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The Great East Japan Earthquake

Organizational Upsurge and Simplification Demanded of the Kan Administration
-How A Government of Crisis Management is Envisioned

Etsushi Tanifuji
Professor, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University

The premises of the Japanese government changed when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11th. More focus must be placed on politics of crisis management, and less on politics of times of stability. When considering the damage caused by the great earthquake and tsunami and the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant as premises, politics of crisis management must be practiced over a long period of time.

Democracy is the determining of the future politics based upon deliberations conducted by the people. Times of crisis, however, do not allow for adherence to time-consuming political procedures, but rather call for immediate political decisions and practices. The legitimacy of politics is lost when crises are tackled but clear results are not produced. During crisis situations, political decisions and practices are first prioritized and implemented before verification of whether or not the decisions and actions were valid and those responsible are held to account. This does not mean that democratic procedures are not followed. Because there are various measures and methods of emergency response and reconstruction, pluralistic discussions must be made and agreements in many areas are also desirable. However, objections cannot be injected when arranging the minimum conditions that can at least protect the lives and guarantee the safety of people, so it is absolutely necessary to find ways of solving the problem by devoting all resources in a short period of time.

This is when political leadership is widely examined and discussed. While there were countless cases at the "tough spots" where measures were taken including local residents cooking meals together as of the next day of the recent disaster, and there were repeated cases of "fragile centers" that were overwhelmed with the changing conditions and not being able to respond appropriately. Poor leadership in the inner circle of government has become evident through confused crisis scenarios, insufficient information management (gathering and analyses of information) for crisis scenarios, instability in applied strategies and those that need to be devoted, uncertainty in visions for the future, and the like.

The crises that modern politics face are so advanced and complex that they can neither be understood nor solved with the abilities and qualities of political leaders alone. The crisis we are in now has natural disasters and major accidents on a wide scale, and even a chain of crises has been occurring. The qualities of the leaders pointed out so often by the media under these conditions are vital elements in practicing politics of crisis, but are certainly not decisive elements. Modern crises require systematic efforts that are beyond the capabilities of any single leader. In other words, the primary cause of "fragile centers" in our country lies in immature crisis management structures and systems.

There are permanent crisis management organizations such as the Emergency Management Agency in the United States as well as temporary bodies that are reorganized during times of stability for responding when crises arise, but it has not yet been determined which is more appropriate. No matter which type it is, a simple and effective formation of organizations and the assigning of human resources to the proper posts are absolutely necessary for political leadership. It is therefore said that (1) the clarification of the goals and objectives and responsibilities, (2) the establishing of an open partnership with and use of outside organizations that provide various resources upon recognizing the limitations of the formed organization and resources, (3) the establishing of immediate and direct correspondence relationships with the sites, (4) the formation of horizontal organizations where there is no middle management level in the chain of command getting in between orders and activities, and (5) the acquisition and application of advanced expertise and skills needed for reaching organizational goals are vital. These organizations must produce clear results within a designated period of time. This is what crisis management systems are destined for. That is why a system where the work teams consist of leaders and several followers-the leaders are controlled by a few political leaders who control the entire organization, and only a few leaders assume the ultimate responsibility-is desirable.

The Kan administration's crisis management system consists of the Special Headquarters for Measures to Assist the Lives of Disaster Victims and the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters. For the former, Katayama and Sengoku are assigned as assistant chiefs under Disaster Prevention Minister Matsumoto, and below them are vice minister conferences that handle the restoration of afflicted areas, the waste disposal method issue, the facilitating of disaster waste disposal, job assistance and creation for people such as the disaster victims, housing for victims, and so on. For the latter, Hosono and Mabuchi are in charge as assistants to the prime minister and a livelihood support team for nuclear victims has been installed below them. There are also the joint liaison headquarters with the Tokyo Electric Power Company and a team of experts in which six members of the Cabinet are involved. The Nuclear Safety Commission and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency are also involved in work concerning the nuclear accident, and a reconstruction design council has also been established.

There is now an organizational upsurge. There are also unnecessary intermediates as many people belong to work teams. As a result, the chain of command is tangled and the responsibilities are decentralized. It is unclear under whose responsibility information is transmitted every day and how the accuracy of such information is guaranteed. When it comes to measures for dealing with nuclear power plants, emergency organizations were formed to intervene where there is great negligence due to the administrative reform where the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes nuclear power plants, is to integrate with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which evaluates safety. Therefore, appropriate measures could not be prescribed, and as a result, it is fieldwork that is taking precedence. It is still unclear whether or not the roles of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management and the Crisis Management Center, which were installed after the Great Hanshin Earthquake, are being fulfilled. Experts were appointed to the reconstruction council that was installed, but there are too many of them. Experts should only be convened when needed, as the framework becomes closed off and only self-serving when they are appointed on a permanent basis. The lack of political leadership in the Kan administration is due to the confusion and lack of experience in these organizations that have to assist in political leadership. Two things must be accomplished. The first is the simplification and coordination of organizations that have been formed as a part of emergency response. The second is the formation of powerful organizations that get involved in the reconstruction process. The reconstruction process must be carried out through trial and error over a long period of time and not just with the forming of frameworks. In order to achieve this, it is absolutely necessary to form an organization such as a reconstruction agency that has clear authority and responsibilities. Producing immediate improvements and responses is what political leadership is all about.

Etsushi Tanifuji
Professor, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University

1974 Graduated from the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University
1981 Completed the Master's Program and the Doctoral Program at the Graduate School of Political Science, Waseda University
1989 Assigned to serve as Assistant Professor at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University after serving as an instructor at Tokai University and Ibaraki University
1994 Assigned to serve as Professor at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University
1995 - 1997 Visiting professor at the Department of Government, University of Essex, England
1997 Visiting fellow at the Centre for European Economic and Public Affairs, University of Dublin, Ireland He also served as an instructor at Gakushuin University, Keio University, and Tokyo University.

[Major Fields of Study]
Politics, Political Communications, and Contemporary Politics in the UK

[Major Publications]
"British Political Reform in the New Century" [Shinseiki niokeru Igirisu no Seiji Kaikaku], the Waseda Journal of Political Science and Economics, Issue 358, 2005
"British Election Politics after the Thatcher government," [Post Thatcher-ki no Igirisu no Senkyo Seiji], printed in Political Science of Communication, [Komyunikeishon no Seiji-gaku], Keio University Press, 2003
"Organizational Structural Reform Model Japan Can Learn from", [Nihon ga Manaberu Sosiki teki Kozo Kaikaku Model], Weekly Toyo Keizai, July 28, 2001
Today's Media and Politics", [Gendai Media to Seiji], Ichigeisha, 2005
"Who is going to be a Politician?" [Dare ga Seijika ni Naruno ka?] (coauthor), Waseda University Press, 2001