Defense budget cuts are painful but necessary

Would it really be so hard to do away with the antiquated M60s, the old Merkava tanks or the F-16s? One Stealth F-35 can do the work of an entire squadron of F-16s.

July 11, 2013 18:44
2 minute read.

MERKAVA tank 370. (photo credit: Michael Shvadron/IDF spokesperson)


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Very soon, the IDF is going to come out with an historic announcement: There’s not enough money in the defense budget.

Not nearly enough. But closing down an entire tank division or grounding an entire squadron will not bring in instant money. And laying off 5,000 soldiers in the standing army costs a fortune.

In 1952, the chief of staff, Lt.-Gen.Yigal Yadin, resigned following a major dispute with prime minister David Ben-Gurion. What about? You guessed it: Defense budget cuts.

Israel was penniless in the aftermath of the War of Independence. Ben-Gurion understood that he would have to slim down the military, and that he should be the one to do it – not Yadin.

Today, there are also many ways to make cuts. Does the IDF really need its own dental clinics? There’s no reason soldiers can’t receive the same level of (or maybe even better?) treatment by civilian dentists.

The same goes for regular doctor visits.There’s no reason the IDF should have its own medical system.

And what about rehabilitation? The annual defense budget, not including US aid, is NIS 40 billion. Of this, NIS 11b. goes to rehabilitation and pensions – more than 25 percent of the budget. This they do not want to touch. That leaves NIS 29b. to work with.

Throughout our (short) history as a nation, there has never been a defense minister who said, “Listen, guys, I just have way too much money here. Let’s decrease the size of the military. And we really don’t need so many tanks.”

On the other hand, Israel has no room for mistakes. When a regular country loses a war, it makes a big effort to win the next one. If Israel were to lose a war, we would not be around to make any improvements.

Therefore, even when we look around at all of our traditional enemies and realize that there are no longer tanks stationed and ready to rush onto the Golan or into Sinai, and that there are wild fires burning all around us as the Arabs are busy trying to kill themselves, the doubt remains, eating away at us.

Would it really be so hard to do away with the antiquated M60s, the old Merkava tanks or the F-16s? One Stealth F-35 can do the work of an entire squadron of F-16s. But even if we double the number of planes, we will not be protected, since we are no longer up against other fighter jets, but rockets and missiles. And there are tens of thousands of them. So we must develop new technology that can strike deeply and precisely, and we must have excellent intelligence.

None of the rest is important anymore.

The other way to make cuts in the budget would be by letting go of 5,000 career soldiers. The only problem is that the talented, bright and motivated ones would be the ones to leave. They will immediately get scooped up by hi-tech companies.

And the IDF risks losing energetic and talented 18-year-olds who don’t want to join an organization from which they too might be fired down the line when there are cutbacks.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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