The independent resource on global security

Arms Procurement Decision Making Volume I: China, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Thailand

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Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-829279-1
304 pp.

The rationale for this SIPRI study was to examine ways in which national arms procurement processes, even though they involve sensitive security issues and complex weapon systems, can become more responsive to the broader objectives of security and public accountability. It is believed that the debate on the need for public accountability of the decision-making processes will contribute to the objectives of arms procurement restraint and, indirectly, to the aims of a stable and durable peace.

It is hoped that an examination of the tension between the public's 'right to know' and the military's interpretation of confidentiality based on an exclusive 'need to know' will provide lessons for other areas of public policy making in which the ruling élite controls and manipulates information. Secrecy, moreover, allows waste, fraud and abuse of power to creep into the policy-making processes.

The project examined arms procurement decision-making processes in six major arms-recipient countries. The criteria for selection included their significance in their respective regions, based on their relative economic potential, size and population; their significance as recipients of conventional arms in the past decade; and the inadequacy of published research on their arms procurement decision-making processes. The study proceeded by organizing workshops and networks of experts in the countries concerned, resulting in 60 research papers on which the six country studies are based. It proved a highly innovative and successful approach for the strengthening of contacts between experts in different countries. The project is funded by the Ford Foundation.

Many other countries could have been included in this study using these criteria. For the second phase of the project, studies are being conducted on Chile, Greece, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa and Taiwan.

Findings: the country studies

Key findings

1. The barriers to developing public accountability norms in national security decision making are reinforced by: (a) societal indifference, which allows the military greater autonomy in security policy making; (b) the inadequacy in a qualitative sense of the information needed to facilitate public-interest oversight of defence policy making, for example, by parliamentary defence committees, statutory audit authorities and think-tanks; and (c) legislative oversight bodies' lack of access to professional expertise and advice.

2. A further constraint on the institutionalization of public accountability norms in national security decision-making processes is the enduring influence of personal relationships. In several of the countries under study, it was found that working relationships centre around factions and groups inspired by using influence rather than institutions and professional organizations. This attitude subordinates public interests to the political priorities of the ruling élite.

3. In national assessments of arms procurement needs, two main approaches are taken. The first is the 'threat scenario' approach, a reactive approach spawned by a need to offset the effects of arms procurement by other countries in the region. In this approach the military perceives arms procurement as a solution to assessed threats, equipment replacement or modernization problems. The second is a comprehensive national security problem-solving approach, which integrates the perspectives of diverse agencies in a coherent manner. This approach places a greater emphasis on exploration of national security alternatives through dialogue between different actors and agencies.

4. Better coordination between the foreign and defence policy-making structures leads to a more balanced examination of alternative approaches to security rather than military capability and deterrence strategies. Structures and processes for coordinating coherent foreign and defence policies are lacking, except in the case of Japan. In other countries this co-ordination is limited to inter-ministerial communication. The shaping of foreign and defence policies in separate arenas leads to bureaucratic tribalism and discourages cross-fertilization of ideas.

5. There are serious gaps in the public understanding of the entire financial burden of arms procurement on society. The R&D community and arms producers often understate weapon system costs in order to obtain approval. Public debate on arms procurement decisions tends to dwell on issues such as threats to national security, the size of the defence budget or the effects of weapon procurement costs in general. This indicates an incomplete understanding of the true ownership costs of weapons over their entire life cycle.

6. The lack of transparency in defence budgeting is often connected to obsolete budget designs, the absence of multi-disciplinary expertise in the national statutory audit organizations, weak constitutional provisions for the provision of information for public scrutiny of decisions, and a typical bureaucratic attitude which prefers confidentiality to accountability.

7. In some newly industrializing countries, the arguments for large public-section investments in order to achieve military industrial self-reliance are questionable in the absence of self-sustaining engineering and technological capabilities in the civilian industrial. Capacities to evaluate and monitor defence R&D and arms procurement decisions are generally weak, with the exceptions of Japan and Israel. Ironically, opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse abound in the defence R&D and industrial sectors, particularly in countries with low levels of public accountability.



1. Introduction
Ravinder Pal Singh

2. China
Chinese Country Study Group

3. India
Ravinder Pal Singh

4. Israel
Gerald Steinberg

5. Japan
Masako Ikegami-Andersson

6. South Korea
Jong Chul Choi

7. Thailand
Panitan Wattanayagorn

8. Comparative analysis
Ravinder Pal Singh


Annexe A. Research questions

Annexe B. Abstracts of the working papers

Annexe C. About the contributors