Indefensible Spending / Defense Won't Intercept Own Budget

Two years ago the government decided to adopt recommendations to build a multi-annual budget for the Defense Ministry for the years 2008-2017. But the Defense and Finance ministries accepted the recommendation with mixed feelings. Defense liked the recommendation to increase its budget within 10 years by NIS 100 billion, but was unhappy about the demand to increase efficiency in the system by about NIS 30 billion within the same time frame.

Finance didn't care for the recommendation because it felt that a budget hike of NIS 100 billion was excessive. Moreover, they didn't think the defense system could tighten it's belt by NIS 30 billion. The Finance Ministry also predicted that defense would not stop at an additional NIS 100 billion.

It was right. The report called for the Defense Ministry to present an efficiency program in November, 2007. Two years later, there is still no plan. And as if that weren't enough, last month Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked for - and received - a supplement of NIS 1.5 billion.

For a tidy sum, the ministry has hired McKinsey & Company to prepare an efficiency program. During the 2009-2010 budget debates, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi promised to present an efficiency program within months. Never happened..

Instead, every few months we are drip-fed an efficiency program which, more than improving its own systems, makes mockery of civil organizations, the prime minister, the finance minister and the public. That's the way it was in late July this year with the IDF announcement of the first stage of a meager, five-year efficiency program for its air and ground corps maintenance units that promises to save more than NIS 100 million annually.

The tragicomedy was played out once again yesterday when the Defense Ministry, backed by McKinsey, announced that it plans to trim 10 Israeli and 40 American employees from its New York defense delegation over a period of three years.

That's three Israeli and 13 American employees every year. And this, despite the Finance Ministry's repeated demands that the superfluous delegation in New York be shut down and shifted to Washington D.C., near the U.S. Defense Department and the Pentagon.

One thing is sure: Judging by the way the Defense Ministry has been operating for the past two years, the Finance Ministry can only dream that NIS 30 billion will be trimmed by 2017, or even NIS 3 billion.