The defense budget for 2011 and 2012 is already NIS 6.2 billion below what the Brodet Committee has called for, Defense Ministry officials argued over the weekend.

Tent protesters and government agencies, including the Finance Ministry, have been eyeing the defense budget as a possible source of cuts in order to fund social programs.

The Finance Ministry is not abiding by the Brodet plan for increasing defense spending between 2008 and 2017, which received government approval, the defense officials said.

The current defense budget does not meet the defense establishment's needs, and it has eroded by more than NIS 9 billion because it is not being adjusted for inflation, the officials said.

The Finance Ministry is trying to divert the tent protesters' ire toward defense, but the protesters aren't buying it, the officials said.

The Finance Ministry responded that the government is indeed keeping with the Brodet recommendations, drafted after the Second Lebanon War. But the defense establishment isn't upholding its part of the recommendations, which required it to become more efficient, said treasury sources.

The treasury complains that the Defense Ministry does not allow the budget oversight commonplace at other ministries, so it cannot tell how the money is being used. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz reportedly believes that the Defense Ministry can save NIS 1 billion to NIS 3 billion by becoming more efficient, and that the money could be used for education or health care.

The defense budget is NIS 51.7 billion this year, while the education budget is NIS 33.9 billion and the health budget is 18.8 billion.

A defense source retorted, "The treasury is the least transparent institution in the country. The Finance Ministry doesn't want transparency at the Defense Ministry; it wants to control the other ministries."

The source added, "The Defense Ministry has an accountant from the Finance Ministry. He is connected to the ministry's network and sees everything related to the budget. He signs off on every order for a new plane, tank or plastic cup."