IDF soldiers at a temporary checkpoint in the West Bank [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Most of the country’s strategic sites remain unprotected despite warnings about the problem since 2004 and the Defense Ministry’s recent move to take the role of protecting these locations back from the now-defunct Home Front Security Ministry, according to the State Comptroller report released Monday.
Among a range of defense-related issues, the report blasts the Defense Ministry for failing to protect critical infrastructure although it has been clear for some time that the sites face perpetual security threats.
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said the issue had been emphasized in a 2010 report yet “there has been hardly any real progress to respond to the threat, and even attempts to guard a partial list of sensitive civilian sites by order of the prime minister have not been completed.”
So little progress had been made on the issue, according to the report, that in March 2012 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally intervened, ordering thenhome front security minister Gilad Erdan to push for rapid protection of the most sensitive sites. As of the report’s closing in November 2013, Shapira said, hardly any progress had been made even on this shorter list – although the Defense Ministry had already wrested responsibility back from the Home Front Security Ministry, which disbanded in June 2014.
Erdan dismantled the ministry after losing an extended multi-year battle with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over resources and control of security on the home front.
The ministry itself had taken on home front security responsibilities in 2011 following recommendations that the Defense Ministry could not adequately focus on the issue, with its gaze divided in so many directions.
The report did note that as of a final check in September 2014, there had been some real progress, at least on the short list of the most sensitive sites, although there had been no progress on the broader list.
Shapira said the Defense Ministry “must act rapidly” to correct the deficiency in light of “existing and expected threats.”
Only a summary of this section of the report was published due to the classified nature of the sites.
The Defense Ministry issued a general response to the criticism, stating that it secures “a diversity of essential infrastructure” according to their national importance and that there are differing criteria defined in cooperation with the National Security Council for the various locations.
Securing the sites, the ministry added, had started with an emphasis on energy and water-related infrastructure according to operational priorities. It also made reference to budgetary constraints.
Shapira noted that he was presently evaluating the state’s readiness for Hamas’s tunnel tactics, the home front’s defense and the civilian leadership’s decision-making during Operation Protective Edge this past summer.
Next, the report criticized the Defense Ministry and the IDF for the lack of readiness among reserve units.
Shapira said there had been insufficient training, which was hurting the units’ readiness, and that neither the IDF nor the civilian leadership was overseeing the issue sufficiently, which could be giving them an inflated view of IDF preparedness. He recommended that the military specify a set minimum of funds that would go to training reserve units regardless of overall budget fluctuations.
The lack of funds for these units also applies to equipment. One of the more blatant examples is thousands of outdated tires. The Defense Ministry and the IDF both responded that they were promoting the most training they could under a much more limited budget than had been requested. The army added that some training exercises had been pushed off by “real” exercises in the form of the November 2012 and July-August 2014 Gaza wars. More specifically, the state comptroller’s report cited the loss of tens of millions of dollars by the air defense industry for failing to meet targets in the development of certain aircraft despite massive injections of public funds that left less money for social needs. Next, the report said there was insufficient infrastructure investment in the manufacturing capacity of national military industries, which could damage IDF capabilities and lead to the closing of some essential manufacturing facilities. The Defense Ministry responded that the issue was, again, due to a limited budget and that it was coordinating with the IDF to make sure that there was a single point-person to ensure that at least certain minimal goals and needs were met.
The report also termed the Defense Ministry and IDF’s process for receiving and approving requests for financial assistance to disabled soldiers defective. It called on the ministry to fix the problems so the program “can fulfill its purposes.” The ministry appeared to disagree, noting that it was presently handling more than 56,000 cases, including 500 from this summer’s war.
The ministry said it was living up to its guidelines of making contact within 14 days in cases of disabled soldiers whose disabilities were clearly connected to their service; within four months where the connection is hazier; and within nine months for illness-related issues.
The ministry and the IDF said their program had gotten high satisfaction ratings. They also criticized a group representing disabled soldiers for what they characterized as holding up certain pieces of legislation.
Meanwhile, the comptroller also filed a separate, wide-ranging report on local government issues that highlighted the insufficient attention paid by local government and the Social and Welfare Affairs Ministry to the issue of juvenile prostitution. The report called on government to do more to locate juvenile prostitutes, return them to their homes and prosecute grownups who rope them in.
Next, the report addressed local government’s problematic use of public platforms to indirectly campaign for incumbent politicians, as well as ineffective waste collection, which in 2012 involved 5.3 million tons of waste.