IDF cuts numbers, aims for ‘younger, slimmer’ military
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IDF cuts numbers, aims for ‘younger, slimmer’ military

Army emphasizes efficiency as new 5-year plans sees units transferring to civilian hands, career troops downsized to 40,000

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi EIsenkot visits a Golani Brigade exercise in the Golan Heights on Oct. 27, 2015 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi EIsenkot visits a Golani Brigade exercise in the Golan Heights on Oct. 27, 2015 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The IDF will begin rolling out a series of cutbacks and organizational changes in the coming weeks and months to further streamline the army and increase its efficiency, as debate over the Defense Ministry’s budget continues, a senior military official said Monday.

Following a two-day workshop with the IDF’s General Staff, army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot recommended moving forward with the Gideon plan, which had been announced in July. The five-year plan is designed to make the army operationally more efficient and more cost effective, the senior officer told The Times of Israel.

Some elements of the plan have already been put in place, but the latest recommendations include transferring certain units to civilian hands, restructuring and trimming back whole divisions, corps and brigades and instituting a six-percent cutback in personnel across the boards, the official said.

“The idea is to create a younger military,” the officer explained. “One that is slimmer, stronger, more focused, better trained.”

Some of the proposed measures will require final approval from the government, while others will go into effect immediately.

The newsroom of Army Radio, which contains both conscripted soldiers and civilians who work on its programming (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)
The newsroom of Army Radio, which contains both conscripted soldiers and civilians who work on its programming (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

Among those units on the chopping block, the Army Radio news station and musical Galgalatz radio station were recommended by the General Staff for transfer out of the army and into purely civilian hands.

“The military position is not to close it, but that it doesn’t need to be within the IDF. The IDF does not need to have any public media outlets. Where it goes is for the government to decide,” the IDF official said.

The military radio stations have come under fire by Culture Minister Miri Regev, who accused the outlets of not doing enough to promote native Israeli culture and music.

Other units that stand to be moved out of the army include elements of the Education Corps, the Military Advocate General’s Corps, the Military Rabbinate, the Chief of Staff’s Economic Adviser’s unit, and the Military Censor.

The army’s Bedouin trackers unit will also be dramatically reduced, the officer said. The “Herev” Battalion, made up of soldiers from the Druze community was closed earlier this year, with the troops being dispersed into various IDF units.

Officers past the age of 28 will be forced to either move ‘up or out’

The overall plan will see a reduction in personnel across the board, specifically among career army soldiers. Under the Gideon plan, by January 2017 only 40,000 career soldiers will remain in the IDF, the official said.

“The IDF will be cutting down about 100 lieutenant colonels and colonels,” the officer said.

Officers past the age of 28 will be forced to either move “up or out,” the military source said.

If by that age the officer is not eligible for promotion, the IDF official said, “then they would be relieved from duty.”

In which case, he added, “they would be eligible for a [severance] package, but not a pension.”

The 162nd Division, which is currently under the Central Command, will be moved to the Southern Command in order to give the command greater operational capabilities.

The Ground Forces and Logistics Corps, both of which contain maintenance and developments units, will coordinate and combine units in order to cut out unnecessary overlap in those areas.

In addition, the Homefront Command and a regional brigade from the Southern Command — possibly the Arava Brigade — will also see scale backs in personnel, the officer said.

Some elements of the army’s Gideon plan have already gone into effect, including the creation of additional co-ed combat battalions and the combining of the army’s various elite units, including the Maglan, Rimon, Egoz and Duvdevan units, into one command brigade. (The brigade will conduct its first training exercise in a few weeks, the office added.)

Committee chief Maj. Gen. (res) Yohanan Locker, center, stands alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after presenting his commission's recommendations for the defense budget. (Amos Ben Gershon/ GPO)
Committee chief Maj. Gen. (res) Yohanan Locker, center, stands alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after presenting his commission’s recommendations for the defense budget. (Amos Ben Gershon/ GPO)

The IDF released its Gideon plan earlier this summer at the same time as the prime minister’s Locker Commission, named for its chair Maj. Gen. (res) Yohanon Locker, announced its recommendations for the Defense Ministry’s budget.

The Locker Report called for deep cuts in the army’s spending plan, a sharp reduction in the duration of compulsory service and a fixed annual budget of NIS 59 billion ($15 billion) for the next five years for the IDF to plan for future conflicts.

One anonymous official at the time called the report “a bullet between the eyes of the IDF” and a plan “suitable for Switzerland,” not Israel.

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