The National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), established in 1997, is the first Japanese graduate school for policy studies whose main objective is to train mid-career officials from Japan and abroad. Modeled after Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, GRIPS currently has 69 faculty members, including more than a few former high-ranking officials of Japanese government ministries. Although GRIPS has fewer than ten non-Japanese faculty members, it has embarked on a major recruiting program intended to increase the foreign faculty. GRIPS now has about 300 students, of whom 180 are non-Japanese and 120 are from Asia. More than 80 percent of the courses are offered in English. All students are supported by fellowships from such agencies as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the Japanese government.
Students and faculty members are grouped into 12 programs, one of which is the doctoral program in Security and International Affairs. This program is the first of its kind established in Japan (in 2006) in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. The core faculty of the Security and International Affairs Program is small, numbering only nine, but it boasts of such luminaries as Admiral Fumio Ohta, a Johns Hopkins Ph.D. who served as chief of Defense Forces Intelligence Headquarters, and Ambassador Yukio Takeuchi, who served as Ambassador to Indonesia and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
GRIPS is maturing as an institution at a time of significant change in Japan’s international role. At least since the end of World War II, the military has been little appreciated in Japan. This was not simply because of Japan’s wartime past. During the Cold War era, Japanese security was largely anchored in the Japan-U.S. security treaty, the management of which was in the hands of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, Japan’s pacifist constitution has cast a shadow on the very existence of a Japanese military, which is not even called a “military”, going by the name of “self-defense forces.”
This state of affairs has gradually changed since the end of the Cold War. In the mid-1990s, the Japanese government under Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa decided to send troops to Cambodia as part of an international peacekeeping operation there. Under Prime Minister Koizumi (and continuing under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe), naval and air force troops have provided logistical support to American and other forces in the Indian Ocean and in the Middle East. Japan also deployed a contingent of ground forces to Iraq in 2003 for postwar reconstruction. Japan’s participation in the U.S.-led War on Terror amounts to a globalization of the Japan-U.S. alliance, with the geographical area covered by the alliance expanding from the “general area of the Far East” to include the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.
It is in the context of Japan’s increasing role in international security affairs that Prime Minister Abe’s recent call for constitutional revision, and for the upgrading of the Defense Agency to ministry level, can be understood. Even though some inside and outside Japan have criticized the initiative as an attempt to revive Japanese militarism, the gist of the matter is that deleting the second clause of Article Nine, which states that the Japanese state does not possess military power, is intended to resolve more than half a century of “theological debate” (as it has been labeled in public) over Japan’s officially non-existent but in reality substantial military forces. In effect, the revision retains the pacifist character of the Japanese state, which only allows the use of coercive force for self-defense, while clarifying the status of Japan’s military forces amid changes in the global and regional geopolitical context.
Although the Ministry of Defense’s recent upgrade is largely symbolic, it nevertheless signifies the increasing importance of the Ministry in Japan’s security policy. Its upgrading places it on a par with all the other ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It will change little else, particularly firm civilian control over the military. Even with the constitutional revision now under discussion—which, if it happens at all, will take years to realize—civilian control will remain unaltered, not only in the form of the cabinet formulating security policies, but also, and equally important, of career civilian officials occupying strategic positions in the Ministry of Defense, from the minister, vice minister and directors-general down to directors. The Security and International Affairs Program at GRIPS is in part geared toward training mid-career Ministry of Defense civilian officials who are destined for promotion to these and other key positions.
Military education in Japan is modeled after the American military education system. It starts with cadet training at the Defense University, the president of which is Dr. Makoto Iyokibe, a former professor of Japanese diplomatic history at Kobe University who was handpicked for the job by Koizumi. Mid-ranking officers who are likely to be promoted to general are then required to take the “General Course” at the Institute for Defense Studies, the leading think tank of the Ministry of Defense, or to attend the Staff College, or both. More than half of the general-rank officers are graduates of the General Course at the Institute. From 1981 to 2006, 132 officers from 13 other countries also took the course. In part because the Institute does not award degrees, GRIPS is now in discussions with the Ministry about establishing a joint master’s degree program for the General Course.
Japanese government officials, particularly the career officials who are destined to serve in strategic positions in government ministries and agencies, graduated from top universities, especially the University of Tokyo. They all also passed the First-Class Civil Service Examinations. These officials have prided themselves in being part of Japan’s elite, but until the 1980s they received their training as career officials mainly on the job. Only in the 1980s were such rising leaders sent abroad to top universities to learn foreign languages, especially English, and to do graduate studies.
Until the early 1990s, career officials played the central role in defense and foreign affairs policymaking. In the 1990s, however, Japanese officials became increasingly aware of the need for specialized training as they interacted more and more with their counterparts from abroad, while they found themselves under attack for mismanaging Japan’s economic affairs and corruption scandals as the Japanese economy entered into a decade-long recession.
Younger politicians from the Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition parties, which eventually coalesced into the Democratic Party of Japan, appeared in the political arena, as young bureaucrats, along with businessmen, began running for office in the Parliament. In this context—declining bureaucratic power and the ascendancy of party politicians in the policymaking process—the establishment of GRIPS (tellingly, on land that once belonged to the University of Tokyo) signals a new era in Japanese policymaking. GRIPS is determined to help meet the demand for training career officials in their respective expertise, and to reconstitute policy communities that now include, in the area of security and foreign policies, party politicians, civilian officials, military officers and academics.
As vice president for international affairs and director of the Security and International Affairs Program at GRIPS, I am mindful of the fact that the American way of military and civil service education can be a model for Japan in some but not other respects. The decade I spent teaching at Cornell University has afforded me some insights into the American policy community. The United States has something like a policy community, which is characterized not just by the circulation of ideas (thus leading to the creation of a shared discourse), but also by the movement of people across different workplaces such as think tanks, government offices, academia and business. This movement, commonly referred to as the “revolving door”, is a potent force in policymaking.
In Japan, such a policy community does not exist. Instead, policy is made by career government officials in consultation with Members of Parliament, above all from the Liberal Democratic Party, and to a lesser extent with academics and business leaders. The major feature of Japanese policymaking is the constant negotiations among government agencies, political parties, academia and industrial sectors within the context of relatively well-defined institutional boundaries. Career paths tend to be restricted to specific institutional arenas, and there is hardly any free flow of people across institutional boundaries. For example, career officials remain career officials, and if they quit the civil service they cannot return to officialdom unless they successfully run for Parliament and are appointed to ministerial or vice ministerial positions. Academics remain academics, too, even when they advise the government on policy matters. Academics, particularly prominent economists, occasionally get appointed to ministerial positions, but they do not subsequently parlay their stint in government into cushy board memberships in big corporations.
GRIPS hopes to reduce the rigidity of institutional boundaries by creating a space in which academics, career officials and parliamentary members can interact with each other as well as with students and the public. By introducing a modified American model of education, we seek the creation of a policymaking public sphere built on shared discourse and debate, but without introducing the revolving-door system whose potential excesses have on occasion made it an object of criticism. Our goal is that GRIPS will emerge in due course as a hub of the policy networks linking government agencies and think tanks, political parties and academia in Japan.