State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Wednesday accused the Defense Ministry of trying to stonewall recommendations of a state commission to streamline the Israel Defense Forces.
As part of a series of investigations into the military following the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the government ordered a commission led by economist David Brodet to identify problems in the defense budget and offer recommendations for their solution.
Though in the years following the war — in which the army’s performance was found to be rife with logistical, tactical and strategic failures — many reforms were put into place, the Brodet Commission’s calls for increased efficiency and streamlining were ignored, Shapira wrote.
Moreover, the report found, the defense establishment put little effort into overseeing the streamlining process and ensuring that it was carried out.
The report noted that between October 2011 and July 2014, the military’s senior steering committee, led by the IDF deputy chief of staff and the director-general of the Defense Ministry, met only once to discuss the streamlining effort.
This was a deliberate maneuver, Shapira’s report claimed, “in order to cripple the implementation of the efficiency process in the defense system.”
Though the Defense Ministry’s role is unquestionably crucial in safeguarding the State of Israel, the report stated, the fact remains that “it nevertheless represents an essential portion of the state’s budget.”
Shapira’s report adds to the already contentious battle over Israel’s defense budget, with the findings of a new state commission of inquiry competing for government approval with an opposing plan by the IDF top brass.
The Brodet Commission instructed the ministry to cut some NIS 10 billion ($2.6 billion) from its expenditures between 2008 and 2012, but, the comptroller’s office found, the defense establishment only managed to trim NIS 3.8 billion during that period.
The Defense Ministry’s payroll, which represents approximately 18 percent of the total budget, was meant to be reduced under the commission’s recommendations, but instead had grown by 9.1% by 2013.
Though former chief of staff Benny Gantz instituted a human resource plan to cut some salary expenditures, the report noted, by 2016 the ministry’s payroll is expected to return to its 2008 level.
The report, furthermore, found insufficient effort on the part of the IDF and Defense Ministry to investigate ways of making the army’s tank, research and weapons development programs more efficient., though the report did note that some efforts, particularly with regard to the tank program, had been made.
In June 2012, the report specified, then-deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. (res.) Yair Naveh and former director-general of the Defense Ministry Ehud Shani met with the heads of the heads of the army’s tank program and weapons development and technological infrastructure program. Decisions to streamline those programs, however, were never carried out, Shapira noted.
“We must look severely on a situation in which the director-general of the Defense Ministry and the deputy chief of staff set goals and create a clear timetable to have them carried out, only to have them not come about,” the report said.
The comptroller, however, looked most critically at the Defense Ministry’s apparent dismissive view of the Brodet Commission, noting the steering committee’s few meetings and the general lack of oversight for the programs meant to carry out the recommendations.
The fight over the defense budget between proponents of the Locker Commission report, which calls for severe IDF cuts, and the army’s competing “Gideon” plan, will continue into the foreseeable future.
“Once the government has discussed and decided on [the Locker Commission’s] recommendations, we will demand that all involved parties organize and work to carry out the decisions made, with monitoring and oversight for its implementation,” the comptroller’s office wrote.
The Locker Commission, headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yohanan Locker, recommended that the army dismiss thousands of career officers, drastically cut notoriously generous pensions and reduce mandatory service time for men to 24 months (a further reduction from the current 32 months, which until recently was 36 months).
It also recommended a fixed annual defense budget of NIS 59 billion ($15 billion) for the next five years — the budget has traditionally grown by several billion shekels every year, with infusions beyond the official allocation — and call for closer oversight of the army’s manpower branch, according to reports.
The so-called “Gideon” plan would see career officers’ pensions upheld, with certain reforms; cuts to the military’s reserve personnel; a 6% across-the-board cut in headquarters personnel; the relegation of certain jobs to the civilian sector; and several structural reforms in combat units.
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