A Manager Who Wastes 99.9% of His Resources

A friend who was recruited to reserves duty during the war came back, like so many of his peers, upset. Not because of the equipment; there were shortages of some things, but that's because not just did everybody summoned show up: in fact, the rate of reporting was 110%. No, his problem wasn't bullet-proof vests, it was bullets.

"Like everybody, our unit had been out of practice for more than six years," he says. Obviously, the soldiers needed some retraining, to fire their rifles, if only for the sake of calibrating them properly. And how many bullets were allocated for the purpose of training? A thousand, for the whole regiment.

Is the army's situation so bad that it can't even allocate enough bullets to properly calibrate the rifles before the soldiers go to war? Well, anecdotal evidence says that tens of thousands of mortar shells were fired into Lebanon, which killed about 200 Hizbullah people.

You don't need to be a military strategist to realize that's a pretty poor efficiency level. Firing 100,000 shells and killing 200 terrorists did not maximally utilize the strategic and economic efficacy of his armaments, to be delicate about it.

More directly, one might say that the Israeli army wasted 99.9% of its shells on wild firing that hit nothing but the rocky ground of Lebanon. This is the same army that carefully counted out how many bullets to allocate to a battalion heading for life or death battle.

One could naturally counter that with guns roaring, it's no time to count cowries, or shells for that matter. But a system that counts its bullets can't then make that claim, and it is not true, anyway. Counting the number of shells is not a fancy of green-eyeshaded accountants who never dipped their hands in blood; it is a must in war. You have to count the shells fired if only to know how many you have left. It is fundamental to the management of the war.

Counting the shells is also essential because of the economics involved. Say each costs about $1,000, to be very rough about it; the Israeli army is therefore spending many tens of millions of dollars on artillery fire that achieved roughly diddley-squat. In terms of cost efficiency, it didn't make the grade.

Firing thousands of shells while battalions of fighters don't have enough bullets shows that the problems in the Lebanon II war did not originate from lack of resources, but from the manner of resource management.

The commander of a tank brigade is actually the manager of a gigantic plant with 10,000 workers. In real life, it would take a person with an MBA at the very least to run a plant like that, not to mention experience in managing smaller plants. But in the army, the commanders do not think of themselves as managers, and would in fact find the appellation dismaying.

But they are managers. Pure and simple. The battalion commander has to manage his battalion, and the chief of staff has to manage the whole army and its wars. Managing the army means managing its logistics too, so they don't collapse in emergency; managing its ammunition reserves, so they don't run out before the war ends; and managing the costs of the war. Money, like bullets, is a finite resource. That management is the weakest point revealed so far in the Lebanon II conflict. Management concepts are nonexistent in the Israeli army. That must be changed, and fast.