Recruitment and Conditions of Service
The total strength of the three branches of the SDF was
in 1992. In addition, the SDF maintained a total of 48,400
reservists attached to the three services. Even when
and reserve components are combined, however, the country
a lower ratio of military personnel to its population than
member nation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
the major Asian nations, only India and Indonesia keep a
ratio of personnel in arms.
The SDF is an all-volunteer force. Conscription per se
forbidden by law, but many citizens consider Article 18 of
constitution, which proscribes involuntary servitude
punishment for a crime, as a legal prohibition of any form
conscription. Even in the absence of so strict an
however, a military draft appears politically impossible.
SDF uniformed personnel are recruited as private, E-1,
recruit, and airman basic for a fixed term. Ground forces
normally enlist for two years; those seeking training in
specialties enlist for three. Naval and air recruits
enlist for three years. Officer candidates, students in
National Defense Academy and National Defense Medical
candidate enlist students in technical schools are
enrolled for an
indefinite period. The National Defense Academy and
technical schools usually require an enrollment of four
the National Defense Medical College require six years.
When the SDF was originally formed, women were
exclusively for the nursing services. Opportunities were
somewhat when women were permitted to join the GSDF
service in 1967 and the MSDF and ASDF communication
1974. By 1991 more than 6,000 women were in the SDF, about
percent of service areas, except those requiring direct
combat, were open to them. The National Defense Medical
graduated its first class with women in March 1991, and
National Defense Academy began admitting women in FY 1992.
In the face of some continued post-World War II public
or antipathy toward the armed services, the SDF has
recruiting personnel. The SDF has to compete for qualified
personnel with well-paying industries, and most enlistees
"persuaded" volunteers who sign up after solicitation from
recruiters. Predominantly rural prefectures supply
enlistees far beyond the proportions of their populations.
such as southern Kyushu and Hokkaido, where employment
opportunities are limited, recruiters are welcomed and
the citizens. In contrast, little success or cooperation
encountered in urban centers such as Tokyo and Osaka.
Because the forces are all volunteer and legally
members can resign at any time, and retention is a
enlistees are lured away by the prospects of highly paying
jobs, and Defense Agency officials complain of private
looting their personnel. The agency attempts to stop these
practices by threats of sanctions for offending firms that
defense contracts and by private agreements with major
firms. Given the nation's labor shortage, however, the
likely to continue.
Some older officers consider the members of the modern
unequal to personnel of the former Imperial Army and
but the SDF are generally regarded as professional and
Compared with their counterparts in other nations, members
SDF are remarkably well educated and in good physical
Literacy is universal, and school training was extensive.
are trained in the martial arts, judo, and kendo,
physical standards are strict. The SDF probably does not
the same high level of personnel as other institutions in
Graduates of the top universities rarely enter the armed
and applicants to the National Defense Academy are
considered to be on the level of those who apply to
General conditions of military life are not such that a
in the SDF seems an attractive alternative to one in
industry or the bureaucracy. The conditions of service
dignity, prestige, and comfort than they had before World
and for most members of the defense establishment,
offers less status than did a civilian occupation. Those
enter the SDF are often unfairly perceived by the
unable to find a better job.
As special civil servants, SDF personnel are paid
civilian pay scales that do not always distinguish rank.
SDF salaries are greater for subordinates than for
officers; senior NCOs with long service can earn more than
promoted colonels. Pay raises are not included in Defense
budgets and can not be established by military planners.
ages for officers below flag rank range from fifty-three
to fiftyfive years, and from fifty to fifty-three for enlisted
Limits are sometimes extended because of personnel
the late 1980s, the Defense Agency, concerned about the
of finding appropriate postretirement employment for these
retirees, began providing vocational training for enlisted
personnel about to retire and transferring them to units
the place where they intend to retire. Beginning in
the Self-Defense Forces Job Placement Association provided
placement and reemployment support for retired SDF
Retirees also receive pensions immediately upon
ten years earlier than most civil service personnel.
retirement system promises to be a problem of increasing
the 1990s, with the aging of the population.
SDF personnel benefits are not comparable to such
active-duty military personnel in other major
nations. Health care is provided at the SDF Central
fourteen regional hospitals, and 165 clinics in military
and on board ship, but the health care only covers
examinations and the treatment of illness and injury
the course of duty. There are no commissary or exchange
Housing is often substandard, and military appropriations
facilities maintenance often focus on appeasing civilian
communities near bases rather than on improving on-base
Data as of January 1994