Given this reality, discussions are underway between IDF budget committees and the Manpower Directorate before solutions are offered to the General Staff, which will be forced to make a decision on the matter next month.
Among solutions being examined is a more focused and intense training period to prepare soldiers sooner for operational duty.
According to a senior IDF officer, in infantry brigades, it would appear officers are already preparing to make do with the cuts to training periods.
Training segments expected to be cut from basic training and advanced training include weeks of guard duty and various rotation-based assignments.
Soldiers serving in Special Forces will be expected to sign on for additional service periods and, in return, will receive higher pay grades in line with higher risk, which will help bridge the gap in combat manpower.
In a conversation with Ynet, a senior IDF officer involved in the discussions said, "We are now in the final stages of analyzing the ramifications. There are several solutions that haven't yet been approved, but we are preparing for them. There are serious economic concerns here and it could cost the IDF more money to ensure that operational units are at capacity.
"We need to prepare infrastructure, resources and training for this. If you have a combat soldier in a Special Forces unit that you have invested a lot of money in and then you decide to release him early, you are losing capabilities. The entire process could cost tens or hundreds of millions of shekels. It all depends on what the policies will be."
The shortage of soldiers was expected, but the IDF has been dealing with the problem slowly, despite failed attempts three years ago at convincing the Knesset to provide additional sources of manpower.
Two options that were discussed (and ultimately failed) were extending the length of service of women—from 24 months to 28 months—and of yeshiva students. The two options were blocked by Ayelet Shaked and religious officials, respectfully.
Security officials expect that the Ministry of Finance will reimburse the costs of shortened service, although a detailed plan has not yet been presented.
The Ministry of Finance has issued a response, saying, "As part of the budget agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense, an increase in budget will be allocated to shortening military service. The increase was approved for the first time for soldiers drafting in 2015 and will continue through 2020.
"The IDF has confirmed many times, including during Knesset discussions, that the amounts allocated will be sufficient to meet its needs. Accordingly, the required budget for 2018 already includes defense allocations agreed upon in the last Knesset. We are unaware of any problems that exist on the subject and we have not received any requests from the Defense Ministry on the subject. As stated, the budget was agreed upon and stands accordingly."
(Translated and edited by Fred Goldberg)