IDF report paints 'disturbing picture' of army’s organizational culture

“Abusive, contemptuous, and racist attitude of commanders, including non-junior commanders, towards their subordinates.”

IDF soldiers during a training exercise (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldiers during a training exercise
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There was an increase in complaints by IDF soldiers to the Defense Ministry this past year, especially in terms of abusive and racist behavior by commanders, a damning report released on Monday said.
Written by the IDF Ombudsman, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, the 10th annual military ombudsman’s report “presents a disturbing picture of the organizational culture in the army,” and found, for a second year in a row, that the dismissal of thousands of career soldiers along with the shortening of service, “compromises the ability [of the IDF] to meet tasks.”
Similar to warnings released in the previous ombudsman’s report, Brick stated that there were “serious consequences” for the cutting of thousands of career soldiers under the army’s five-year-long Gideon Plan.
“It is impossible to hold the rope on both ends,” Brick wrote.
“On the one hand, the tasks are increasing – and on the other there is extensive cross-cutting of manpower.”
The imbalance between the manpower remaining after the cuts and the increase of tasks not only places a “heavy burden” on the remaining personnel, but the increased pressure is “detrimental to the level of performance, discipline and motivation of the soldiers.”
The IDF denied that the shortening of service had detrimental effects, saying that positions with the rank of captain and major in combat units are fully staffed and that by the end of 2018 there will be a record number of officers in technological roles.
“In accordance with the decisions of the multi-year Gideon Plan, the IDF currently has about 40,000 career soldiers.
This scope is designed and adapted to the operational needs and to the implementation of the IDF’s tasks, and ensures the construction of a high-quality command reserve, which leads to increased efficiency in the IDF’s work processes,” read the response by the military.
The report also warned of the damage to command and interpersonal relations caused by smartphones and social networks.
“When the use of social networks and smartphones is so widespread, the difficulty of protecting the right to privacy becomes extremely complex,” Brick wrote, adding that the commission received complaints by soldiers being filmed in embarrassing circumstances with the pictures subsequently being published without their approval – sometimes by their own commanders.
Elaborating on the detrimental use of such devices, Brick stated that the “unclear use of mobile phones in many military units undermines the command and leadership of commanders.”
Some commanders, he wrote, have “abandoned direct dialogue with their subordinates,” all together, sending text messages even when the subordinates are nearby.
Brick warned that this “causes commanders to distance and alienate themselves from their soldiers. This behavior harms the brotherhood of the fighters and the principles of the ‘spirit of the IDF.’” Many commanders, including lower-ranking ones such as company commanders, “spend most of their time in their offices, in discussions [and] meetings with senior commanders, and too little [time] with their subordinates.”
ACCORDING TO Brick, the IDF must deal with the leadership of commanders as a central factor in the motivation of soldiers.
It is “the duty of commanders to act responsibly. It is the duty and responsibility of every commander in the IDF to protect the rights, dignity and well-being of his subordinates,” he wrote, adding that a message must be sent warning that “any extreme and improper conduct will be dealt with in full severity, in order to restore the soldiers’ trust in the military establishment and its commanders.”
Brick stated that, in addition to the “abusive, contemptuous, and racist attitude of commanders, including non-junior commanders, towards their subordinates,” there was also a significant drop in the number of people from minority groups in command courses “due to inadequate treatment of issues related to their service.”
Warning of the difficulties in recruiting minorities to the IDF, Brick wrote that “the authorities are not acting sufficiently to enhance the social and military potential for the IDF which is embodied in minority populations.”
Responding to Brick’s criticism, the IDF said it “works to advance the issue on a regular basis” as it “sees great importance in the integration of minorities into its ranks,” especially as officers.
The report also stated that the military must address the decreased willingness of officers to commit to a long-term military career, especially in the field of technology where many choose to leave for civilian positions.
The report also focused on issues that arise annually during checks by the commissioner, such as shortcomings in medical services.
Overall there was a 5% increase in written complaints filed in 2017 (7,002) compared to the previous year (6,758), with another 20,334 complaints received by the commission’s call center. Soldiers in compulsory service filed 3,734 complaints, which was 53% of all submissions compared to the previous year. Career soldiers made 789 complaints (11%) while reservists made 632, or 9% of all submissions.
According to the report, 59% of complaints were found to be justified. 72% of all complaints were dealt with within a period of two months and 91% were resolved within three months.
Welcoming the report, the army stated that the IDF, under Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is leading a detailed process to deepen the examination and address the gaps raised.
“Over the past decade, the IDF has been working to implement additional internal control and auditing mechanisms aimed at improving a wide range of issues,” the military said, adding that it remains “committed to study the findings thoroughly and professionally and to learn the lessons and correct them as necessary.”