’Army must establish criteria for maj-gen appointments'

Regulations for other senior-rank promotions exist, but are not always followed, State Comptroller notes.

By DAN IZENBERG
September 1, 2010 05:28
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

Micha Lindenstrauss 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

 
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There is no systematic procedure for promoting IDF officers to the rank of major-general, the reservoir of officers from which all senior army commanders are chosen, and the choices, for the main part, depend on the personal relations between the chief of General Staff and the defense minister, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote in a report released on Tuesday.

The report comes on the eve of a major reshuffle of the General Staff, following Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s nomination of Maj.-Gen.Yoav Galant as the next chief of General Staff, and the expected retirement of several senior generals and the appointment of their replacements.

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Barak has already made it clear that he will take a dominant role in making the new appointments.

By law, the chief of General Staff is the one who recommends appointments to the General Staff (which includes automatic promotion to the rank of major-general) and the defense minister approves the appointments. But, according to the report, in practice, there is no fixed process for deciding who will get these promotions.

“The procedure for appointing officers to jobs carrying the rank of major-general is nothing but a bargaining process: between the chief of staff and the minister of defense,” the Lindenstrauss wrote.

“This so-called procedure is not based on any framework, has no rules or regulations, is not clearly based on written material or documents, is not documented and, for the main part, is dependent on the relations existing between the chief of General Staff and the defense minister.

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“This is not the right way to conduct the process,” continued Lindenstrauss, even though he added that some of the defense ministers and chiefs of General Staff that he interviewed – including the current defense minister – disagreed with him.

“It is very important to institutionalize and develop clear rules for appointing majorgenerals.

In this context, criteria for appointing major-generals should be established, while leaving enough flexibility and freedom to the decision- makers,” he wrote.

“It is also necessary to reach a regulated understanding on the question of the degree to which the defense minister may intervene in the process of appointing certain members of the General Staff, rather than just approving their appointments and, if necessary, to bring this matter to the government.”

As noted, not everyone agreed with Lindenstrauss.

The list of those who argue that no criteria should be fixed includes Barak and former defense ministers Shaul Mofaz, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Moshe Arens. Former chief of General Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak also concurred.

According to Barak, the chief of General Staff should not be able to do anything he pleases. Furthermore, to begin with, there is a significant degree of agreement among the senior army brass as to who should be promoted to major-general.

Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, on the other hand, said he believed fixed criteria were necessary and that he intended to establish some during his term in office.

Another question arose when Barak insisted that the defense minister should have a greater say in some General Staff appointments. These included the co-coordinator of activities in the territories and the president of the military court of appeals; key positions such as the deputy chief of staff and the chief of the Intelligence Branch; the head of the air force and some of the district command heads.

He told Lindenstrauss the government should consider allowing him to propose candidates for these positions and have a say regarding when their terms should expire. Lindenstrauss supported these ideas.

Since the law empowers the defense minister to approve or reject the chief of General Staff’s recommendations for promotions to major-general, the state comptroller investigated how well informed they were about the candidates so they could fulfill this responsibility.

His conclusion was that they lacked independent means to assess the qualifications of the various candidates.

Furthermore, the discussions between the defense minister and the chief of General Staff leading to such promotions are not transparent or documented.

From interviews with Barak, Ashkenazi and their predecessors, Lindenstrauss learned that some opposed the move of recording these discussions while others supported it. He himself concluded that the documentation was “essential.”

In the first half of the report, Lindenstrauss examined the procedures for appointing lieutenant-colonels, colonels and brigadier-generals. Here he found that there was a structured procedure and defined criteria for making these appointments and that since the Second Lebanon War, under Ashkenazi’s watch, the army’s adherence to these arrangements had improved.

Nevertheless, the state comptroller found many occasions in which the written procedures were ignored.

For example, the minimum amount of time that a lieutenant- colonel must serve at that rank before being considered for promotion is 24 months. Nevertheless, the state comptroller found that 63 percent of those promoted to colonel did not complete the minimum term at the lower rank.

The state comptroller also found that many officers did not fulfill some of the requirements of the jobs and ranks they were given. For example, 24% of the candidates considered to fill positions at the rank of lieutenant-colonel did not fulfill the education or military experience requirements.

Eight of them were promoted nonetheless.

While acknowledging that a structure for appointments to the senior ranks below majorgenerals existed and that the observance of this structure had improved after the Second Lebanon War, Lindenstrauss concluded that “the results of the investigation point to failure to observe some of the criteria established by the IDF as a condition for receiving appointments… This situation does not jibe with the aim of appointing officers who have the necessary experience and know-how to satisfactorily carry out their tasks.

“The IDF must make certain that the development of the officer staff, and the characteristics of service, allow it to meet the criteria established as a condition for appointment to these jobs.”

In its response to the report, the IDF Spokesman said most of the comptroller’s comments on the appointments of senior officers were based on the findings of his initial investigation in 2007.

Since then, the army had begun preparing a “project for the promotion of the officer staff” in which all General Staff orders were being updated, including those related to the promotion and training of the senior officer staff. The state comptroller’s comments from the initial investigation had been taken into account in this work, the IDF Spokesman said.

The spokesman also replied to the comptroller’s specific criticism that officers were promoted even though some had not completed the minimal time in their previous rank. He said the army had amended this regulation to specifically permit the premature advancement of veteran and experienced officers who met all the other criteria for advancement.

Regarding the comptroller’s criticism of the lack of fixed criteria for promoting officers to the rank of major-general, the spokesman wrote, “The IDF intends to formally establish certain parameters, including age, training, number of positions held, [academic] degrees and personal profile. The regulation will be presented to the defense minister for his comments.”


Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

Galant appt. on verge of approval
YAAKOV KATZ

Defense Minister Ehud Barak will bring the appointment of OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant to the position of IDF chief of general staff to the cabinet on Sunday after the general was approved for the top post by the Turkel Commission which vets senior appointments.

Galant will take up the post in February after current Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi steps down following four years in the post.

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