IDF to fire 700 career personnel due to budget cuts

Budget cuts mean layoffs, less training, and canceling procurements of weapons systems, says IDF.

By GLOBES
February 13, 2012 05:29
3 minute read.
Part of the Iron Dome rocket shield system

Iron Dome 311 R. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / Reuters)

 
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The IDF intends to fire 700 career officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in all branches in the coming months, as part of a general cutback following a decrease in the defense budget. The officers and NCOs will be notified within weeks about the loss of their jobs, which will come into effect in May and June.

A senior officer told Globes, "I will sit down with each one of them, and inform him that he has been fired. By June, they will be out of a job, and they will enter the civilian job market, and I greatly hope that they will find new work. I am afraid of what message this is sending down the ranks, to the young generation of soldiers who will want to serve in the army in the future. A crisis of confidence is liable to emerge there."

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The dismissal of hundreds of career officers and NCOs comes at a time of uncertainty in the defense establishment, with the complete halt in expenditures due to the budget shortage and Ministry of Finance's demands for cutbacks to finance the Trajtenberg recommendations. The halt in expenditures is already jeopardizing the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, with the Defense Ministry notifying the manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. that it will not procure two more batteries. The ministry has also halted the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Rafael and Ratheon Company (NYSE: RTN) for the Magic Wand rocket interceptor, and has canceled orders to 200 Israeli companies that manufacture components for the Merkava tank and the new Leopard APC.

A top military source said that the halt in orders for the Merkava going could result in a shortage of spare parts by mid-year.

The cutbacks are also affecting the IDF's training schedule. "We have to decide which risks we'll have to take: procure another Iron Dome battery, or training of troops. It's all a matter of available money. I prefer training the troops who are the most important for the front line at the expense of a few interceptors. The troops whom we don’t need in the front line, we'll train in another couple of years. It's a question of priorities; it's risk management. And it's a tough dilemma," a senior officer told Globes.

In the past few years, the IDF greatly increased training of its regular forces and reservists, following the skills gap uncovered in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. During the fighting, the IDF realized that forces were sent into the field without having received training for years, partly because of the previous round of budget cuts. "We have to be careful not to repeat that mistake," warned a defense official last week.

The IDF's multi-year procurement plans are also in doubt. Every item is being rethought. For example, the new 120-mm Keshet mortar system being developed by Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) will probably have to wait.

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"There are weapons systems that we won't buy - and our ability to wage war in the immediate future will not be affected. The IDF is well prepared for a war, but we must not forget that the enemy has upgraded the weapons that it will point at us in the next confrontation. In some cases, the gaps are narrowing, and it's worrying," said the officer. "Once, a Syrian Army squad had one piece of night vision equipment. Now it has three. 40 percent of Hezbollah forces have long-range night vision equipment. We are aware of this, and we know about it, and we must provide good responses at all levels."

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