A Vital Next Step for the U.S.-Japan Alliance:
Command and Control Modernization

Mr. James Schoff, Senior Director, Sasakawa USA; and Mr. Christopher B. Johnstone, Senior Advisor and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Publications A Vital Next Step for the U.S.-Japan Alliance:Command and Control Modernization

Introduction

The speed with which Japan is moving to strengthen defense capabilities increases the importance of the next step in U.S.-Japan alliance transformation: modernizing its command-and-control architecture. As Japan becomes a more capable military partner, Washington and Tokyo need to build new structures to support a more operational alliance. A transformed command and control architecture would significantly enhance the credibility of the alliance and help to reinforce deterrence in East Asia. Japan’s planned acquisition of counterstrike capability lends particular urgency to this effort; for the first time, the United States and Japan will need to be able to coordinate the use of force, both tactically (identifying and prosecuting targets) and strategically (managing escalation in a conflict).

To foster bilateral dialogue on the topic, the authors have been collaborating for over a year with a wide range of experts, retired military and government officials, and currently serving officials from both countries—all with long alliance experience—to consider and debate options for modernizing the architecture of the alliance. This Sasakawa USA initiative produced a mid-term report last May, and a final report is forthcoming.  A central conclusion of these deliberations is the need for a forward U.S. joint operational command element in Japan to serve as the standing, day-to-day counterpart for Japan’s new J-JOC. It is up to the two governments to determine how to accomplish this vision in detail, but with the benefit of several bilateral workshops and input from many experts, the authors can offer some general recommendations.

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