State Comptroller Yosef Shapira.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Defense Ministry’s influential Research and Development Division might be disconnected from the IDF’s operational needs, the annual State Comptroller’s Report issued on Monday said.
The division tends to focus on medium- and long-term weapons projects and the country’s other technological defense needs, often with a daring eye on experimental programs that can either become “the next Iron Dome” or fizzle and be forgotten.
It also carries out a continuously growing number of important and lucrative transactions with foreign countries.
According to State Comptroller Yosef Shapira
, the division does not have any formal procedures for coordinating with the IDF, and all coordination is based on the goodwill and relationships of parallel senior officials who happen to be serving at any given moment.
Moreover, the report said the division and the IDF have inconsistent terminologies and work methodologies that create confusion and inefficiency.
In addition, it said the IDF Planning Command has no oversight of the division or way to track its progress and priorities in order to give feedback about how to better cater to the IDF’s needs.
Covering a review period of February 2017 to December 2017, the report said that when the IDF chief-of-staff, the IDF high command and ministry officials who are senior to the ministry division head review proposals for funding, they lack a full picture of the division’s work.
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Without this full picture, Shapira charges that these top officials could be making the wrong decisions about prioritizing where to invest hundreds of millions of shekels for long-term projects.
In fact, the report framed the division’s 2016 goals of growing its yearly budget by 14% and the ministry’s director-general’s recommendation to grow its budget by 25% as blind growth.
Even the division’s own internal tracking system is incomplete and is heavily reliant on what individual officials in the division remember, said the report.
A lack of proper record-keeping, noted Shapira, could lead to a loss of organizational knowledge if any of those key individuals were no longer available to the division.
The report said those records that do exist are incomplete and of low veracity.
However, the comptroller did acknowledge that the division has made numerous valuable contributions to the country’s national defense.
The Defense Ministry responded to the report by rejecting the view that it needs to perform greater long-term planning and tracking of its projects.
Rather, it said the division has a unique purpose: to pursue daring and bold new ideas in order to stay steps ahead of the country’s adversaries in the never-ending technological arms race.
The ministry said the comptroller’s suggestions would slow it down and lead to a more cautious, less productive culture.
In addition, the division said its coordination with the IDF is excellent as it stands, and that its results, which most countries envy, speak for themselves.
Further, the ministry said there was no need for changes in the various areas criticized by the comptroller because multiple government commissions, including the 2014 Locker Commission, had performed long-term reviews – all concluding that what was most important was to increase the division’s budget.
The report does mention a range of large off-book aspects to the division’s budget. For example, division personnel told the comptroller’s staff that in joint ventures with large companies, those companies cover around 50% of the costs and small companies often cover 20%.
Along with contributions from partner-foreign nations, the fact that so many channels of funds are off-book could generate skepticism of the division’s claim that it needs more funds.
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