Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz canceled an annual Home Front Command drill scheduled for June due to what they described as a lack of funds.
The drill has been postponed to an unknown date.
A senior defense source said the move was a “first step on the way to a near complete stop of training for the IDF and the defense establishment because of budget constraints.
This isn’t a game and we are not issuing threats. This is simply reality.”
The drill, Turning Point 8, was supposed to be held under the auspices of a new Home Front Authority being set up by the Defense Ministry. Had it gone ahead, it would have simulated a wartime scenario as well as responses to mass missile strikes on Israel.
The IDF Home Front Command, government ministries, local authorities and emergency services would have taken part, as would the Israel Electric Corporation and the Mekorot national water company. Petrochemical “Resources have run out for the defense establishment and the IDF, and we’re stopping this activity,” the senior source said. “As a result, we will dramatically decrease our level of [combat] fitness and readiness, not just in the home front but in other sectors, too, including conscripted and reserve combat units.”
Last year the Home Front Command held a national wartime exercise, Turning Point 7, at the end of May, and tested responses to an unconventional missile attack on Israeli cities. A 90-second air raid siren was heard across the country, and civilians received area-specific mock missile alerts in the form of text messages sent to their cellphones. All government ministries and local councils were involved.
The NIS 1.75 billion cut to the defense budget for 2014 has reduced training programs for enlisted units.
It saw all reserve call-ups canceled in 2013. Reserve training resumed this year.
In the absence of the reserves, standing brigades of conscripts have seen the duration of border security duties extended by several months, resulting in fewer rotations around various frontiers, leaving very little time for training.
In April, the IDF said it allocated millions of shekels to a training program for the ground forces designed to temporarily bypass the drastic cut in war exercises.
Army training officers say that under the initiative, infantry units leave base for one week of intense combat training before resuming active duty missions. The program, which began this year, is expected to continue into 2015, by which time the next defense budget will be made known. The training model is seen as a temporary – and cheap – solution to the budget crisis, with costs mainly going to transportation and ammunition.
Last Wednesday, Ya’alon criticized the Finance Ministry’s intention to enact defense budget cuts.
“We already feel the damage to our operational readiness in preparedness and exercises,” he said. “The Finance Ministry, as part of a regular policy, is avoiding its commitments and government decisions about the defense budget.”
According to Ya’alon, the Finance Ministry treats the Defense Ministry differently than it does other government offices and is not appropriately transparent.
Israel’s defense cannot withstand the cuts, the defense minister said.
“We are in crisis. We’re existing at a minimal level,” he said.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.