The Bottom Line / Guns Instead of Butter

The headlines announced a major revolution in the defense budget, a new wind sweeping through the defense establishment, as a result of the Brodet Committee recommendations. The committee recommended cuts, savings and efficiency measures in the Israel Defense Forces in the range of NIS 30 billion over the next decade.

It certainly sounds good, maybe even excellent - that is, of course, until you actually read the report.

In reality, there will be no savings and no cutbacks, but an actual increase in the defense budget. This will of course require cutbacks in social-welfare spending, in education and in health.

And what about the NIS 30 billion? Almost all of it will simply be transferred to different sections of the defense budget.

The Brodet Committee was appointed as a result of the failures of the Second Lebanon War, which also resulted in enormous budgetary demands by the IDF. The IDF has already received NIS 8.2 billion for buying shells and missiles, which were wasted in a terrifying fashion on empty hilltops during the last war. And then the IDF immediately submitted another request for money to "regain its strength."

The Brodet Committee should have approached the problem from a completely different angle: No additional money. It should have told the IDF that it had to get by with the existing - enormous - budget, and to utilize the crisis to do away with waste and excess.

The committee should have examined the defense budget with a fine-toothed comb and recommended a number of efficiency measures and savings. For example: eliminating unnecessary headquarters, salary and benefit cuts for rear-echelon soldiers, raising the pension age significantly, immediate outsourcing of all non-military services, elimination of the duplication between the IDF and Defense Ministry in purchasing and construction and elimination of the overseas missions and military attaches spread out all over the world - which are nothing but a means to dish out favors and jobs.

And these are only a few examples. The committee should have set an iron rule that every shekel the IDF saves from such changes and cutbacks would go to strengthen the IDF, and no more. Not a single additional shekel would be spent on the army.

This is what would have happened if, for example, Nir Gilad, a member of the Brodet Committee, was dealing with a crisis at the Israel Corporation, which he now manages. Gilad would never have dreamed - even for a moment - of writing a 190 page booklet, including interesting recommendations for structural changes - which may or may not occur, although it is much more likely that they will not - while at the same time immediately handing over a huge infusion of cash worth billions to the same sick institution. But this is exactly what is happening in the defense establishment.

Every manager knows that when you add a budget to an already sick, inefficient, wasteful institution that is poorly managed in an uneconomic manner, the result is that it gets even sicker.

And Gilad was not alone: The committee contained other respectable people such as the chairman, David Brodet himself, Ilan Mizrahi, Eitan Ben Eliahu, Dr. Orna Beri, Professor Manuel Trachtenberg and Dr. Karnit Flug. They are responsible for this enormous mistake and the damage it will do to the IDF and the entire country.

They decided to give this sick institution an additional NIS 1.3 billion infusion for its 2008 budget and another NIS 1.8 billion for 2009. In addition they recommended a permanent increase to the defense budget of an additional 1.3 percent a year, without any connection to military threats and dangers. They also recommended to irresponsibly increase the state budget by another 2.5 percent per annum - a step that even the most populist politicians have yet to propose.

The result is that the overweight and inefficient IDF will become even fatter, even slower and more wasteful - until it will find itself in mortal danger. But who will remember the Brodet Committee recommendations then?