Knesset report: Senior IDF officers poorly trained

Eitam tells 'Post' he blames problem on "deep budget cuts" and lack of officers experienced in commanding large formations.

effi eitam 88 (photo credit: )
effi eitam 88
(photo credit: )
Many of the senior IDF officers charged with leading the army lacked the training and experience to conduct the Second Lebanon War, according to a report released Tuesday by a subgroup of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "The report focused on the collapse of the system of training and education for senior officers in the IDF in the last few years," MK Effie Eitam (National Union) told The Jerusalem Post. Eitam, a reserves brigadier-general who held several senior command positions in the army, headed the sub-committee formed in January to explore this issue. "The quality of the officers became the biggest obstacle for the performance of the IDF," said Eitam. He blamed the problem in part on "deep budget cuts" and the lack of officers experienced in commanding large formations on the battlefield. Many people in the IDF believed that the era of larger wars had ended, and most of the army's energy was diverted to low-intensity conflict. When the Second Lebanon War broke out in the summer of 2006, most of the generals who had led the army in the past wars of 1967, 1973 and 1982 had left military service. "Many of the [remaining] senior officers had never experienced [a large battlefield]," said Eitam. With intense education, the gap can be bridged in less then a year with a low-cost program, said Eitam. He added that Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi had already embarked on a program of "real reform in the army." There is now a mentoring program between new officers and senior ones from the reserves, said Eitam. But in the long term, he said, what is needed is a comprehensive academic program with an emphasis on tactical methods. The existing military educational programs are not at this level and do not suffice, according to the report. In Israel, Eitam noted, "You can get a degree in dance and Scottish music, but not in military studies." According to the report, there is a split within the military community over the need for academic studies, where the prevailing attitude has been that it is not necessary. But in the western world, according to the report, high ranking military leaders are those who possess these military degrees. "If Israel does not develop an academic program to train its professional staff and make them respected professionals, the army will always be left behind as a kind of amateurish [group]," said Eitam. The current framework of studies at the IDF's National Defense College, he said, were insufficient. In addition, according to the report, as a result of the lack of proper training, officers advance in command despite lacking sufficient knowledge for their duties. The subcommittee will remain in place to ensure that the recommendations have been carried out, said Eitam. He said that legislation would also be introduced in the Knesset to support the new measures outlined in the report.