Israel Can and Must Apply Cuts to Its Nuclear Program

The IDF is a wasteful army; perhaps not when it comes to the big billions for its vital functioning, but certainly when it comes to cumulative millions in spending that very quickly add up to billions.

The defense budget must do its part in the reordering of national priorities. That includes the third of it which doesn't fall under the responsibility of the Israel Defense Forces and which is directed to other functions: the Defense Ministry's administration, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad, and even the Atomic Energy Commission. It is true that nuclear matters are sensitive, but they are not immune to cuts.

The IDF is a wasteful army. Perhaps not when it comes to the big billions for its vital functioning - equipping itself with the major weapons systems and electronic means, Intelligence, training exercises, or computer warfare - but certainly when it comes to cumulative millions in spending that very quickly add up to billions.

Every soldier who is called up for reserve duty discovers that a quarter of the manpower was brought in "just in case" by the commanders. That citizen then goes home and makes fun of the IDF's pretensions of saving money. And if that same citizen did a simple analysis of the work done by desk soldiers in the compulsory army, and noncommissioned officers serving in bases in the standing army, he would surely recommend that many of these people be sent home and that the expenses spent on them be channeled elsewhere.

In the technological and logistics directorate, people know how to save billions of shekels every year through the correct administration of the construction budget. In the near future, the IDF's construction industry will be joined with that of the Defense Ministry, and strict regulation is expected. But when the chief of staff, Benny Gantz, wanted to appoint the head of the budgets division in the technological and logistics directorate as his economic adviser - who would also serve as head of the budgets division of the Defense Ministry - Defense Minister Ehud Barak forced him to appoint an outsider: a reserves officer with a great deal of experience in auditing, who is also an acquaintance of a private lawyer close to Barak.

There are some in the IDF who fear that the new brigadier general in the career army, Ram Aminah, unlike his predecessor, will prove easy prey for Finance Ministry officials in this time of fiscal uncertainty for the defense budget.

It would be fitting for national security priorities to be set by the government, the ministerial defense committee, and the national security staff - priorities should be set by the defense minister and not the by the chief of staff, from whom action on more immediate matters is mainly required.

It is clear to all that a short-sighted cut in the basic budget for the research and development of weapons systems infrastructure will have negative effects on our ability to deal with problems in the future. However it is not realistic to expect the chief of staff - including Barak during his stint in the position - to volunteer to sacrifice today for the sake of the day after tomorrow.

Committees of inquiry do not retroactively dismiss those functionaries who impoverished an obscure future in order to support their present. Next year, when the regional situation is illuminated, it's possible that large investments will be required for a different kind of security readiness, in light of the new regimes and armies on all sides. A decision about such readiness can, for the most part, be deferred for further consideration.

In any event, there must and can be cuts, even in Israel's ambiguous nuclear activity. Not everyone who works on nuclear matters is a vital researcher, engineer or technician. Not every position in the Atomic Energy Commission's staff or in the management of the Negev Nuclear Research Center or the Soreq Nuclear Research Center requires an army salary. The commission is looking for leaders in the areas of wages and budgets. Those individuals will surely be promised "an upgrade" in comparison to similar civilian positions - but there is no justification for that, even if they do deal with classified material, or more accurately if they deal with employing those who deal with classified material. It is inappropriate to give an official in strategic defense more remuneration than a social security official.

The Shin Bet and the Mossad are also parties to this faulty system. They absorb colonels and brigadier generals from the IDF, promote them to head branches, and for this reason, pay them the same as major generals.

If Magen David Adom symbolizes first aid, Magen David atom is a last resort - disaster insurance. In principle it is necessary, but from a practical point of view its necessity is debatable. The amount of money funneled to the nuclear program is not written in stone.

This is not merely an outsider, civilian opinion. In fact, this opinion is shared by high-ranking military figures and Defense Ministry officials.