IDF places training for war back at top of priorities

Ahead of likely budgetary shortage, security sources examining where cuts will be made in coming years; long-term development under threat.

IDF PARATROOPERS return after an intensive week of training. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
IDF PARATROOPERS return after an intensive week of training.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot has ordered the IDF to place war training at the top of its priority list.
The development comes after 2013 and 2014 saw a neglect of training and a shortening of drills for conscripted and reserve forces, due to budget shortages totaling billions of shekels.
“The directive is very clear,” a senior security source said Tuesday. “The IDF must be prepared for conflicts. First of all, we train – on land, in the air and in the water. Logistics, the home front, and combat support. This applies first of all to conscripted forces, and then to the reserves.”
According to the source, Eizenkot told military chiefs that “the IDF will not stop training – I don’t care how this is accomplished. Training will occur at any price.”
The source said that the words “any price” carried heavy significance, since the IDF was bracing for the possibility of another inadequate defense budget, meaning that cuts would have to be made elsewhere.
At present, the army is receiving its 2014 budget on a monthly basis. It has cut the number of career soldiers to tens of thousands, and by 2016, that number is expected to drop by thousands more as part of cost-saving measures.
It costs the IDF NIS 200 million a year to employ 1,000 career soldiers.
“The strategy for 2015 is to safeguard readiness, with an emphasis on training, and then all of the rest,” the source explained.
The military is drawing up a multiyear spending plan under the name “Gideon,” but the source said he had no confidence that the plan would receive government commitment.
Past multiyear plans have fallen by the wayside, he noted.
He said the IDF must adapt itself to an unstable region that shows no signs of calming down soon, while preparing for potential conflicts with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and Iran.
“We have to adapt the IDF out of an understanding that we cannot do everything. Right now, we are doing everything.
We have active [air] defenses, a drone program, we build heavy tanks and APCs that are the best in the world. We are a country that has a presence in space. We want to continue to have a strong air force, while developing our cyber capabilities.
Our intelligence is the most advanced in the region,” he said.
Still “we don’t know when war will break out. We do estimate that [we] will face a challenging budgetary reality. We will have to decide what to give up on,” he said.
The army also maintains ground vehicles, navy ships, and fighter jets, and ensures that personnel are qualified to use them, he said. “What do we give up? This is a dramatic question in the next multiyear plan.”
He suggested that long-term development of future weapons systems might be the first victim of budgetary troubles.