On Monday, the Defense Ministry announced a cutback in its New York procurement office involving cutting the staff by 10 Israeli and 40 local employees over three years. Although this looks like a cut, in practice, it is just another round in a public relations campaign by the ministry and the Israel Defense Forces, throwing sand in the public's face.
The procurement office in New York should have been closed long ago. There is no need for it in the Internet era. Egypt buys military hardware in the United States in similar amounts as Israel, but has a staff of only three for that purpose. The Israeli office comprises 170 employees, at a huge cost, and senior staff receive jobs in New York as a perk due to their connections. In that same spirit, Victor Bar Gil, the Defense Ministry's deputy director general, was appointed this week to the superfluous position of head of the Israeli military delegation in Thailand.
The military delegation in Paris is also superfluous. It is nothing more than an unnecessary holdover from the period of good military ties between Israel and France until 1967. It is the same office that was unable to even find a hotel room at a reasonable price for Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his entourage when they attended the Paris Air Show.
The Finance Ministry has been unsuccessfully trying for 10 years to close the Defense Ministry's overseas military offices around the world (including those in Brussels and Berlin). Similarly the treasury hasn't been able to impose a cost-saving plan on the IDF, to which the government consented more than two years ago in connection with the Brodet Commission's report.
At that time, it was decided that the IDF would submit a comprehensive cost-saving plan of a magnitude of NIS 30 billion over 10 years. The IDF committed to submit the plan by November 1, 2007, but no such plan has been forthcoming. Instead there are periodic declarations about mini-measures involving negligible sums, such as the cosmetic cuts to the New York staff, which don't address the tough problems at all.
One of the most important measures that could be implemented is raising the retirement age of career soldiers, which today is 42. In May, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi committed to submit a detailed plan for raising the retirement age within four months, but those months have come and gone and no plan has been forthcoming.
The prime minister and defense minister must take charge and force the IDF to submit a detailed cost-saving plan and implement it. That, too, would contribute to the defense of the country.
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