If the average Israeli citizen was shocked by the IDF’s five-year budget plan calling for unprecedented cutbacks in training and operations, they were not alone. Officials in the Finance Ministry were also taken aback by the news, Globes reports.
Surprise and suspicion competed with delight at the ministry, which has been pressing for a leaner military for years.
“There are many things that do not add up, and there is a lot of smoke surrounding the plan,” a top finance official said.
Another senior official observed, “The plan has not been submitted to the Cabinet, and what has been published so far is only partial.”
High-ranking Finance Ministry officials said that the Ministry of Defense had backtracked last week on its promise to cut NIS 3 billion from the defense budget, which the Cabinet had already approved. They said Ministry of Defense officials had told their finance counterparts they could not meet the budget targets under current conditions. That was just a few hours before the IDF announcement of the big cuts.
Sources in the capital attributed the zigzag at the Ministry of Defense to “a lack of coordination within the defense establishment.”
“I don’t really understand the surprise of the Ministry of Finance officials,” said a top ministry source. “What exactly is the shock? After all, it was clear that when there is a need for such a drastic cut, deep changes have to be made, and there is no question that the plan is going in the right direction.
“When switching to a smart army, there is no question that you have to reduce the number of tanks and artillery, fire 5,000 career officers and NCOs, and divert all the resources to cyber-warfare, intelligence, technological strengthening, and improving antimissile capabilities, while maintaining air superiority.”
The source added, “The moment it is clear that Syrian or Egyptian divisions aren’t going to enter Israel tomorrow morning, all the forces’ structure and deterrence capability have to change. Why do you need all these tanks and divisions? Is there a war on the front line? Of course not.”
Following the government’s decision to downsize the defense budget by some 3 billion shekels, the IDF Planning Directorate formulated a long-range plan to meet contemporary and future challenges facing the military, working within the new budget constraints.
The IDF has been stressing a balanced approach since the initial announcement of proposed shutdowns of air force squadrons and battleships. The Teuza plan layoffs of 5,000 career officers and NCOs over the next three years has already begun, but at the same time, the IDF says it will recruit 1,000 new career officers and NCOs skilled in the new systems and capabilities that the IDF plans to develop over the next five years.
These are far-reaching measures to improve precision firepower and to expand intelligence infrastructures and cyber-warfare. The navy will continue its procurement of the advanced Dolphin-class submarines, and the air force will continue its procurement of new stealth fighters.
Meanwhile, Finance Ministry experts are studying the IDF plan.