Ya’alon promises army reform will mean ‘a different IDF’

Military to cut traditional armored, air and reserve divisions in favor of ‘precise ordnance, intelligence, electronics, active defense and cyber defense’

Israeli army tanks participate in a drill near Revivim, southern Israel, Thursday, March 7, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli army tanks participate in a drill near Revivim, southern Israel, Thursday, March 7, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

A dramatic reform of the Israel Defense Force, including cuts in air squadrons, armored battalions, reserve units and other historic mainstays of Israeli power, will usher in “a different IDF,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Thursday.

“The budget demands of 2013-2014 are forcing the IDF to take steps, such as reducing training and operational work for the reserves,” Ya’alon warned in a statement, “but our intent is not to hinder the growth of the IDF’s capabilities over the long term, even as we take risks in the short term.”

The 2013 budget, which passed a first vote in the Knesset in May, calls for a three-billion-shekel cut (some $820 million) in the defense budget, winnowing it down to NIS 58.4 billion — part of a six-year plan that calls for significant growth in 2016-2018.

In response, the IDF unveiled on Wednesday a five-year restructuring of the army’s deployed assets that would see the retirement of some of its ancient Patton tanks and M109 artillery cannons, 3,000-5,000 career soldiers, several air squadrons and even naval units. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz indicated the plan will save NIS 7 billion (some $1.9 billion) over the coming five years.

“We are facing a revolutionary multi-year program that, at its conclusion in a few short years, will give us a different IDF,” Ya’alon said.

The defense minister described “a new reality” in which “army-to-army battles, of the type we last saw 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur War, are becoming less and less relevant.

“We will continue to invest in the basic building blocks of this vision: precise ordnance, intelligence, electronics, active defense and cyber defense, with the understanding that the contemporary and future battlefield will be utterly different from what we have known in the past,” Ya’alon said. “The foreseeable future is liable to see us in conflicts that will be decided by the IDF’s technological superiority, in the air, on land and sea, with fewer heavy weapons systems and a growing use of smart, unmanned systems.”

The reforms, Ya’alon added, “include an investment in munitions and systems that will help the IDF maintain its dramatic technological edge over the states and organizations that surround us.”

IDF representatives are to meet with the Knesset’s Joint Committee on the Defense Budget on July 21 for a pivotal hearing, 10 days before the final July 31 voting deadline on the national budget.

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