Report slams IDF cuts for undermining morale, training

By
May 30, 2016 12:02

Damning report by commissioner for IDF soldiers' complaints blames IDF streamlining measures for "collapse" in officers' ability to carry out missions.

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IDF soldiers stand guard during a demonstration by Palestinians

IDF soldiers stand guard during a demonstration by Palestinians against the closure of the main road in Jabaa area south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Recent IDF staff cuts have significantly damaged training and morale among career soldiers and left warehouses that stock emergency wartime military gear in a state of “collapse,” due to a shortage of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at the facilities, according to a damning report released Monday.

Written by the IDF Ombudsman, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, the report indicated that the main issue dominating complaints by soldiers in 2015 was the influence of cuts to IDF personnel and its negative impact on the level of training at war-reserves warehouses.

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The report also focused on issues that arise annually during checks by the commissioner, such as abuses by commanders in their treatment of subordinates, and shortcomings in medical services for soldiers.

Brick expressed concern over what he described the “mismatch” between the IDF’s personnel situation, and missions facing commanders and soldiers. He cited large-scale streamlining measures that have taken place in the IDF Ground Forces, which were followed by a “lack of subsequent adjustments to the forces that remain in service, without accompanying plans.

“There has been no dialogue or attempt to explain the changes, which has harmed morale among career soldiers. Many feel a disconnect with senior command,” he said.

The cuts, which have been implemented as part of the IDF’s five-year plan adopted earlier this year, have caused “impartial or inaccurate” information to circulate among career soldiers on how they should carry out their missions, Brick said. As a result, he added, professionalism that took “a generation” to acquire, is under threat.

The young generation of career soldiers is unfamiliar with the level of operations needed to conduct missions, and could leave behind a “legacy of mediocrity” to subsequent generations follow, he said.

Brick described finding a vacuum of professional knowledge on missions among commanders, to the extent that the IDF’s ability to run a disciplined military that can provide basic solutions for its soldiers has been undermined.

Representatives of Brick’s office paid dozens of visits to wartime emergency warehouses serving IDF divisions, and inspectors found that non-commissioned officers serving there are “in a state of collapse.”

Large-scale cuts in core-military sectors among career soldiers were made “without taking into sufficient account the significance of this,” Brick wrote.

Cuts to the salaries of NCOs has “led to a tangible decrease in professionalism [and] to many gaps that reflect on the level of readiness in emergency warehouses,” Brick said.

The streamlining has led to financial damages that are “thousands of times higher” than the savings made by reductions in personnel, he stated, describing the situation as “absurd.”

A failure to address these issues will result in harm to operations and strike a blow to the morale of NCOs, which would cause them to reconsider their desire to continue serving as career soldiers, he added.

In other sections of the report, Brick said he was surprised by the fact that he found commanders who failed to act in line with IDF orders, saying there “are commanders who contravene the IDF’s values and spirit in their conduct with subordinates.”

He also found examples of collective, widespread punishment by commanders who escaped subsequent punishment, and who even received backing from senior command.

Among those he found were “commanders who acted violently toward subordinates,” and his report cited the example of a commander who deliberately wounded a soldier with a staple gun. Other examples included a commander who beat and kicked his soldier after throwing him to the ground before striking him with a rifle butt, and a company commander who handcuffed his soldier, contravening orders.

Incidents of verbal violence were also cited in the report, as well as racist remarks and use of inappropriate language.

The report found that 61.1% of complaints by soldiers were justified.

Responding to the report, IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot appointed deputy chief of staff Gen. Yair Golan to address the issues raised as part of the IDF work plan for the coming year.

“The IDF is committed to study the findings thoroughly and professionally and to implement the lessons that need to be learned and to fix what needs to be fixed,” the IDF spokesman said, adding that Eisenkot had met with Brick last week.

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