Panel Urges NIS 8 Billion Increase in Military Spending

The committee, appointed in secret by Defense Minster Ehud Barak, also recommends lowering retirement age for IDF officers to enable them to pursue a second career.

A panel secretly appointed by Defense Minster Ehud Barak nearly a year ago went public on Sunday with recommendations for a NIS 8.3 billion addition to military spending this year.

The committee, headed by Asher Tishler, dean of the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University, also recommended lowering the age of retirement for Israel Defense Forces officers to somewhere between ages 40 and 45, with the aim of enabling officers to leave the service at an age young enough to pursue a second career.

The earlier-retirement program would give Israel a "youthful and efficient army" and provide an incentive for the best officers to complete their army service, according to the committee.

The committee said the NIS 8.3 billion it proposes should not be viewed as a one-time budget supplement. Rather, it should become part of the army's regular budget and serve as the basis for appropriations in the years to come, the panel said in a news conference.

The Tishler proposals throw a wrench into the already fraught budget negotiations between the defense and finance ministries. Attempting to rein in spending as the economy slows and the deficit widens, the treasury has proposed trimming military spending next year.

Under the Tishler recommendations, defense spending would reach NIS 64 billion this year, compared with NIS 55.7 billion originally budgeted and NIS 60 billion that is now planned after the army was allocated extra money for the year.

The Tishler panel urged the government to add another NIS 2 billion to the defense budget for 2013 to NIS 66 billion, which is NIS 4 billion more than the Defense Ministry is now seeking. The treasury wants to contain the budget to NIS 50.5 billion.

The Tishler committee based its work on an earlier panel, the so-called Brodet committee, which recommended increasing the defense budget after the operational failures of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 as well as efficiency measures that should have yielded some NIS 10 billion in savings since 2008. "The IDF must meet all the efficiency targets fixed by the Brodet committee, in particular the amount set by the committee for cost-cutting," the panel said.

The retirement proposal, which runs counter to an agreement dating from September 2010 to raise the age from 45 to 50, would also replace monthly bridge payments made to officers between the date they leave the service to their official retirement age at 67 (for males) with a one-time payment, the Tishler panel said.

The panel also proposed increasing the army's research and development budget to NIS 995 million annually from NIS 760 million.

The panel's existence was undisclosed until now. Defense officials have expressed the hope that the findings will put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Finance Ministry to move closer to their minimum budget demands.