Secret Panel Convened by Ehud Barak to Argue for Increased Defense Spending

The defense minister's panel is set to officially present a report on that says defense budget has been eroded by NIS 7 billion over the past five years.

A panel secretly appointed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak is slated to formally present a report on Sunday that contends the budget for the defense establishment has been eroded by NIS 7 billion over the past five years.

Copies of the report were recently provided to Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. At the request of the defense establishment, the document will be presented today at a news conference in Tel Aviv.

The Tishler committee report deals with the years 2008 to 2012. It was drafted by a secretly appointed panel that had hitherto remained undisclosed. The panel was headed by the dean of the management department at Tel Aviv University, Prof. Asher Tishler, who specializes in defense issues. Other committee members included Gad Somekh, chairman of the accounting firm of KPMG Somekh Chaikin, and attorney David Tadmor.

Members of the defense establishment have expressed the hope that they will be able to use the panel's recommendations to step up the pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Finance Ministry to increase the defense budget from NIS 60 billion this year to NIS 62 billion next year in the initial stages of the budget discussions. At a cabinet debate on the defense budget last Wednesday, Barak and senior IDF officials made similar demands for a budget increase.

For years, defense officials and the Finance Ministry have been divided over the defense budget. A major issue of contention is the implementation of recommendations by the Brodet committee, a panel headed by former Finance Ministry director general David Brodet, which in 2007 recommended increasing the defense budget.

The Finance Ministry contends that the defense budget has increased consistently in recent years, beyond what cabinet decisions have provided, and that the military has not fulfilled obligations dictated by the Brodet committee to implement streamlined operations that would have saved the state NIS 10 billion since 2008. Those savings were to have remained at the disposal of the defense establishment.

Defense officials say, however, that the Finance Ministry has not abided by obligations dictated by the Brodet committee. Over the past year, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and researchers from the central bank have supported the defense establishment on this score.

The Tishler committee report is divided into four sections, one of which deals with the the history of the defense budget. Other sections cover the erosion of defense spending, the military's goals and the military's needs.

The defense establishment intends to use the Tishler report to advance its position that the defense budget must be increased during the five-year period from 2013 to 2017.

The Finance Ministry does not have the option of convening a similar committee because essential information could be deemed confidential by defense officials.