Maj.Gen.(Res.) Yitzhak Brick in National Criticsm Committee, December 12th, 2018..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
IDF Ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick harshly criticized the decision-making processes of the IDF General Staff as well as the situation in the Ground Forces on Wednesday, as the public spat between him and the military continued.
“The IDF is undergoing a process of deterioration that has reached its peak in recent years,” Brick warned at the start of his remarks to the State Control Committee headed by Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich.
“In the past three years, a lethal encounter between drastic, unregulated and sometimes irresponsible cuts of thousands of career soldiers and... the [simultaneous] shortening of male service has created complete incompatibility and critical gaps.”
Brick, who is set to resign after 10 years as IDF ombudsman, has been increasingly warning about the military’s dire state. On Wednesday he noted that, over the course of his decade in office, he has spoken with tens of thousands of soldiers and commanders, and that the military has dealt with some of the issues he presented in his earlier reports.
However, he warned, the IDF’s “flawed organizational culture” is not being properly addressed by senior officers.
“In my capacity as commissioner, I visited more than 1,400 units and spoke with tens of thousands of commanders and soldiers at a rate of three and four times a week, four hours in each unit. I know the army on the ground more than anyone in the IDF,” Brick said.
“I have seen soldiers who do not take care of their weapons before leaving the base. No army in the world behaves in such a way.
Soldiers carry their smartphones everywhere. Orders are sent through WhatsApp groups. Those phones are pinpointed by the enemy,” he said, adding that commands are also sent by email and then deleted, allowing for no follow-up.
“This system has lost all control. Have we gone crazy? I do not sleep at night. Our Ground Forces and Armored Corps are not ready for war,” Brick concluded.
In June, he warned that there were “serious consequences” for the cutting of thousands of career soldiers under the army’s five-year Gideon Plan. While he did not directly touch on the IDF’s state of readiness, he was highly critical of training and the state of the weaponry used by the Ground Forces.
“I found very serious problems in logistic, technological and operational systems, and I brought this to the attention of the army. The army dealt with the problems I pointed out, but the main problem is the organizational culture. This is the core of the problem, which no one is dealing with. If it does not change, every correction that has been made will be reversed,” he warned on Wednesday, urging once again to establish an external investigative committee to handle the issue.
“The gravity of the situation requires the establishment of an external commission of inquiry headed by a judge so that we can change the organizational culture of the IDF from the ground up,” Brick said.
Brig.-Gen. Uri Gordin, chief of staff of the Ground Forces Command, told lawmakers he partially agrees with the ombudsman, saying that while the IDF has invested NIS 200 million in weaponry during the five-year Gideon Plan, it is not enough to close the gaps.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure the army is ready for war,” he said nevertheless, adding that “there are resource gaps and the defense budget is limited. We have advanced a great deal in the current multiyear [budget] plan, and will need two more multiyear plans before the Ground Forces are at the level at which we want them to be. I, too, am worried about the warehouses. NCO pay is inadequate, and we face a manpower challenge in the modern world.”
In late November, former defense minister Avigdor Liberman told a conference that he had personally heard the army’s chief of staff admitting that “90% to 95%” of Brick’s criticism was correct.
Brick’s scathing June report to the security cabinet and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee – where he charged that the current situation in the IDF was “worse than it was at the time of the Yom Kippur War” in 1973 – was largely rejected by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who commented that the military is in a high state of readiness and preparedness for war.
On Wednesday, Yacimovich said there is no justification for the severe criticism the report received.
“I see no reason in silencing voices of critique, especially when they arise from within the system, and from a man with the insight and best interest of the nation at heart... Such voices have been silenced before when it came to our security, and we have paid a heavy price for that.”
During a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee a few weeks ago, Brick accused senior IDF commanders of lying about the army’s preparedness.
“What I’m presenting to you here you will not hear from the top brass of the IDF. For many of the commanders, not only are some of them not aware, but even those who are aware are afraid to speak out, lest they be punished,” he wrote, urging committee members to talk to career soldiers in the field.
“Let them show you what is happening, share with you their problems and difficulties. It won’t be the division, brigade and battalion commanders from whom you’ll learn about the reality that prevails in the field. You should learn it from those for whom it is their lives’ routines... Their statements are the truth.”
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