Brodet to Head Up Defense Budget C'tee

Former Finance Ministry director general David Brodet will head a new committee to set the defense budget. The panel will have until March 2007 to examine the current budget, order the Defense Ministry's priorities and settle several budgetary disputes that arose between it and the Finance Ministry following the recent war in Lebanon. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will likely announce the panel's establishment next week.

There is still no agreement regarding who will sit on the committee beyond Brodet. Associates believe the body will consist of several senior defense and economic officials. Likewise, officials representing the treasury's budget division and the Defense Ministry will sit on it as observers. The scope of the committee's mandate will cover details such as personnel structure and rearmament projects.

The establishment of the committee stems from sharp differences of opinion between the treasury and Defense. Although Defense received an additional NIS 8 billion for its budget to cover losses from the Lebanon conflict, it is demanding another NIS 20 billion. That figure includes a permanent addition of NIS 3 billion annually to its budgetary base for at least the next three years, as well as NIS 3 billion to NIS 9 billion to cover rearmament.

The security establishment presented these demands to the prime minister last weekend, seeking an answer on which projects he approved and which he rejected. That meeting contradicted prior practice, according to which the treasury and Defense would come to a general agreement among themselves as to the size of the budget without turning to the prime minister.

Associates believe Olmert will be forced to make the initial decision regarding the 2007 defense budget, but will leave issues of rearmament budgets to Brodet's panel.