomohisa TAKEI, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Joseph R. Donovan, fmr Ambassador to Indonesia and State Dept. PDA/S, East Asia & Pacific Affairs, on the topic of how US-Japan C2 may function within a web of regional and global alliances and partnerships during a potential regional contingency.

Following initial presentations, Masashi MURANO, Japan Chair Fellow, Hudson Institute kick-started the group dialogue as a discussant.

Session 4: Sequencing C2 Modernization Next Steps

The fourth session began with presentations by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Sadamasa Oue, Japan Air Self-Defense Forces and RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, US Navy on the topic of US-Japan C2 strengths and areas for improvement in the near-term.

Following initial presentations, Sugio TAKAHASHI, Head of Defense Policy Division at the National Institute for Defense Studies and Dr. Kelly Grieco, Sr. Fellow, Stimson Center, initiated the group dialogue portion of the session.

Session 5: Conference review and recommendations


Prior to the conclusion of the workshop, participants took time to reflect on the weekend’s discussions and consider overall policy recommendations. Senior Director Schoff led an interactive dialogue where participants worked to outline the strengths of US-Japan policy coordination and areas that need improvement.

Public Event:

On October 30, the final day of the conference, a subset of conference participants including: Jim Schoff, Chris Johnstone, Hideshi Tokuchi, Kelly Grieco, and Sadamasa Oue gave a briefing at The Army and Navy Club in Washington DC on the outcomes of the weekend’s discussions to an audience of about 40 attendees.



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