Putting “Meat on the Bones” of the U.S.-Japan Alliance Coordination Mechanism

Thomas Storch
June 1, 2016

Sasakawa USA Forum Issue No. 2

Putting “Meat on the Bones” of the U.S.-Japan Alliance Coordination Mechanism

U.S.-Japan alliance coordination has historically been hindered by structural challenges, such as the lack of a mutual defense pact or a joint operational command structure, as exist in both the U.S.-South Korea alliance and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Despite longstanding efforts to bolster crisis interoperability and coordination, the alliance continues to lack an optimal structure to organize the planning and execution of complex joint operations. The Alliance Coordination Mechanism (ACM), detailed in the 2015 Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, is the “next generation” attempt at forging the structures to optimize alliance joint planning. While the ACM outlines key coordination bridges, it is still largely conceptual at the current time. The focus must now turn to “putting meat on the bones” by building out and populating the U.S., Japanese, and bilateral structures, groups, and committees through which the ACM will execute its coordination functions. By focusing on command and control structures, updated scenario planning, and strategic messaging, the ACM can target specific functionalities needed to bolster alliance preparedness. The success of the implementation of the ACM will have important implications for the alliance’s ability to conduct increasingly complex joint operations in future years.


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thomas storchAbout the author

Thomas Storch is co-founder of the Zosima Group. Thomas is a graduate of Harvard College and recently completed his MA dissertation on the topic of Japanese nuclear weapons policy for the War Studies Department of King’s College London.


About the Sasakawa USA Forum

This paper is Issue No. 2 of the Sasakawa USA Forum, a new 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.


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