The Defense Ministry published a public notice last week seeking information about a possible building in the Tel Aviv area to house the Home Front Defense Ministry, the government ministry that provides civil defense services. The search is for about 4,000 square meters (about 43,000 square feet) of space on a long-term lease within five kilometers of the Defense Ministry’s headquarters at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.
The request has prompted amazement in light of the fact that the ministry currently has only 38 employees. Office space of the kind described would cost about 100 shekels per square meter per month, not including maintenance and parking fees. The facility would have to accommodate offices, conference rooms, kitchenettes, secretaries’ desks and a bomb shelter or underground secure room. The request for information is for a facility that would include 80 nearby parking spaces, including handicapped parking, and the building for these future offices is to have been constructed no later than 1993.
In recent weeks, Home Front Defense Ministry Director General Dan Ronen has contacted the Defense Ministry asking for assistance in finding the new office space, which is more than double the size of the ministry’s current offices that the ministry only moved into about six months ago. Ministry officials noted, however, that the final setting of responsibilities between the Defense Ministry and the Home Front Defense Ministry, which was only established in 2011, and the prospect of some portions of the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command coming under the Home Front Defense Ministry’s authority are expected to result in the ministry’s expansion by dozens, if not hundreds of employees.
Currently, however, the division of authority has not yet been implemented and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan has even threatened to resign if the process is not carried out.
The deadline on the Defense Ministry’s request for information has been reached, as it was set for the end of 2013, but ministry sources say the information is essential for future use after the ministry’s authority is finalized.
From the time of Erdan’s appointment as minister in March and for his first several months in office, the ministry operated out of the Defense Ministry’s Kirya headquarters, although it moved from one location to another within the Kirya complex. When relations with the Defense Ministry became strained, the Home Front Defense Ministry moved to offices that the Defense Ministry had leased in February, but never occupied, on nearby Ha’araba Street. The Home Front Defense Ministry moved into the empty space and is paying the Defense Ministry 1.5 million shekels in rent.
Before the Home Front Defense Ministry took possession of the space, it underwent a thorough renovation at major expense, estimated by an employee involved in the matter at millions of shekels.
The renovations included infrastructure replacement, the installation of computer systems, control systems and other facilities. At the time, associates of Erdan explained to the Walla! website that the move came against the backdrop of an increase of 20 staff positions at the ministry and the need to put all the ministry’s units under one roof.
For its part, the Home Front Defense Ministry issued the following statement for this report: “The ministry has no intention to move [again] if the number of ministry employees and its authority remain as they are. Therefore any notice that attributed any such intention to the ministry is misleading. Based on decisions by the prime minister, the civil defense authority is due to be transferred from the Defense Ministry to the Home Front Defense Ministry under the civil defense law. The transfer of this authority is due to be accompanied by a transfer of departments and staff, and a substantial expansion in the number of employees at the ministry. To respond to this future need, the ministry sought to examine future options for such [office] occupancy.”