Army field commanders concerned by cuts to combat training programs have begun
receiving assurances in recent days from military brass that in 2014, training
will go back to near-normal levels, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
NIS 1.75 billion cut to the defense budget for 2013 and 2014 has reduced
training programs for enlisted units, while all exercises for reservists were
cancelled this year.
Ground Forces commanders, who in some instances
reported seeing exercises reduced significantly, expressed concern over the
effect this will have on combat readiness.
The IDF’s senior command level
has been holding intensive planning sessions on how to bring levels of
preparation back to normal, within existing budgetary constraints, for the IDF’s
coming multi-year plan for 2014-2018, dubbed “Daring.”
“The chief of
staff [Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz] defined readiness through training as the
top priority for the coming year,” an army source told the Post. “This means
that in 2014-2015, harm to training will be marginal.”
“Those who saw
less training in 2013 will be compensated in 2014 at the division level,” the
After the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which the combat
performance of the IDF was marred by a lack of exercises, the IDF developed a
new model in 2007, under former chief of staff, Lt.-Gen.
Ashkenazi, which placed the holding of combat drills as a top
This policy was continued by Gantz, and the IDF doubled its
training programs for enlisted and reserve units, until this year’s budget
The army source said 90 percent of exercises for enlisted forces, as
stipulated by the 2007 model, are still going ahead.
Drills for ground
forces, which will be needed for a maneuver during a potential future war, are
being held “almost in their entirety,” the source said.
“In the field,
this is being perceived differently, because of the cuts made towards the end of
year, and mainly because of rumors. In recent days, messages have been sent down
to the field, with the aim of lowering pressure around this issue,” the source
“Training is measured by an annual three-year cycle, and therefore,
the accumulative harm is minor and insignificant,” the source said.
2014, reserve forces will go back to holding combat exercises, though light
infantry and logistical support reserve units will hold fewer of
When they return to active service, reserves will see less border
security and counterterrorism duties in the coming year, as a result of the
budget slash, the source said.
Gantz’s decision to prioritize training
means the shortage in funds will be felt in other areas, such as weapons
manufacturing, acquisitions of new equipment, personnel numbers, and day-to-day
Earlier this year, the budget cuts prompted the IDF to carry out a
series of cost-cutting moves, including axing air force squadrons, shutting down
tank and artillery units and downsizing the Israel Navy.
and 5,000 career soldiers are being let go.
Last week, the Begin-Sadat
Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University published a paper
saying that “dramatic cuts to the IDF budget have forced the army to reduce its
ground forces capabilities,” and said that “this is a mistake, as the IDF still
must rely on a capable and credible ground force to deal with its strategic
threats, specifically the rocket-launching capabilities of Hamas and
The paper, authored by Dr. Eitan Shamir, a senior BESA
research associate, and Dr.
Eado Hecht, a defense analyst, said “cutting
the order of battle of ground forces is easy, but rebuilding them is hard and
time-consuming. Training troops requires months; procuring equipment and
training mid-level officers requires years.”
It concluded, “Fiscal
reality compels the IDF to make choices and where to focus its efforts. However,
the choices that have been revealed to the public seem to threaten the IDF’s
relevance in a number of scenarios that are still probable, even if not