Analysis / There's Always Money for Defense

The defense budget always goes up. Whether it's during the preliminary budget talks, during the course of the year or at its end, it is hard even for those professionals who keep track of the defense budget to understand how it is always rising.

The Defense Ministry and the IDF love to complain they do not have a union to take care of their employees' welfare, but what do they need a union for when the cabinet and Knesset jump to attention every time they are asked to add to the defense budget?

At the cabinet meeting in August to approve the 2008 budget, it was decided that the defense budget for next year would be NIS 50.5 billion, the highest in the country's history.

This week, a joint session of the Knesset's Finance and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees set the 2008 defense budget at NIS 51.32 billion.

What's another NIS 820 million when it comes to security? It is not education, life-saving drugs or welfare allowances. Experience also proves that this amount will only grow during the year, as the defense minister, prime minister and finance minister will all put on pressure for an increase: and without even informing the public.

The real amount of the 2008 defense budget will only be known somewhere around April 2009, when the treasury's accountant general publishes his annual report on government spending.

Even more outrageous is the fact that the defense budget does not even include a number of clearly defense-related expenditures, such as the budgets for the Mossad or the Shin Bet security service, which have grown significantly in recent years. The Shin Bet budget is over NIS 5 billion a year.

Other items not included in the defense budget are the Ministry for Internal Security, including the Border Police; the Home Front Command; the Fund for Demobilized Soldiers; various civilian security expenses and subsidies for the defense industries.

In reality, the defense budget for 2008 is well over NIS 60 billion. According to the recommendations of the Brodet Committee, it will grow steadily through 2017, and will be NIS 6.25 billion higher than in 2008.

About 75% of the money comes from the regular budget, 19% is covered by U.S. military aid, and 6% is covered by revenues generated by the defense establishment.