Every day another strand of the defense establishment's web of deception and insolence is revealed. Late last month, TheMarker’s Zvi Zrahiya uncovered an analysis by the Knesset Research and Information Center on the changes to the state budget every year after it’s passed. It turns out the Israel Defense Forces distorts the figures its presents to the government and the Knesset, and MKs look the other way.
In the past four years, the defense budget grew NIS 34 billion beyond that approved by the Knesset, an average of NIS 8.5 billion per year. The Knesset Research and Information Center showed that the defense budget grew NIS 8.7 billion in 2011 and NIS 9 billion in 2012.
Not one member of the Knesset Finance Committee, which approves these supplements, objected or tried to figure out where exactly these funds went. And when the chief of staff and his generals show a graph of the changes to the defense budget before the budget is passed every year, they don’t show these large supplements. So the debate isn’t serious, it’s based on budgets passed in previous years that don’t remotely reflect reality. For example, when MKs discussed the 2012 budget they looked at the NIS 54 billion defense budget for 2011 that was approved by the Knesset. In practice, that budget topped NIS 62.5 billion. In 2012, the Knesset approved a defense budget of NIS 56 billion, but over the year it exceeded NIS 65 billion.
And this isn't the entire deception. Every year the defense budget grows in another aspect called "authorization for liabilities," which in the next two years will reach NIS 32 billion annually. Authorization for liabilities is an administrative tool for managing long-term contracts with defense contractors in Israel and abroad. The state comptroller addressed this dubious add-on in August 2005.
"The Finance Ministry’s substantial defects in managing the authorization for liabilities let the defense establishment assume liabilities without effective constraints or proper supervision," the comptroller wrote. "The lack of supervision of the defense establishment's multiyear contracts will probably lead to the creation of excess liabilities and inflexibility in the defense budget in future years." If that weren't enough, the IDF derives revenues from its sale of decommissioned properties, equipment and weapons (represented in a budget line called "income contingent expenses”). For 2013 and 2014 these revenues are projected at NIS 6 billion and NIS 7 billion, respectively.
Thus the debate on the defense budget every year in the government and the Knesset is fundamentally flawed. When there is talk of "cruel cutbacks," it’s sleight of hand in which the Finance Ministry, elected officials and senior officers take part. The IDF’s audacity is not just expressed in the distorted figures, but also in the officers’ refusal to discuss real efficiency and savings measures by claiming that the military has already made so many cuts that it’s harming national security. The IDF rejects discussing the scandalously high pensions for career soldiers, the excessively cushy work conditions and the early retirement age. And heaven forbid the officers' vacation budget - worth NIS 100 million - be touched or their sports benefits - NIS 900 per year for each career officer.