Decision to award tender for IDF cannon made with incomplete information

Defense Ministry, IDF rejects claims in the report, say proper decision-making processes were carried out.

Elbit Systems Howitzer gun (photo credit: ELBIT SYSTEMS)
Elbit Systems Howitzer gun
(photo credit: ELBIT SYSTEMS)
The decision to award Elbit a multi-million deal to provide the IDF with new self-propelled howitzer gun systems was made by the Defense Ministry on the basis of incomplete information, the State Comptroller report has found.
“The cannon array is a major part of the IDF artillery forces and its main function is to assist the maneuvering forces,” the report read.
According to the audit, the Ground Forces worked for close to a decade prior to making a decision regarding the project, including examining alternatives and their implications as well as updating combat methods and looking at alternatives to artillery that could provide the most effective and optimal answer to their needs.
A committee also read and analyzed countless documents and cannon projects used by militaries abroad as well as held meetings and consulted with professional bodies.
But, despite the work done, the IDF’s Ground Forces did not examine the work of the General Staff which promoted the acquisition of the new cannon, something “that has long-term operational implications” and in which large sums of funds are invested and other “significant issues that were supposed to support decision-making regarding the project.”
“Even in discussions led by the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister for the approval of the project, the Ground Forces and the IDF Planning Directorate did not present these issues,” the report said, adding that the Eisenkot and Liberman were not presented with a complete picture of the issue, including why the German demonstration was cancelled and tender later rejected.
The audit on the subject of decision-making processes in the defense establishment regarding the deal “found a number of flaws in the staff work of the IDF General Staff when examining the issue of acquiring new cannons as well as flaws in the presentation of the information to the Chief of the General Staff, the Minister of Defense and the Security Cabinet of Israel, which led to decision-making on the basis of incomplete information.”
In 2017, then Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.(ret.) Gadi Eisenkot and then Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved the project to replace M-109 cannons that the IDF had been using for decades, and in March 2018 the Security Cabinet approved the acquisition of cannons made by Elbit.
In March of last year then director-general of the Defense Ministry Udi Adam signed the deal with Elbit to produce what will be the most advanced canon with superior firing capabilities.
The $125 million deal was one of the largest and most complex procurement plans in the history of the ground forces and the cannons are expected to be deployed over the next decade. The system will be capable of automatically choosing which type of shell to fire depending on the target. It will be able to fire six shells a minute at a range of over 40km.
The deal was signed with Elbit after the IDF’s Ground Force, Defense Ministry, and the ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT) developers' committee rejected an offer to purchase cannons made by the German KMW company though it had signed a deal with Israel Aerospace Industries and Israel Military Industries in an attempt to win the deal.
While their systems demonstrated “proof of their capabilities,” four months after MAFAT invited KMW to demonstrate its cannon and a few days after sending the company the demonstration plan, MAFAT, and the Ground Forces canceled the planned demonstration.
KMW’s tender was later rejected.
According to a 2017 report by Globes, though Elbit’s cannon was selected after the defense ministry was told various adjustments would be made according to IDF requirements, a trial of the cannon conducted shortly after Liberman approved the decision ended with disappointing results.
According to the audit, in light of the flaws the defense establishment “must be rigorous in conducting organized and fundamental staff work when examining the acquisition of significant and highly expensive armaments and careful to present complete and precise information to decision-makers.”
By doing so, the defense establishment can make “optimal decisions” and “ensure that the IDF is equipped with the armaments that will lead to the required achievements during warfare and exploit to the maximum the limited resources of the defense establishments.”
In response to the report, the Defense Ministry said that the MAFAT selection committee had spent “many months” examining “all possible alternatives” for the IDF’s future cannon and the decision to select Elbit, “which is the only company in the State of Israel that has the capabilities to supply the system according to the IDF’s operational requirements” was made “in accordance with all laws.”
The IDF said that while it welcomes the audit and considers the issues raised in the report to be “important and takes its finding seriously,” the decision to select Elbit’s cannon “reflects a long, thorough, detailed and high-quality process that was carried out over the course of eight years by the Ground Forces.
“Contrary to what was said in the audit, the Ground Forces examined material issues in its view as part of formulating the concept and addressed them in-depth,” the IDF said, adding that Eisenkot had also established a General Staff committee to examine the acquisition of the new cannon “before bringing the project to the approval of the security cabinet.”
The military rejected the claim that the IDF’s Planning Directorate approved the project before it was presented to the Ground Forces “since in 2013 the Ground Force approved of the project and only in 2017 did the project go up for approval before the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister.”
 “The IDF maintains proper work processes in accordance with the recommendations and makes sure to present accurate data to the decision-makers,” the IDF said, adding that it will “continue its mission to protect the residents of the State of Israel, become more efficient and be open to review.”