Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Moshe 'Bogie' Ya'alon
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ron Ben-Yishai

Bogie's and Benny's little bluff

Defense ministry, IDF warn of loss of 'preparedness' in event of budget cuts; yet this false alarm is a smoke screen to avoid undertaking any real streamlining

Who said the IDF was not a clever military, adept at learning from past mistakes? Whoever did will now have to readjust that view following the maneuver put into action by the IDF and the defense establishment headed by a new, creative minister: Moshe 'Bogie' Ya'alon. The goal of the move was to minimize the NIS 7 billion ($1.9 billion) cut to the defense budget for 2013-2014. Yet what is new here is the strategy.


It began with a meeting between the finance and the defense ministers where they have agreed to avoid slamming each other in public, as has so often been the case in previous years, specifically the slinging matches between Ehud Barak and Yuval Steinitz. Come the next stage, as the time nears to debate the budget, the defense ministry and the IDF announce, without going into details," they will do their share toward "plugging up the budgetary holes."


As the rest of us cannot believe how compliant the IDF seems in face of the measure, dramatic newspaper headlines begin to pile up: "IDF to cancel training of reservist until end of year," "Forces to call off additional courses," and "Servicemen to carry out routine security functions in place of training." Additionally, the purchase of Iron Dome batteries will be reduced, the purchase of a far more important missile defense system "David's Sling" will be called off wholesale, and the IAF would operate fewer flights.


IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz spoke before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday morning, to apprise them of the manner IDF is planning to implement the reductions. On Monday he spoke before the supreme command, informing the top bras regarding the cuts to their respective budgets. Without going into detail, one could say the proposed plan amounted to a partial shutting down of the IDF. The details, of course, make it to this morning's papers. This is the essence of the maneuver: accepting the cuts leniently, only to declare, when it’s time to discuss the actualities, the IDF is switching to partial operational regime and is on the verge of closure.


What the IDF plans to strike down from its activity log are the trainings and other activities having to do with the so-called "preparedness." This is at a time when the situation in both the north and south of the country is defined by instability, and it's clear the IDF should keep the highest possible levels of vigilance in order to be ready to respond swiftly to any development. Not to mention the possibility of a strike against Iran.


Air force chief said that much on Monday and he was right. Thus the IDF is using the notion of "preparedness" to nudge the Knesset and the Treasury to give those cuts another think. As maneuvers go, this one is rather transparent, but seeing as the IDF and the Defense Ministry have a monopoly on classified intelligence information, one would be hard-pressed to prove they are in the wrong.


The cut to the constitutive elements of "preparedness" is the easiest one to make, and the least painful: you just avoid calling up reservists for training. And it frees up a lot of money, too. However, within such huge organizations as the IDF and Defense Ministry, there are always other things you could suspend without injuring "preparedness." Like what?


Calling off purchases of fuel and food, conferences and rallies would save up a great deal.

Non-commissioned officers and soldiers seating idly at their bases could guard West Bank settlements, instead of calling up expensive reservists for the task. One could also slow down the production rate of such inessential project as an armoured personnel carrier designed on the model of Merkava tank.  


Cutting down on all those things would rack up the IDF a few good billions, without mentioning those that go into the scandalous budget for the Rehabilitation Department at the Defense Ministry, whose money is spent on people some 70% of whom suffered no injury in combat.


Cutting those things takes a lot of highly detailed work and unpopular measures, which means it's far more comfortable for the military to threat damage to preparedness. One can only hope the Knesset does not buy into this psychological warfare.  



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פרסום ראשון: 05.28.13, 14:47
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