Kochavi's Momentum plan hits a corona wall

With no budget in sight, the military understands that Kochavi's multi-year plan is no longer affordable.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi speaks at a conference in honor of former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the IDC Interdisciplinary Center in Herzilya, December 25, 2019 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi speaks at a conference in honor of former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the IDC Interdisciplinary Center in Herzilya, December 25, 2019
Half a year into the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to disastrous repercussions on Israel’s economy, the IDF will have to re-prioritize its Momentum multi-year plan to focus on readiness rather than the expensive technological advanced military it is no longer able to afford.
The army has understood that it must make changes to the multi-year plan, whose guiding principle is to win any future war as quickly as possible, using new concepts and methods of warfare along with advanced weapons and platforms that have been adapted to the modern urban battlefield.
The Momentum plan aims to allow the IDF identify and destroy enemy targets and fighters in a more lethal and effective manner with drones, robots, precision weapons and more.
The plan by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, builds on the military’s previous Gideon multi-year plan formulated by former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot. It balances the necessary readiness and transformation challenges and defines the required mix between offensive investment (70%) and defensive investment (30%).
But even before the onset of the pandemic, the military was facing hurdles in securing a defense budget due to the lengthy paralysis that gripped the Israeli political system. While a unity government was formed in May, the turmoil remains and no budget has been agreed to.
Instead, Israel once again faces a possible election.
Its economy has been hit hard from the pandemic and is expected to contract in 2020 for the first time in nearly two decades.
Despite no security budget for the coming years, the military has been able to secure some NIS 3.3 billion extra funding for the critical areas such as the Gaza border fence and ongoing security operations.
And though the defense establishment will likely be least affected by the deficit – it has the highest budget of any government ministry – which is estimated to reach between 10% to 11% by the end of 2020,  it is not immune and has already cut reserve training to save.
The military is aware that any cut to the defense budget would make it almost impossible to fully implement Kochavi’s plan.
IDF generals have realized that they cannot escape the new reality forced upon them by corona. IAF Chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, for one, has already announced plans to streamline and change the structure of the force, and Ground Forces Commander Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick understands that not all changes he set for the force will happen, although it is in need of a makeover.
During the height of the first wave, the IDF recognized a decrease in hostile enemy activity targeting Israel including the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, where it’s been the quietest period in years.
In June, Kochavi warned against a false sense of security from the relative calm in the region, saying that cutting the military’s budget would be a “grave mistake.”
“This is the ‘security paradox’ — so long as there is quiet and stability on security, we are inclined to forget how complicated it is to achieve. As long as there is security stability, a misleading feeling develops that the threats have diminished. And when there is quiet, a feeling develops that we can reduce what is required for our security needs,” Kochavi said at a ceremony marking the IDF’s role in the fight against the coronavirus.
“This is a grave mistake that militaries and countries throughout history, including Israel, have paid a heavy price for,” he said. “Only by maintaining the muscles of the army can we fight and win when called upon.”
Despite a second wave of the virus now raging, Israel’s enemies have resumed their hostile activity, with rockets launched from the Gaza Strip and a tense northern border following threats by Hezbollah to retaliate for the death of one of its operatives in an alleged Israeli airstrike.
With the reality of the Middle East being that nothing stays the same, the military continues to move forward with procuring what it can afford.
As part of the plan, the military is set to procure new aerial platforms using $3.8 billion in defense assistance from the United States. Following the normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Israel is said to have written up a wish list of additional platforms they want in return to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME).
The wish list is not cheap, but Defense Minister and former chief of staff Benny Gantz has stressed that he will not risk Israel’s QME, especially since its foes, like Iran and Hezbollah, continue to build up a deadly arsenal targeting the country’s home front.
The Ground Forces have also been training on Rafael’s Fire Weaver system, which connects sensors and personnel, making for a digitized battle space that reduces engagement times with targets and increases operational performance.
So, while the IDF will at some point get their new weaponry – decisions have yet to be made regarding the new IAF platforms – Kochavi’s advanced network-centered, multi-dimensional war machine that would keep Israel way ahead of its adversaries might not come to its full fruition.