IDF’s ability to call up reserves while under rocket fire in question

"Despite the threat increasing, and the strategic importance of reserve forces in war, we found failures, some of them substantial," Shapira warns.

March 12, 2014 11:58
3 minute read.

SOLDIERS FROM the Nahal Reconnaisance Battalion take part in exercices concluding an eight-month advanced training course.. (photo credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)

The state comptroller has cast doubt on the military’s ability to call up and equip reserves when the country is under heavy rocket and missile fire.

“Despite the threat increasing, and the strategic importance of reserve forces in war, we found failures, some of them substantial, in the amount of investments made to improve the readiness of reserves to fulfill their duties under such conditions,” the State Comptroller’s Report published on Wednesday said.

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It noted a decrease in the level of training and preparations for drafting reserves, most acutely in 2012. The document also criticized what it described as partial monitoring, and an incomplete presentation of these problems to IDF brass.

“The military power of Israel largely rests on drafting civilians to reserve duty during emergencies,” the report said, adding that this forms “a strategic and necessary ability for realizing most of the IDF’s operational plans.”

In the past, the IDF did not have to face heavy projectile fire when drafting reserves, and its logistics and command and control centers were not threatened significantly. But this has changed in recent years due to increase in rocket and missile threats to the home front, the report said.

Today, the military has to be able to call up reserves and fight while maintaining “operational continuity” under fire that it has not known in the past, the comptroller said.

During emergency call-ups, reservists gather at rendezvous points, and are taken to territorial reserve centers. They are then taken to emergency warehouse units, where they equip themselves.

Rocket and surface to surface missile fire targeting reserve call-up centers, roads and units can disrupt any of the above stages, the report warned, “turning this process into a potential point of failure.

“Due to limited budgets, a training model for calling up reservists, designed to maintain minimal readiness, was only partially adhered to between 2005 and 2010. This damaged the level of readiness, and the chief of staff was not informed of the problem,” the report said.

A check carried out by State Comptroller’s Office from March to August 2012 focused on steps the IDF Operations Division within the IDF Operations Branch took to address the issue.

“The harm caused to training and readiness for the drafting of reserves has worsened, because of budgetary uncertainty.

Exercises that were held were funded by the [military] bodies that held them, not by the Operations Branch. Territorial commands said they could not comply, as their own budgets were cut. A highly limited program was held instead,” the comptroller said.

Exercises for calling up reserves under fire, held by the Planning Branch, form the main way to improve readiness, but due to cuts to drills, this goal will not be met before 2016, “harming the IDF’s ability to meet its duties in drafting reserves,” the report cautioned.

It called on the military to address the problem immediately.

The IDF said it welcomed the report and is studying its content.

According to the IDF Spokesman’s Office, in 2005, the Operations Division set a multi-year training model that included minimal activity for maintaining the capacity to call-up the reserves.

“The issue was presented to the head of the Operations Division as part of an annual wrapup for 2013, and as part of the working plan for 2014. Later, it was presented to the deputy chief of staff,” the military said.

Last year, a portion of the defense budget was earmarked for general and operational call-ups, it said, adding that the budget did not cover the full costs, but does “significantly improve” the situation that existed in 2012.

Budgetary constraints in 2014 have affected the model of readiness for calling up reserves, leaving only a partial plan in place, the IDF said.

Due to budget shortages, all drills to improve the call-up of reserves under fire will be reduced in scope in the coming year.

Nevertheless, the IDF General Staff is drawing up operational plans, and plans to share them with units, for organizing reserve forces under fire. The coming year will see stringent checks by commanders into the ability to maintain operational continuity under fire.

“Beginning in 2015, the shortcomings will be repaired, and the IDF will apply conclusions from the report shortly,” the army said.

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