The Penny Finally Dropped

Back in 2007 it looked like the great deception. The Brodet Committee, which was empaneled to review the needs of the defense system following the Second Lebanon War, submitted a revolutionary report to the cabinet recommending that the defense budget be set ten years in advance. It also suggested that Defense get an increase of NIS 100 billion.

Almost half of the NIS 100 billion total was to come from the usual budget sources. NIS 30 billion was to come from a surprising source - efficiency measures.

The Brodet Committee pointed to shocking inefficiencies in procurement, operations, and primarily, the human resources and rehabilitation branches. It estimated that NIS 10 billion could be saved by making the army more efficient and mainly, by cutting manpower, salaries and service and retirement benefits.

The committee recommended that the army submit an efficiency plan by November 2007. That plan was submitted yesterday, at least two years late.

"At least," because the main part of the efficiency plan has not been drawn up. Management consultant McKinsey, which prepared the plan, has so far reviewed only the relatively simple, operational aspect of the defense forces. The trickier part, evaluating the employment conditions and the number of career soldiers, has not yet begun. That will start only next year.

For the past two years, as all waited expectantly for the military to adhere to the Brodet Committee's directives, skeptics have abounded. The fact that McKinsey was prohibited from surveying the workforce, and the huge delay in submitting the plan gave rise to doubts that the defense establishment had any intention of seriously addressing the efficiency issue.

Yesterday's answer was a nice surprise. There's an efficiency plan, one that will save an amount more or less on the scale forecasted by the Brodet Committee: about NIS 10 billion over a decade, from operational cutbacks alone.

None of McKinsey's recommendations were rejected. The Ministry of Defense is even boasts that McKinsey offered a number of recommendations for each area: easy, so-so and difficult. And in each case the IDF chose the more difficult recommendation.

More importantly, they appear to be serious about adhering to the plan outlined by the Brodet Committee, even though the lion's portion of the program, the touchy issue of manpower has not even begun.

It looks like the penny has dropped for someone in the Defense Ministry, who realized that the what the Brodet Committee proposed to the defense forces is more precious than gold: Brodet promised the army absolute security on its budget for the next decade. An efficiency program, difficult as it may be (is a small price to pay for such security).