Too many of the IDF’s warrant officers are earning insufficient salaries and the defense establishment has not taken sufficient steps to streamline itself. These are two of the findings of a special report by State Comptroller Josef Shapira that was released Wednesday.
While non-commissioned officers make up almost half of career soldiers, a quarter of them require salary supplements due to their low incomes, the report said. It found that the IDF was not fulfilling salary agreements, which it said harms the army’s ability to keep valuable officers. The report also highlights problems in the way NCOs are promoted.
The report also examined steps taken to ensure that the Defense Ministry and the IDF keep within the boundaries of annual defense budgets and economize.
Based on reviews of economic management between September 2013 and July 2014, and further checks in May 2015, the State Comptroller’s Division for Monitoring the Defense Establishment found that government decisions on defense spending were inconsistent, creating uncertainty and harming the military’s ability to plan ahead.
The division also found faults in the steps taken to streamline spending within the defense establishment, particularly in the personnel department. It criticized the shaky control and supervision of the senior defense echelon on issues relating to streamlining, and the lack of continuous assessments regarding savings and economic efficiency.
The report found both the government and the Finance Ministry lacking in undertaking cost-cutting measures in the defense establishment.
“The IDF did not examine the possibility of carrying out fundamental organizational changes in light of the security and geopolitical changes and decreasing activities that are not at the core of its activities,” the report said.
Examining the IDF’s move to the Negev, the report found decision-making delays in finding sources of funding for moving the Military Intelligence and the Teleprocessing Corps (C4I) south and a lack of an arrangement to set up support systems for career officers set to serve in the Negev. There were no transport solutions either.
Shapira called on the government to decide whether to adopt the controversial Locker Commission report on defense spending soon to avoid repeating the errors listed in the report. The defense establishment has rejected the commission’s findings as being out of touch with Israel’s security needs, instead promoting its own multi-year spending plan, dubbed the Gideon Plan.
Responding to the issue of NCOs, the defense establishment said, “The IDF and Defense Ministry are working all of the time to implement agreements that have been fully signed. In recent years, we have turned to the Finance Ministry at all levels, with a demand that they keep the salary agreements signed between NCOs and the IDF.
Nevertheless, the Finance Ministry did not act to implement the agreements, and caused significant and ongoing harm to the salaries of NCOs. It has contributed to the growing phenomenon of outstanding NCOs who seek to end their military services due to their salary conditions.”
Many of the problems raised in the report have already been repaired, or “dramatically reduced,” the IDF and Defense Ministry said in a joint statement.
These include an initiative to improve NCO conditions, setting up written protocols regarding their appointments, and enhancing the IDF’s ability to part “from less quality NCOs.”
The fact that only 13 percent of NCOs choose to appeal their appointments shows a general satisfaction among their ranks with the appointment process, the IDF response said.
The army conceded that there is room to “improve the process of taking decisions in military branches [on appointments of NCOs] in real time,” and tightening the General Staff’s supervision of the process of discharging NCOs who do not make the cut.
Responding to the criticism on the IDF’s move to the South, the military and Defense Ministry said they have been urging all government ministries to advance the issue. They added that officers have begun populating the Training Campus at Negev Junction, and that the center is expected to lead to economic growth and business opportunities in the area.
“Providing that government ministries, led by the Finance Ministry, uphold government decisions on moving the IDF southward... the Defense Ministry is prepared to… publicize tenders and begin construction of the two [Intelligence and C4I) campuses.”
The IDF’s Military Police, Adjutant Corps, and Education Corps operate out of the Training Campus in the Negev, and they will by joined by the Medical Corps this month.
The Defense Ministry and IDF said the comptroller’s findings relate to the years 2008 to 2012, and do not reflect current IDF cost-cutting measures.
“We would point out that the IDF has been operating without a multi-year plan since 2012, in contrast to the accepted norm for organizations that are the size of the IDF and defense establishment.
This, despite its attempts to implement the multi-year plans called Oz and Teuza,” defense officials said.
“This is due to reasons that are not up to the IDF,” they added.
The Gideon multi-year plan, presented recently by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, deals with budgetary challenges and the changing needs of Israeli society, the joint statement continued.
“The plan presents, for the first time, a thorough efficiency concept that includes a long line of fields, including an approach to activating the military, the IDF’s structure, the career soldier model, and more. It brings solutions to a big part of the issues presented in the comptroller’s report.”
The statement’s authors said they regretted to see that the comptroller’s report “does not relate to achievements in efficiency steps taken since 2013,” which included “upper echelon supervision of the defense establishment’s management, steering committees in military branches and departments, and integrative product teams.”
The response denied any lack of transparency, saying decision makers have full access, at any time, to the IDF’s streamlining steps, and that military officials shared these with Finance Ministry representatives on several occasions.
By 2017, the statement said, the defense establishment will be 90 percent of the way to achieving its goal of saving NIS 30 billion. It has fired 2,300 career officers since 2013, despite their importance to IDF activities and Israeli security.
The Zionist Union’s spokesman said that the prime minister only talks about security, but never makes decisions.
“The blame should not go to the IDF and its commanders, but to the prime minister who is in his seat for six years already and talks about security but is incapable of managing, making the system more efficient or improving it,” the spokesman said. “The prime minister is afraid to even discuss the Locker report... after asking his military secretary to write it. He is good at committees and reports but not at decisions.”
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah said the comptroller’s report, like the Locker report, proves that the defense budget is out of control.
“As long as the defense minister is busy blocking necessary reforms instead of being the civilian responsible for the army, all attempts will be futile and we will not have an appropriate budget or the security we deserve,” Shelah stated.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called the defense budget “a black hole that no one supervises, which swelled without supervision or transparency.”
Knesset State Control Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) called a meeting to discuss the report next Monday.