Israeli Army to Lay Off 2,000 Career Officers by 2017

Cutbacks in personnel will return army to pre-Second Lebanon War levels; training to continue unabated.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.Credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces plans to lay off around 2,000 career soldiers over the next 18 months, and to once again reduce its officer corps. According to the army’s new plan, by the beginning of 2017 the standing army will return to its post-Second Lebanon War dimensions.

According to a senior defense figure, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, at the end of the process the size of the career army could be reduced even beyond the target. Since the war in the summer of 2006, the IDF has increased the size of the standing army by some 700 commissioned and noncommissioned officers every year. According to the army’s own figures, reducing the number of career soldiers by 1,000 will save around 200 million shekels ($50 million) a year.

Because the 2015 state budget was not passed due to the dissolution of the government and calling of new elections, the IDF, like other government institutions and agencies, is operating on a month-to-month basis, with funding allocated by dividing the total amount in the draft budget for the year by 12. According to the army’s figures, the IDF’s budget for 2015 is around 30.3 billion shekels, some 4 billion shekels more than in 2014. The Defense Ministry had anticipated a much lower budget, of 22.4 billion shekels, but allocations to compensate for the costs of last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip added a significant amount.

Sources in the defense establishment say the added funds will be used to replenish supplies. Training exercises will not be cut, in a departure from the past several years. Last year, for example, training was halted in the wake of IDF claims of insufficient funds.

“In recent years the IDF faced a situation in which training was affected. Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot took that off the table,” a senior military figure said in a briefing for reporters. “That means that first of all we train: We train in the air, we train in the water, we train on land.”

As a result of this decision, the army will stop investing in the development of weapons systems, while keeping up with existing acquisitions schedules, such as the purchase of a number of Namer (“leopard”) armored personnel carriers every year. The IDF plans to cut back the replenishment of supplies after restoring the army’s emergency supply levels to their pre-Operation Protective Edge levels.

“The question is whether that is sufficient? It is not sufficient, but is more possible? With the resources currently available, the answer is no,” the source told reporters.

Since 2012 the army has been operating without an approved spending program, despite drafting the “Oz” and “Teuza” plans in recent years. Over the coming year the drafting of a new multi-year plan, called “Gideon,” will be completed. Four teams have been appointed to reevaluate the IDF’s activities. One of the teams, led by Maj. Gen. Nimrod Shefer, head of the IDF’s planning directorate, has been assigned to study the army’s organizational structure and order of forces. It could recommend the closure of certain units.

Gideon is scheduled for completion by the end of November, at which point it will be submitted to the political leadership for approval.

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