Forget about tomorrow; focus on today

With winds of war blowing on multiple fronts, long-term aims are not on the IDF's 2007 agenda.

halutz 88 turning head (photo credit: JP)
halutz 88 turning head
(photo credit: JP)
After a 33-day war, 50 commissions of inquiry, another 50 high-level General Staff meetings and thousands of hours of work, the IDF this week finally presented its plan for 2007. Unlike the multi-year work plan that Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz presented last January - which focused on the reorganization of military branches and long-term goals - this plan focuses on today and tomorrow. There is no more long-term planning, a top member of the General Staff said this week. From now on, the IDF is "just trying to get through the next year." Taking a look at the strategic assessment for 2007, one begins to understand why. As reported exclusively in this column last month, Military Intelligence sees Israel headed toward at least two major military conflicts - against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hizbullah in Lebanon - and possibly even a third against Syria. This will also be the year, senior officers announced this week, that Iran crosses the technological threshold and masters nuclear technology, set as the "point of no return" by Israeli policy-makers. The IDF's work plan responds to these immediate threats. There are no long-term plans for reorganizing the Ground Forces Command, as Halutz announced there would be when he took office in June 2005. There are also no major procurement plans. With continued cuts to the defense budget, the navy can for now forget about the next-generation Littoral Combat Ship it had dreamed of getting, and the air force can forget about replacing its ancient C-130 transport fleet with Lockheed Martin's new J model. "The idea is to try to keep things the same," said the General Staff member. "If we manage to keep the IAF and the navy at their current levels, that itself will be considered a success." THIS IS the new IDF after the war in Lebanon - suspicious of promises by politicians to increase the defense budget, and scared to commit to long-term strategic plans that might fall through. The goal: Be prepared for today's challenges. Next year's can wait for another day. Behind the new work plan is Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, head of the Planning Division. A former air force chief and deputy commander of the IAF under Halutz, Nehushtan was responsible for drawing up the plan for the coming year, while at the same time conducting negotiations with the Finance Ministry over the size of the defense budget. He admits to losing the battle against the Treasury, and points to the current size of the budget - NIS 34.7 billion, a significant drop since 2002 when the defense budget was NIS 39.5 billion. This, he stresses, is at a time when all the other militaries in the region are increasing defense expenditure - Syria by close to 40 percent, Egypt by close to 30% and Iran by 25%. Israel, he says, is the only country cutting its defense spending. The first order issued in the plan falls under the headline of "readiness" - basically getting infantry and armored units and reservists ready for the wars that could break out by the summer. To do this, the IDF is sending all of its brigades and battalions for at least three months of training. NIS 1.8 billion is also being set aside for refilling the IDF's emergency warehouses, found during the war to have been filled with old and insufficient equipment. Eight brigades will get brand-new equipment - from uniforms and flak jackets to night-vision goggles. Their old equipment will then be passed on to other units, and this will set off a chain reaction, which the IDF hopes will eventually weed out old and deficient battle gear. The IDF is also in the midst of a major shopping spree to replenish emergency stockpiles emptied during the war. If the war cost the IDF NIS 11.2 billion, close to half - NIS 5 billion - was spent on 155 mm. artillery shells, bullets, tank shells and precision bombs. An astounding figure for a military whose top commander has claimed that the war was just an operation. This week, Nehushtan's office will complete an inventory of the warehouses and fill the remaining holes. Since the war, the IDF has already made some major orders, including a $20 million deal with Israeli Military Industries for tens of thousands of 155 mm. artillery shells, as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions and bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs. Military Intelligence will undergo major organic and cultural changes needed to turn it into the main supplier of intelligence, not just for the government and General Staff, but also for the battalions and brigades fighting in the field. To do so, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky has initiated a plan to combine MI with the Field Intelligence Corps, which today is under the Ground Forces Command. During the year, the IDF also plans to upgrade its battle doctrine, found to be faulty during the war. The man heading this is Brig.-Gen. Itai Brun, head of the IDF's Operational Theory Research Institute, who has been assigned the task of analyzing the military's current operational doctrines and formulating new ones. Hinting at what he has in store, Brun said at a Tel Aviv University conference last month that the IDF needed a "new tactical language." At the end of the day, if the plan is implemented effectively, we will witness the rebuilding of the IDF and hopefully the creation of a stronger and more powerful military machine. If not, the opportunity to learn from and reverse the disappointing results in Lebanon will have been sorely missed.