By the year’s end, the Israel Defense Force needs to slash NIS 1.5 billion (roughly $416 million USD) and another NIS 3 billion (roughly $833 million) in 2014, the Jerusalem Post reports. The budget cuts are a part of a five-year plan with widespread effects.
The plan, which would need to be approved by the cabinet, includes firing 3,000 to 5,000 career soldiers, and downsizing and closing air force squadrons, armored and artillery units, and naval deployments.
Israel’s NIS 40 billion budget deficit has already led to cutbacks, like the June decision to “cancel all reserve operational duty,” and reduce reserve training. The IDF maintains that the impending cuts will hurt its ability to protect the country from outside threats, YNet reports.
According to the army, the budget cut will hurt its plan to improve intelligence gathering capabilities, as well as to maintain and boost the strength of the Air Force.
The IDF said the cut will also prevent it from strengthening the ground forces and improving its air defense capabilities (the IDF hoped to deploy 10 Iron Dome batteries and four Magic Wand batteries) and will also hurt its cyber warfare capabilities.
Defense budget cuts are a longtime problem in Israel, according to Ben Caspit in a Jerusalem Post op-ed.
In 1952, Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Yigal Yadin resigned following a major dispute with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. What about? You guessed it: defense budget cuts.
Caspit says that there’s no need for the IDF to have its own dentists, doctors, and rehabilitations centers, which cost NIS 11 billion. He also says that while firing 5,000 career soldiers would help monetarily, it is problematic because talented and intelligent soldiers will be the ones to go, leaving to work at tech companies. He offers a partial and gradual solution:
Would it really be so hard to do away with the antiquated M60s, the old Merkava tanks or the F-16s? One Stealth F-35 can do the work of an entire squadron of F-16s. But even if we double the number of planes, we will not be protected, since we are no longer up against other fighter jets, but rockets and missiles. And there are tens of thousands of them. So we must develop new technology that can strike deeply and precisely, and we must have excellent intelligence. None of the rest is important anymore.
It seems Chief of Staff Benny Gantz agrees that technological advances are the future, according to Amos Harel and Gili Cohen in Haaretz.
The chief of staff is talking about a change in operational perception, based on the areas in which great improvements have been achieved in the IDF’s capability, and above all on their interaction. In essence, this involves the air force, military intelligence, fire capability and the cyber realm. The improvement of intelligence coverage and the possibility of transferring accurate data rapidly to the air force make aerial attacks more effective.
All the cuts are seemingly necessary and risky, but Gantz’s “test will lie in his ability to put the plans into practice.” We’ll see what happens.