Locker Commission calls for massive IDF budget cuts across-the-board

Commission calls to cut pensions for IDF’s non-combatant officers, sees budget goal of 59 b; recommends to reduce male service to 2 years; 11% personnel cuts.

IDF soldiers storm a target during the ground incursion into Gaza (photo credit: IDF)
IDF soldiers storm a target during the ground incursion into Gaza
(photo credit: IDF)
The Locker Commission on Tuesday published its report calling for massive, across-theboard cuts to the IDF’s budget.
The 77-page document, with daunting implications for the country’s national security, includes 53 recommendations on a range of issues leading to budget savings and “efficiency reforms” totaling NIS 9.6 billion per year between 2016 and 2020, which commission head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yohanan Locker told a closed press conference could be reinvested by the IDF, essentially as new funds into the budget.
Yohanan Locker gives PM Netanyahu the national security budget report
Locker headlined a handout on the report, saying that it would “grow the defense budget to a new high of NIS 59b.”
annually during those years.
The IDF views Locker’s NIS 59b. yearly budget as inadequate, saying there are a variety of new, expensive challenges in the cyber, missile defense and precision weapons arenas, and said it needs NIS 61b.-64b.
annually to meet those threats.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quick to characterize the report as unbalanced and based on a complete “misunderstanding of the military.”
Among major cuts that would alter the character of the IDF would be eliminating pensions for all officers who are not in combat units. This would affect a huge number of officers in areas from logistics to communications to lawyers and many others.
In place of the “bridging pensions” that until now could last more than 20 years (they last at the most until the retiree is age 67), those officers would get large one-time “appropriate” retirement bonuses, but of much less value than the current pensions.
However, Locker said he would keep pensions for combat officers at the level of battalion commanders and upward Pressed about what “appropriate” meant, Locker gave examples of a spectrum of bonuses, with a senior warrant officer age 55 receiving around NIS 2 million, a colonel retiring at age 47 receiving around NIS 1.5 million and the average officer retiring at 42 receiving around NIS 700,000-NIS 900,000.
This change would be slated to kick in six years down the line.
On this point, Locker trumpeted a theme he consistently returned to, that the amounts the commission recommended for the bonuses were far higher than what the Finance Ministry had wanted to pay, placing the commission in the position of what he said was a reasonable middle between the ministry and the IDF.
Also, the commission would raise the retirement age for certain officers to 50 by 2029 from 47, to which it was already raised from 42 in recent years.
Regarding officers’ salaries, Locker suggested reducing and capping salaries at 86 percent of their current level.
Next, the recommendations include reducing obligatory service for men from 32 months (for which it as only recently cut from 36 months) to 24 months by 2020.
Further global cuts would include an 11% reduction “in the army’s human resources and salaries” by 2017 – though this figure fell far short of the IDF’s predicted one-third cut (unless the one-third cut is understood as a multi-year number and includes loss of future potential draftees).
The 11% cut would mean releasing from service 2,000 more officers than the several thousand that the IDF has already proposed to release.
Locker pushed hard for new rules of the game in budget discussions between the defense establishment and the Finance Ministry.
He slammed the IDF for canceling training drills in 2014 as part of the budget fight at the time, and he pushed for making the training budget untouchable without explicit authorization from the government.
The commission had faced a tough challenge “balancing efficiency” issues with the “country’s national security needs,” Locker said.
Pressed repeatedly by The Jerusalem Post as to how his recommended NIS 59b. annual budget could be considered a “new high” in light of the cyber, Iron Dome anti-missile system and other cutting-edge financial needs that did not exist in the past, Locker avoided a direct answer.
Rather, he insisted that NIS 59b.
was a high as a factual matter and tried to contextualize the amount, noting the Finance Ministry thought the recommended budget was too high.
Ya’alon described the Locker Commission’s findings as “shallow, extremely unbalanced and completely disconnected from the reality inside Israel and around it.”
The report, he said, “if implemented, will be a gamble with the security of Israeli citizens. The idea of shortening service to two years is the result of a total misunderstanding of the military.”
Ya’alon offered his full backing to the IDF’s Gideon multi-year program as the correct way to deal with threats and challenges facing the country. The Gideon program is “effective, balanced and responsible.
It is the one that should be adopted,” he said.
“Those who want to successfully deal, as we have done until now, with ISIS [Islamic State], Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and dozens of relentless terrorist organizations armed with advanced weapons, can’t let themselves settle for a mediocre military with mediocre people. Unfortunately, the Locker Report leads the State of Israel and its citizens to that place,” he said.
The commission’s recommendation are incompatible with threats facing Israel, which have not decreased, but only changed, Ya’alon said.
“Instead of the Syrian and Iraqi armies that fell apart, there are dozens of terrorist organizations that demand from the IDF a most advanced ability to deal with a number of arenas, intelligence efforts unprecedented in their innovation, advanced technology and operational quality from the air force, navy and ground forces,” Ya’alon said.
A well-trained military backed by combat support units is needed to deal with this, the defense minister said.
The Gideon program would allow the IDF to continue with border security operations, allow for longrange operations, avoid harm to civilians and permit continued research and acquisition of air defense systems, as well as cyber and other combat systems, Ya’alon argued.
The Locker Commission’s recommendations on career soldiers were influenced by an “unprecedented, relentless campaign of incitement in their severity against them, in a way that could lead to the mass abandonment [of military service] by good people, combat and combat support personnel, officers and noncommissioned officers, who feel humiliated,” Ya’alon said.
He heavily criticized those who compare career soldiers to thieves raiding public funds and “turn them into enemies,” saying they are acting in a disgraceful and irresponsible manner.
“The fact that career soldiers are ashamed to walk the streets in uniform is a mark of shame, and it is the result of intolerable attacks on them,” he said.
“The IDF is making itself more efficient, and in actuality, there is no organization in Israel that works on efficiency in such a manner,” Ya’alon said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he strongly favors of adopting the Locker Report’s findings, as the security forces continually demand massive budgetary additions, taking money away from social needs.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon called to strike “the necessary balance between security needs and the needs of Israeli society,” but at the same time expressed appreciation for IDF soldiers and commanders.
The Finance Ministry is to review the report starting on Wednesday and decide which recommendations can be implemented in the next state budget, which are to go to a first vote in the Knesset at the end of August.
Other IDF sources also rejected the Locker Commission’s findings, with one senior officer saying on Sunday that it amounted to “the firing of a bullet between the eyes of the military.”
According to the source, the commission’s recommended reserves model would result in a depletion of qualified personnel, and would unjustly punish combat support officers who have dedicated their lives to state security, in contrast with the conditions enjoyed by members of the police and the intelligence agencies.
The source vehemently disagreed with the call to cut service time for men to two years, or to significantly reduce the size of the conscripted forces, saying this would interfere with the IDF’s multitude of tasks in a volatile Middle East.
The source said keeping pensions exclusively for combat battalion commanders upwards would severely harm the IDF’s ability to attract and keep career officers who serve in a host of vital roles, including in combat-support positions.
A second source, speaking on Tuesday, said the Gideon plan would strengthen the army-of-the-people model. Currently, he said, only 50% of those eligible for the draft end up serving. The source called for men and women to eventually serve equal lengths of time.
Another perspective that Locker put forward was that the big cuts he was calling for were not radical since, he said, they were mostly already called for by prior similar panels, such as the Brodet Commission in 2007 and the Goren Committee in 2010.
One of Locker’s most militant points was the need for the defense establishment to submit to greater transparency so that “in 2015 every citizen should see where every shekel goes including for the defense establishment,” with the “gatekeepers” on the issue being the Finance Ministry and the National Security Council.
Besides Locker, the commission included Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ami Shafran, former senior police officer and National Insurance Institute director Esther Dominissini, Yossi Ackerman, David Baruch, Anat Levin, Prof. Rivka Carmi and Prof. Ben-Zion Zilberfarb.
They met 63 times and reviewed thousands of documents in preparing the report, requested by the government in October 2013.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.