Halutz outlines Ground Forces changes

Chief of Staff tries to finish 21-year mission to streamline the IDF.

halutz looks tough 298.8 (photo credit: IDF [file])
halutz looks tough 298.8
(photo credit: IDF [file])
In the past week, in case other events in Israel may have drawn your attention, the IDF transferred its Communications, Ordnance, Adjunct and a bulk of the Personnel corps to the Ground Forces Services. It is all part of an ambitious plan by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz to set into motion a reorganization of the IDF into three arms: Ground, Sea and Air. Outlining the plan to military reporters Monday, Halutz said it was "very difficult and very complicated." The new plan calls for the General Staff to forgo its traditional direct command over the land forces. They will be the sole responsibility of the Ground Forces Services, which will arm, train and command all ground forces from infantry to armored units. The commander of the Ground Forces Services, known by its Hebrew acronym Mazi, has already been allocated an additional major-general. According to Halutz, the Ground Forces Services, headed by Maj.-Gen. Beni Ganz, won't just add the corps in its entirety, but "scramble them up and come up with a reorganized service." "The process is aimed at getting rid of duplication and create efficiency," Halutz said. He estimated that some 10 percent of staff jobs would be reduced. However, he strongly insisted that there would be no layoffs in the IDF. He noted that 1,300 members of the permanent army are to separate from the service this year as part of a multi-year plan to reduce the standing army by 6,000. Halutz does have his sights on the civilians who work for the IDF, saying he would prefer to retool that model to protect members of the standing army from dismissal. One of the reasons the reorganization is being implemented finally was due to the fact that the defense establishment could no longer afford such a large army. Halutz insisted that the IDF had cut a total of NIS 17 billion from its budgets over the last four years. The financial restraints were so harsh, Halutz said he was reopening the multi-year plan, which would take a fresh look at the challenges and missions expected of the IDF. He said battle order would likely be cut to reduce overlapping capabilities, such as anti-armor warfare. "We don't want to overkill. If we can destroy our enemies' armor twice over, perhaps we only need to be able to do it one and a half times," Halutz said. Like all chiefs of General Staff before him, Halutz said the IDF needed much more funding to carry out its mission. He said the IDF, which was allocated about 70 percent of the NIS 34.25 billion defense budget, needed another NIS 1.5b. The financial crisis was causing the IDF to cut R&D for the first time in years, he said. Halutz said the IDF was also retooling the service tracks of all its soldiers and officers, opening up the ranks to competition between all arms. The IDF was also getting ready to implement a shortened mandatory service time to go into effect as soon as the government agrees on it. While most of the reorganization will be virtual, the public will actually see changes in the face of the IDF as it implements its plan to move out of the cities of central Israel and move southwards. The Ground Forces Services, based near Kiryat Malachi, will be growing. Military Intelligence is also moving out of its long-time bases near Herzliya for the Beersheba region. The Nevatim air base is to become the largest in the IAF and in two more years, the IDF expects to inaugurate its "Training Base City" near the Negev Junction. Among the further changes: Military Intelligence is being formalized as its own branch, something that has already existed for some time. The Logistics and Technology branch has been renamed the Logistics, Medical and Centers Branch, or in its Hebrew acronym "Alram." It is now subordinate to Mazi so that the latter can decide what weapons to develop and procure instead of receiving weapons and adopting a doctrine for Alram. In the General Staff, the Operations Directorate is being strengthened while the Planning Branch is being dissolved and the Personnel Branch reduced. The reorganization also sees the deputy chief of General Staff assuming a greater role in running the army, while the Operations Directorate becomes Halutz's sort of right arm to implement operational decisions. The concept for the process actually began 21 years ago when then defense minister Moshe Arens set up the Ground Forces Command. The idea was to establish a command structure for the army similar to the navy and air force. It got stuck. In 1998, then chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz tried to revive the revolution with his "IDF 2000 plan." But the subsequent outbreak of violence with the Palestinians, not to mention internal army conservatism and opposition, also led to that grinding to a halt. It took Halutz, an outsider from the Air Force, to attempt to set into motion the reorganization.