Brookings: “No, Japan is not planning to ‘double its defense budget’”

My latest publication… a concise corrective to the widespread, but misleading, claims over the past six months that Japan has announced plans to *double* its defense spending (spoiler: it has not) …was just published *open-access (free)* on the Brookings Institution’s Order from Chaos blog.

Please take a look!

Link and suggested citation:

Adam P. Liff, “No, Japan is not planning to ‘double its defense budget’,” Brookings Institution, May 22, 2023.


Clearly, neither a 65% nor 56% planned increase by 2027 is a “doubling” (i.e., a 100% increase) of Japan’s defense budget.

Claims to the contrary are not only inaccurate. My dozens of engagements since last December in Washington and seven other foreign capitals with policymakers, scholars, analysts, and public audiences make clear that such assertions have led to widespread misunderstandings of Japan’s actual intent.

Accurately assessing the numbers matters for sound qualitative analyses about the real-world significance of Japan’s plans. Unsubstantiated assertions of Japan’s (non-existent) plan to double its FY2022 defense budget of 5.4 trillion yen by FY2027 imply a defense budget target of 10.8 trillion yen (about $81 billion). Because the Japanese government’s actual target is 8.9 trillion yen, the claim of “doubling” effectively invents an additional 1.9 trillion yen (about $14 billion) of spending — in a single budget year.

And that’s just the gap between assertion and reality for the final year of Japan’s new FY2023-2027 spending plan. Assuming steady budget increases across the five years, the implied gap between the “doubling” claim and Japan’s stated intent is even greater: as much as $30 billion in cumulative defense investments that Japan has no announced plans to make. This is a significant estimation error — a gap between assertion and reality roughly equivalent to Australia’s entire 2021 defense budget…”