Under the former organizational structure of the Defense Agency, intelligence-related divisions and sections were internal bureaus, such as the first and the second intelligence division, the intelligence department for each of the chiefs of staff for the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces [GSDF, MSDF, and ASDF], the Central Data Command Unit, the Joint Staff Council's Second Office, and each unit's information division. Each of these units separately mobilized communications posts, naval vessels, and airplanes to collect and analyze military intelligence pertaining to the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea. Each unit was trying to collect information independently from images and published sources, as well as from its "own" officers stationed abroad.
A plan to centralize intelligence-gathering activities by consolidating the intelligence departments of the three SDFs was proposed around 1988, when Seiki Nishihiro became the vice-minister. Thwarted by the lack of cooperation and subordination from the uniformed officers, centralization had to be postponed.
The National Defense Program Outline which determines Japan's defense capabilities, was reviewed and newly established in December 1995. According to this review:
"Japan's defense structure must be capable of conducting warning and surveillance on a continuous basis to detect any changes in circumstances as soon as possible, so as to utilize this information for quick decision-making. It must be capable of high-level intelligence gathering and analysis, including strategic intelligence, through possession of diversified intelligence-gathering means and mechanisms, and highly able intelligence specialists. Additionally, it must possess a sophisticated command and communication capability and be able to quickly and effectively conduct integrated defense operations from a joint perspective."In May 1996 Japan’s parliament passed a law authorizing creation of a central military intelligence agency, the first of its kind since the country’s WWII defeat. The Defence Intelligence Headquarters (DIH) collects, processes and analyses information from remote listening devices operated by Japanese defence forces in the air, on the ground and at sea, as well as satellite images, intelligence supplied by friendly countries and public information such as foreign media reports.
The establishment of DIH in January 1997 was expected to enable the country to deal with the rising uncertainties of the Asia-Pacific region in the post-Cold War era. Information demand has been shifting from tactical information like movements of the Soviet Far Eastern Army to high-quality strategic information. Because the director of the headquarters can report directly to the prime minister's secretary, the risk management capability of the Prime Minister's Office will be improved.
The first director was Army General Masahiro Kunimi, who was promoted from the commanding general of the 10th Division. A 1965 graduate of the Defense Academy, he worked in the intelligence field at the GSDF for many years. He served as a resident defense officer at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing for three years from 1983.
The intelligence headquarters is placed under the Joint Staff Council and is controlled by the "Defense Intelligence Committee," which consists of the permanent vice-minister, the director of the Defense Bureau, the chairman of the Joint Staff Council, and the chiefs of the GSDF, the MSDF, and the ASDF. The committee determines the overall framework of international military intelligence to be collected, and based on this basic plan, each division of the intelligence headquarters will collect, analyze, and assess information gathered from radio waves, images, and publications.
The Defence Intelligence Headquarters (DIH), the Japanese version of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), integrates the five intelligence elements from its three services, the Japan Defence Agency (JDA) and the Joint Staff Council. Based in the new JDA headquarters in Tokyo's Ichigaya district, the organisation reports to the Joint Staff Council and is the armed forces' first fully integrated unit. At the time of its formation DIH strength was 1,580, both military and civilian, although this could rise to 2,000 [according to some reports, the total staffing level was eventually expected to reach 5,000 or even 6,000 personnel, half of whom would be field staff].The organisation has five directorates:
Although a large new organization was created, there has been almost no consolidation or unification of the internal bureaus or the former organizations and units under the SDFs. As the new organization was formed, the three SDFs consolidated their first and second intelligence divisions into a single intelligence division. But, only a handful of individuals from these SDFs had been transferred to the intelligence headquarters. Each SDF's intelligence division still continues to work on data analysis at the tactical level as before. The intelligence units other than the communications offices have also remained almost intact, still being kept under control of the director of each SDF.