U.S. Interests in Japanese Technology and Reciprocity

The Technology-for-Technology (TFT) initiative that has been pursued by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) articulates an important principle: no significant transfers of U.S. military technology to Japan without a reciprocal flow of Japanese technology to the United States. Japan has had only limited indigenous capabilities in dedicated defense technology. Japanese technologies, particularly commercial technologies, could make a significant contribution to U.S. defense systems, and this potential contribution will rise in the future. However, a number of barriers prevent an optimal flow. Even though an evenly balanced flow is perhaps not possible in the foreseeable future, greater reciprocity must be pursued. A persistent long-term effort will be required to build a more balanced U.S.-Japan technology relationship.

Results of Past Efforts

Despite several U.S.-Japan agreements and DoD initiatives over the past 15 years, transfer of both military and commercial technologies from Japan to the United States to support U.S. national security has been minimal.

Japanese Industry and Government Roles

Although some Japanese groups have expressed support for the TFT initiative, there has been no strong constituency in Japan for expanded technology transfer to the United States—in defense or commercial areas. The Defense Task Force believes that ongoing changes in the environment should lead to greater incentives for cooperation on both sides. Still, without recognition on the part of Japanese government and industry that reciprocal technology relationships will strengthen the alliance—and thereby serve Japan’s interests—results will be very difficult or impossible to come by. This could erode the alliance in the long term.

U.S. Industry and Government Roles

U.S. industry needs to be intimately involved in building overall strategy toward technology relationships with Japan and in planning U.S.-Japan collaboration in major systems. Although increased sales, rather than technology acquisition, have been the main goal of U.S. defense companies collaborating with Japanese industry, this report documents a number of specific Japanese technologies and broad areas of technical achievement of interest to U.S. industry. However, national strategy cannot be built around the specific technological needs of U.S. companies for two reasons: (1) the strongest U.S. companies can often pursue their interests by themselves, and (2) some U.S. companies may find it difficult to apply Japanese technologies developed for high-volume consumer markets to lower-volume defense applications. The larger context is that transfer and application of Japanese technologies are in the broader national security interest. Therefore, the effort to achieve greater reciprocity in this area cannot be solely industry led. U.S. government initiative and leadership will be necessary to achieve real results.

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