Finding money to keep the IDF in with the big spenders

May 15, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items on responses to IDF complaints about money, with graphs showing what is spent absolutely and proportionately:

1) Times of Israel: IDF out of funds, senior official reportedly says IDF and allies talk of crisis May 12th;
2) International Business Times: 2014, first global increase in defence spending since 2009, graph showing top 20 defence budgets, Russia pushes UK into no. 4 spot, Israel as no. 19, still highest spender in region after Saudi Arabia;
3) CIA World Factbook: Top 10 countries ranked by defence spending as ratio of GDP, graph, showing Israel as no. 4.;
4) Israel, an army with a country attached, Nehemia Shtrasler on IDF scare tactics, April 25th;
5) Haaretz: Netanyahu may speed up sale of army land to fill holes in budget, Amos Harel on desperate (sensible?) measures;

An abandoned IDF base. More of them could prove money spinners. Photo by Alon Ron

IDF out of funds, senior official reportedly says

As crisis over budget comes to a head, military claims it needs ‘billions of shekels’ to stay afloat

By Times of Israel
May 12, 2014

A senior military official reportedly said that “the IDF has run out of funds” and that the military needs “billions of shekels within days in order to continue to operate.”

The official was speaking anonymously Monday to Channel 10 about deep cuts to the defense budget that have reportedly hurt the army’s training programs and general readiness.

He noted that the military had cut armored units and fighter jet squadrons and fired a thousand people in under three months, but said that was still not enough to counter the lack of cash.

“In the next few days IDF chief Benny Gantz will decide which exercises and trainings to cancel,” the official said.

On Saturday Deputy Finance Minister Miki Levy (Yesh Atid) warned that the Defense Ministry would not see its budget increased, despite a report Friday that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Gantz had decided to cancel a major upcoming national preparedness exercise in light of the ongoing budgetary dispute.

Levy accused the defense establishment of mismanaging the budget and urged defense officials to “sit down and prioritize.”

Ya’alon on Wednesday described the fiscal state of the country’s defenses as a “crisis,” and criticized the Finance Ministry’s conduct in doling out funds.

“We are in a crisis; this is a fatal blow to training,” he told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “We are going to decrease the level of air, sea, and land training even further, and preparedness, readiness and competence will suffer.

“Starting next month we will be forced to enter a difficult period. This is a harsh blow to the competency of the regular fighters, not to mention the reserves,” he said.

Last May, the government set the IDF budget at NIS 51 billion ($14.5 billion). The military took a cut of NIS 3 billion from its 2014 budget, but argued that the cuts would actually amount to NIS 7.4 billion ($2.1 billion) due to factors beyond the IDF’s control, such as higher electricity costs and taxes, payments for injured soldiers and additional benefits for career soldiers due to the rising retirement age.

Meanwhile, the IDF said it had done its part, making cuts to its workforce and, in June, halting operational activity for reservist units for the rest of this year.

The standoff between the Finance and Defense ministries over the 2014 defense budget was thought to have come to an end in late October with the security cabinet approving an infusion of NIS 2.75 billion ($780 million) for the defense establishment.

The cabinet was unanimous in its decision, and the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that the cash for the budget increase would be drawn from a budget surplus.

The IDF had hoped to secure a NIS 4.5 billion ($1.28 billion) increase.

2014, first global increase in defence spending since 2009

EXTRACT and table from International Business Times, February, 2014

As the world digs out from the economic downturn of 2009, it seems that annual growth in global defense spending is back. Total global defense spending is seen increasing 0.6 percent from $1.538 trillion in 2013 to $1.547 trillion in 2014, according to a forecast released Tuesday in London from IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defence & Security. If the forecast proves accurate, it will be the first time since 2009 that the world grew spending on military hardware and armies since 2009.

The top 20 spenders shelled out a combined $1.316 trillion on defense-related expenditures in 2013, with the United States making up just over 44 percent of that spending at $582.4 billion.

Countries in the Middle East, namely Saudi Arabia and Oman, and a regional arms race in Asia is fueling much of this expected growth as Europe still flounders in sovereign debt doldrums and the U.S. prunes spending from highs unseen since World War II if you include Afghanistan and Iraq.

“With military budgets among many of the major NATO nations due to continue to contract over the next 12 months, the center of gravity of defense expenditure is expected to continue to shift south and east in 2014, following the trend of global economic expansion,” said Paul Burton, director, IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defence & Security, in a statement announcing the forecast. “Russia, Asia and the Middle East will provide the impetus behind the growth in global military spending expected this year and will drive the recovery projected from 2016 onwards.”

Top 10 countries ranked by defence spending as ratio of GDP.

CIA’s World Factbook 

1 South Sudan
 2 Oman
3 Saudi Arabia
4 Israel
5 Azerbaijan
6 Jordan
7 Algeria
8 Russia
9 United States
10 Lebanon

Israel, an army with a country attached

The military doesn’t have Iraq and Syria to threaten us with anymore, so it claims it needs more funds for training and watches the billions roll in.

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz
April 25, 2014

The Israel Defense Forces has no money. That’s clear. It’s true that it receives a measly 61 billion shekels ($17.4 billion) a year from Israeli and American taxpayers, but that’s nothing. That’s not money.

A few days ago, the IDF announced that it has to cut back on training exercises because there’s no money. So what if its budget is larger than the military budgets of all the surrounding Arab countries combined? So what if its budget is the highest in the world relative to gross domestic product? There’s no money for training, and without training you lose wars.

That’s the IDF’s method: Find the most frightening talking point and let her rip. Don’t mention the tens of billions that it uses for a thousand other purposes.

Once it was easier to use scare tactics; the IDF had lots of frights in its arsenal. It had giant Egypt to the south, but what can you do if Egypt is busy with coups and economic problems? It had the Syrian dictator to the north, but now Bashar Assad is barely surviving and his tanks are rusting. It had Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Iran’s Shahab 3 missiles “aimed at the heart of Tel Aviv,” but Saddam is gone and even Iran’s nuclear threats sound hollow.

That’s why the army has no choice but to roll out the doomsday weapon: money for training exercises. In the same breath it’s reminding us that its failure in the Second Lebanon War stemmed from a lack of training, which stemmed from a lack of funds.

That’s a big lie, of course. The failure in Lebanon stemmed from a lack of sense; the Winograd Committee said so clearly. But when you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.

In any case, the talk about cutting back on training in order to pressure the Finance Ministry isn’t legitimate. The moment the chief of staff cuts a single hour of training due to “budgetary problems” instead of cutting the IDF’s fat, he should be dismissed. His first mission is to carry out all necessary training exercises and only then see to pay raises, pensions, sports facilities and military attaches abroad.

But the IDF knows that it’s stronger than the government. In mid-2013, at the height of Israel’s budget crisis, the government decided to cut the defense budget by 3 billion shekels. Finance Minister Yair Lapid called this a tremendous achievement, and his associates showered him with praise.

But less than four months later the security cabinet restored 2.75 billion shekels to the army, with Lapid voting in favor. Then we gave a few more hundreds of millions to the army due to its magnanimous consent to evacuate bases in the center of the country, so the entire cutback turned into an increment.

With a budget cut, defense officials would have been forced to streamline. But when a cut turns into an increment, why bother?

That’s why nobody touched the infuriating redundancies in the IDF and the Defense Ministry, and nobody reduced the bloated procurement delegations abroad. Nobody implemented the necessary reform at the department for rehabbing wounded vets, and nobody halted the grandiose projects that cost billions. Every junior officer continues to receive his own car and driver and a scandalous pension at 46, with a 6 percent increase granted by the chief of staff and another 6 percent for compulsory service.

Behind the threat to stop training exercises lie many demands. The IDF is demanding another 800 million shekels for this year and an extra 5 billion to 6 billion shekels for 2015 – which is the main problem. If it receives it, the people will pay the price. Instead of adding to the budgets for education, health, welfare, day care, infrastructure, professional training and housing, the treasury will be forced to cut back in those areas.

But why am I talking about education and welfare? There isn’t even any money for training.

Netanyahu may speed up sale of army land to fill holes in budget

The plan might prove a way to provide an extra $580 million that the military says it needs.

By Amos Harel, Haaretz
May 13, 2014

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will consider accelerating the sale of land in the center of the country now being used by army bases, in order to resolve a dispute over the defense budget.

The Israel Defense Forces is demanding an extra 2 billion shekels ($579 million) beyond its approved budget for this year and has threatened to curtail training for the reserves if this demand isn’t met. But the Finance Ministry objects, saying this would require steep cuts in education, health and welfare.

Netanyahu is expected to decide on the issue next week after returning from Japan. He hopes that accelerated sales of land occupied by bases the army plans to vacate could provide the extra funds without requiring cuts in other programs.

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