NEXT Alliance Conference Spring 2023, Tokyo

The first Japan-based NEXT Alliance Conference (NAC) was held in Tokyo from March 10-13, 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 Spring 2023 NAC explored useful adjustments to future US-Japan command and control (C2) relationships, in light of three evolving trends: 1) a shifting regional military balance that makes integration of allied forces more vital to sustaining deterrence or repelling any attack; 2) a combination of technological advances and operational needs that are driving toward more integrated and combined force concepts; and 3) Japan 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).

The objective of this NAC was to foster substantive bilateral expert dialogue on complex issues surrounding command and control relationships within the alliance, and to support greater mutual understanding and broader public awareness of these issues. Specifically, we focused on 1) the C2 structure we have, 2) models of alliance C2, 3) political, legal & institutional considerations, and 4) C2 needs for the future.

  • To read the summary of NAC Tokyo authored by NEXT Alliance Initiative Senior Director Jim Schoff, click here.
    • 日本語での会議の概要はこちらからご覧ください。
  • For the NEXT Alliance Conference’s (NAC) agenda and participant list, click here.
  • To read more summaries from the C2 modernization dialogue series, click here.


Japan Government Briefings:

Briefing 1: National Defense Strategy (and Information and Cybersecurity)

The first Japanese Government briefing by Mr. Kouji UEDA, Defense Councilor for Cyber Security and Information Technology Management, Ministry of Defense and Mr. Hidetoshi IIJIMA, Director, Defense Policy Division, Ministry of Defense on the topic of Japan’s new national defense strategy.

Briefing 2: National Security Strategy (and Cybersecurity)

The second government briefing by Mr. Masataka OKANO, Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary of the National Security Secretariat (NSS) covered Japan’s new national security strategy and cybersecurity issues.

Briefing 3: Japan’s Defense Buildup Plan

The third government briefing by Mr. Shinya ITO, Director at the Defense Planning and Programming Division, Ministry of Defense and Mr. Hidetoshi IIJIMA explained Japan’s new defense buildup plan.

Keynote Speakers:

Friday evening “kick-off” dinner speaker

Amb. Kenichiro SASAE, President, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)


The first speaker of the conference was former Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, President of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) during the “Kick-Off” dinner on March 10. Following his opening remarks, on the “Challenge for Japan and US Alliance” Amb. Sasae spoke with NEXT Alliance Initiative Senior Director Jim Schoff for a fireside chat style of question and answer that encompassed issues pertaining to the US-Japan alliance today.

Saturday working lunch speaker

Gen. Ryoichi ORIKI (Ret.), Chief of Staff, Joint Staff


The second speaker of the conference was former Chief of Staff, Joint Staff General Ryoichi Oriki, Ground Self-Defense Forces (Ret.). His remarks “Reflection on Operation Tomodachi” covered US-Japan cooperation and coordination lessons learned during Operation Tomodachi, following the disaster of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, exactly 12 years later to the day.

Workshop Sessions:

Session 1: The C2 Structure We Have

The first session began with remarks and presentations by Lt. Gen. Lawrence “Larry” Nicholson, US Marine Corps (Ret.) and Lt. Gen. Junichi ARAKI, Air Self-Defense Forces (Ret.) on the topic of current C2 structures in place.


Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, US Marine Corps (Ret.): The Clock is Running

Session 2: Models of Alliance C2

The second session began with remarks and presentations by Adm. Scott Swift, US Navy (Ret.) and Adm. Tomohisa TAKEI, Maritime Self-Defense Forces (Ret.) on the topic of models of alliance C2 that could be adapted/serve as a model to modernize US-Japan command and control frameworks.

Session 3: Political, Legal & Institutional Considerations

The third session began with remarks and presentations by Nobushige TAKAMIZAWA, Visiting Professor, University of Tokyo and John Bradford, Executive Director, Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies (YCAPS) on the topic of political, legal & institutional considerations for C2 structures.


John Bradford, Executive Director, Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies (YCAPS): Political and Legal Considerations Regarding the Upgrade of US-Japan Alliance Command and Control Arrangements

Session 4: C2 Needs for the Future

The fourth session was moderated by Chris Johnstone, Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and began with remarks and presentations by Lt. Gen. Koichi ISOBE, Ground Self-Defense Forces (Ret.) and Lt. Gen. Chip Gregson, US Marine Corps (Ret.) on the topic of C2 needs for the future.


Lt. Gen. Wallace “Chip” Gregson, US Marine Corps (Ret.): Command Relationships for New Collective Defense Challenges

Session 5: Conference review and recommendation

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.

Media Briefing:

On March 13, the final day of the conference, a subset of conference participants including: Satohiro Akimoto, Jim Schoff, Chris Johnstone, Scott Swift, Koichi Isobe, Nobukatsu Kanehara, and Nobushige Takamizawa, Tsuneo Watanabe gave a media briefing at Sasakawa Peace Foundation offices on the progress and consensus made over the weekend conference to print journalists from various media outlets including The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Nikkei and Yomiuri Shinbun.

Site Visit:

The final event of the conference was a site visit to Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo for a briefing with US Forces Japan and a review of ballistic missile defense (BMD) cooperation.

Photo credit (above): US Forces Japan



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