Some 5,000 IDF soldiers and career offiers are expected to serve on the new tech campus –dubbed a “smart base” by the army..
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
The Israel Defense Forces has selected two construction firms to build and operate its future high-tech campus in the southern city of Beersheba – as the army continues to relocate operations there.
The project could be worth at least NIS 7 billion ($1.96 b.) – likely more than that, since cost overruns and delays are common to major construction projects.
Shikun & Binui and Africa Israel will build and operate the site for 25 years, the Defense Ministry announced on Monday, with construction beginning later this year. They were ultimately successful over a competing tender issued by Minrav and Electra Real Estate.
After building a sprawling new tech campus, the IDF plans on relocating thousands of soldiers serving in cybersecurity and tech-related units to the site and out of the center of the country – a somewhat controversial plan.
The new site could make it more difficult to retain career officers – who not only receive lucrative private sector offers, but now face additional geographic obstacles in commuting longer distances. Israel already faces a multi-year shortage of thousands of programmers and coders, and competition is intense to snatch up tech talent.
The campus is on a 18-hectre lot, with an expected 150,000 sq.m. of office and residential space, the Defense Ministry said in its statement. Some 5,000 soldiers and career officers are expected to serve there.
The army dubbed the campus – its first tech project in the Negev – as a “smart base,” which included automated controls to reduce energy consumption.
It is located at Beersheba’s tech park of Gav-Yam, close to the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev – and there are a number of plans to collaborate closely with academics and researchers based there.
“The move will make the best use out of the IDF’s technologies, which will be integrated into academia, in joint projects with the high-tech industry,” the defense ministry said in a statement. “It will serve as a basis for cooperation between the military and academia.”
Specific units that will be based from the new tech campus include the computer unit’s logistics units, its cyber defense unit, the air force technology unit – Ofek, and the IDF Southern Command headquarters.
The army says that moving to Israel’s southern desert will cost around NIS 57 billion ($15.9 billion), but of that total, NIS 21b. ($5.9b.) would benefit the Negev economy. Part of the impetus behind the plan is to expand Beersheba’s local hi-tech ecosystem.
Aside from the tech campus, the IDF is also building a new intelligence base at Lakiya Junction and a new training center at Negev Junction, Globes business daily reported.
“The transfer of the technological elite units...provide us [the IDF] with a golden opportunity to lead the digital transformation of the IDF,” said Lt.-Col. Yael Grossman of the Cyber Defense Division.
“There is no doubt that the proximity of all the IT units and other IDF operational and technological bodies will accelerate cooperation and knowledge-sharing processes that will lead to unprecedented operational-technological synergy,” she said.
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