IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told lawmakers this week that the military is prepared to fight a war under any scenario, in an apparent rejection of recent criticism from the army’s ombudsman.
“The IDF is at a high level of preparedness and readiness for war with regard to any threat scenario,” Eisenkot wrote in a letter to members of the security cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“As the person responsible for the army’s readiness for war, I declare that IDF is prepared for any mission required of it,” he added in the letter, which was attached to a classified report.
Eisenkot went on to hail the military’s “intelligence and aerial superiority, ground capabilities and abundant operational experience, which is tested daily at all the theaters of war.”
Though it did not directly address it, Eisenkot’s letter came just months after a report from the military ombudsman warned that the IDF may be unprepared for war in light of cuts made to the number of career soldiers as part of efficiency measures that the army has rolled out in recent years.
The report from Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, formally known as the chief complaints officer in the Defense Ministry, focused on the manpower changes made in recent years under the IDF’s Gideon Plan, a streamlining effort that the military started rolling out in 2016.
Under the plan, the number of career soldiers was significantly scaled back, with officers being reviewed when they reach the ages of 28, 35 and 42. At those times, if the officer does not appear to be heading for promotion, he or she is drummed out of the military.
According to Brick, that “up or out” policy is having a negative impact on the army’s ability to function.
“The army’s decisions will be based on compromise, and military service will become service by mediocre officers,” he wrote.
The ombudsman said the military’s decision to cut back the number of positions for career soldiers as part of the Gideon Plan has negatively affected the army’s ability to wage war in a number of ways.
The plan, which was announced in late 2015, cut the number of career soldiers down to less than 40,000. “The idea is to create a younger military,” an IDF officer said at the time. “One that is slimmer, stronger, more focused, better trained.”
The cuts to the number of career officers, along with the recent decrease in the amount of time that male soldiers are required to serve under the draft, mean those remaining soldiers end up having to do more to make up the difference, according to the report.
As a result, the shortages “cause burnout, lack of sleep, failure to carry out orders and is also liable to cause a loss of motivation for continued service” for the remaining career officers and noncommissioned officers, Brick wrote.