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Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007

Scandal-rife defense body is history


Staff writer

The Defense Facilities Administration Agency disbanded Friday after serving 60 years as the coordinator between the public and the U.S. forces in Japan and the nation's own military, brought down by long-entrenched corruption over contracts.

Officials held a ceremony and removed the DFAA nameplate from a building inside the Defense Ministry compound Friday evening.

The DFAA's predecessor was established in 1947 as a procurement body for the Occupation forces. It was reorganized under the formal agency title in 1962, acting to procure land and facilities in Japan for the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces.

In January 2006, two senior DFAA officials and another ex-official were arrested for engaging in bid-rigging to secure contracts for construction and electronics firms. All were later convicted.

The government opted to disband the agency after it was revealed that the bid-rigging was a long-established custom, and that many of its ex-officials had been hired by the companies that placed and won bids for DFAA-related public projects. Starting Saturday, the Defense Ministry will absorb the agency's functions and personnel.

"The organization was ailing before we were aware of it," DFAA chief Iwao Kitahara said in his farewell speech at Friday's ceremony.

During the Cold War, both the U.S. forces and SDF were major targets of antiwar activists. Communities hosting military installations also called for them to be scaled down or closed, citing noise pollution and the danger of accidents in the case of bases.

"You (DFAA workers) have coordinated with the people and the U.S. forces and the SDF, building steady bridges," Kitahara said in his sayonara speech.

He stressed that this role of coordinator will become "more important than ever," even though the agency is no more.

The Defense Ministry is now stuck in a stalemate over the stalled plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. The plan calls for a replacement airstrip to be built elsewhere in the prefecture, after which 7,000 members of Okinawa's marine contingent is to be relocated to Guam. The ministry will have to foot the bill for these operations.



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The Japan Times

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