Officials: Defense budget cuts could harm IDF training, purchasing plans

IDF procurement and training plans will likely be harmed if the Treasury makes drastic cuts to the defense budget, defense officials warned on Monday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Defense Ministry Director-General Pinhas Buchris met Monday with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to discuss the Treasury's plan. On Sunday, the government approved the budget for 2009 and 2010 under which it will be required to cut NIS 14 billion in planned spending across the board to offset lower tax revenues. Two years ago, the government adopted the recommendations of the Brodet Commission to create a multi-year budget for the IDF, based on which the military could create a multi-year procurement plan. Under this arrangement, the budget for 2009, officials said, was supposed to be NIS 52 billion, but the IDF only received NIS 48 billion. In addition, a guarantee by the previous government to compensate the IDF for Operation Cast Lead has yet to be completely met and the IDF claims it is missing NIS some NIS 3 billion. If a significant cut is made to the budget, officials said the Defense Ministry would have no choice but to scale back procurement plans as well as training programs that were intensified following the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Following his meeting with Steinitz, Barak said the Labor Party would not support the current budget and would fight to increase the deficit to allow for higher spending. "We feel that this is the right thing for the state," Barak said. "But it is also right if we want to protect the resources needed for essential defense issues. The talks will continue next week and possibly even longer."