Shahak panel proposes to restructure PMO, boost NSC

Former chief of General Staff and minister Lt.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak is expected to submit proposals to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday calling for a widespread restructuring of the Prime Minister's Office that will include significantly strengthening the National Security Council's authority. In May, immediately after the Winograd Committee released its interim findings on the Second Lebanon War, Olmert appointed Shahak to head a committee the cabinet established to formulate a "detailed plan to implement" the Winograd panel's recommendations. The panel will reportedly call for substantially strengthening the National Security Council and its head, and for the establishment of a national crisis center inside the Prime Minister's Office. The Winograd Committee issued a number of urgent "structural and institutional recommendations," including:
  • "The improvement of the quality of discussions and decision making within the government through strengthening and deepening staff work; strict enforcement of the prohibition of leaks; improving the knowledge base of all members of the government on core issues of Israel's challenges, and orderly procedures for presentation of issues for discussion and resolution.
  • "Full incorporation of the Foreign Ministry in security decisions with political and diplomatic aspects.
  • "Substantial improvement in the functioning of the National Security Council, the establishment of a national assessment team, and creating a center for crises management in the Prime Minister's Office." The Shahak committee recommendations reportedly call to strengthen the authority of the NSC, making it the forum responsible for long-term diplomatic and security planning inside the Prime Minister's Office. In addition, the NSC would give the prime minister the daily security briefing, and its head would be the dominant figure inside the PMO, a job currently held by the prime minister's chief of staff. The recommendations also call for the NSC to be responsible for the staff work regarding diplomatic and security issues inside the Prime Minister's Office. The recommendations also call for the Knesset to anchor the NSC's new authorities in law. The national crisis management center, which would be similar to one in the White House, would coordinate between the various government agencies during times of emergency. While a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said the recommendations had not caused a great deal of concern within the office, or a feeling among senor officials that their jobs were at risk, Foreign Ministry officials have expressed concern that the recommendations will reduce of the ministry's authority. That would be ironic, the officials said, since the Winograd Committee emphasized the need for greater involvement of the Foreign Ministry in policy making.