Defense officials lobby intensely against budget cuts

Say cutback would force IDF to scale back training and procurement plans.

Ashkenazi 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ashkenazi 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
As the cabinet continued to debate the 2009 budget late into Sunday night, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi paced the halls outside the meeting room, lobbying ministers to vote against the Treasury's demand to make severe cuts to the defense budget. Defense officials said Sunday that if the cabinet passed the Treasury's proposed budget which included an NIS 2.4 billion cut in defense, the IDF would have no choice but to scale back training and procurement plans - including, possibly, a defense system for tanks against anti-tank missiles. According to defense officials, the Treasury owes the IDF some NIS 900 million which it asked to hold off from transferring in 2008. The planned defense budget is NIS 56 billion, the largest of all government ministries. In addition, according to the Brodet Commission's budget framework which was accepted by the government, the IDF is supposed to have a multi-year budget that is set in advance and increases incrementally every year by NIS 1.5 billion. As a result, the IDF claims that it is supposed to receive an extra NIS 2.4 billion for the 2009 budget. "Two years after the Second Lebanon War and a year after the Winograd Report, the Treasury behaves as if nothing happened here," a defense official said on Sunday. "You cannot say that this is the IDF's problem. If the money is not provided this becomes a national problem." According to the official, if the IDF does not receive the funds it believes it is owed, the Defense Ministry will need to cut back on procurement plans including new armored personnel carriers, advanced weaponry, smart bombs and defense systems for tanks against anti-tank missiles. The cuts to the budget will also likely negatively impact the IDF's new intensive training regimen, formulated in line with the Winograd Report and the military's poor showing during the 2006 war.