Sasakawa USA Forum Issue No. 14
Allied Against Natural Disaster?: The Need for Exceptional Disaster Relief Policy for the U.S.-Japan Alliance
The U.S. military response to the March 2011 triple disaster, known as Operation TOMODACHI, proved to be a watershed event for the U.S.-Japan alliance by providing needed assistance to Japan’s domestic disaster relief efforts, and by demonstrating to the Japanese public the value of hosting U.S. forces in Japan. Owing to lessons learned from the 2011 disaster, U.S.-Japan alliance managers took steps to improve cooperation in humanitarian assistance/disaster relief. Significant progress was made through increased exercise participation, institutionalization of disaster relief functions, and establishment of a standing Alliance Coordination Mechanism. However, U.S. military support to Japan Self-Defense Force relief operations following major earthquakes in Kumamoto prefecture in April 2016 revealed lingering deficiencies centered on three things: money, authorities, and process. Failure to remedy those deficiencies contributed to an absence of U.S. military involvement in response to floods and landslides that claimed over two hundred lives and caused billions of yen worth of damage throughout portions of Kyūshū, Honshū, and Shikoku in July 2018. This article brings those deficiencies to light and offers recommendations for rectifying them.
About the Author
Michael Bosack is a Ph.D. candidate at the International University of Japan’s Graduate School of International Relations. Prior to leaving military service to pursue his Ph.D., he served as the Deputy Chief of Government Relations at Headquarters, U.S. Forces, Japan. There, he was part of the team that drafted and implemented the 2015 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, and he was one of the founding members of the Alliance Coordination Mechanism. His current doctoral research examines Alliance Theory, specifically focusing on the negotiations and outcomes of the 1997 and 2015 Defense Guidelines between the United States and Japan. Michael is also a former Mansfield Fellow and a graduated East-West Center Fellow.
About the Sasakawa USA Forum
This paper serves as Issue No. 14 of the Sasakawa USA Forum, a platform for research and analysis related to Japan and U.S.-Japan relations in a bilateral, regional, and global context. In order to gain a more comprehensive view of U.S.-Japan relations, the Sasakawa USA Forum publishes research from experts outside of our organization. Click here for details on how to submit research for consideration.
Featured image: Japan Coast Guard PL82 Nagura at the Port at the Port of Ishigaki. Wikimedia Commons.