Knesset committee resists ombudsman’s assessment, says IDF ready for war

“They missed a golden opportunity to get the IDF out of the mud,” said IDF ombudsman Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brik, who insists the army is in bad shape.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Knesset Subcommittee for Continuous Military Preparedness and Security submitted Wednesday to the senior political and military echelon a report that countered accusations by the outgoing military ombudsman that the IDF is unprepared for combat.

The Soldiers’ Ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik, publicized recently that, after speaking with thousands of men on the front lines as well as in support and maintenance positions, he is convinced the army is in worse shape than ahead of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

His main complaints included what he described as a cutback in career soldiers; a lack of training for combat soldiers in the latest technology introduced into the IDF; a woeful state of emergency storage warehouses, and a lack of upkeep of military vehicles.

In reaction, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee ordered an investigation, which was led by MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union). The Subcommittee held 18 meetings with brigade commanders, reservists and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) as well as generals and the chief of staff. They toured various sites, including emergency storage areas.

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New investigation positive

Their conclusions were partly classified, but the unclassified report was overall positive, stating that “the IDF’s readiness for war has improved significantly since Operation Protective Edge [in 2014]. By almost every quantitative measure there was a dramatic increase in the level of readiness – whether in the number of training drills, the state of armament stocks, the spare parts inventory, etc.”

Brik reacted to the committee by saying “they missed a golden opportunity to get the IDF out of the mud.”

However, the report also included six main recommendations of either “utmost priority” or “high priority,”

The most urgent were to raise the pay for new career NCO’s and reduce their high turnover so that the best would stay in the army, thereby improving its preparedness for war; to order consistent follow-up in order to ensure that problems are fixed, with responsibility for this given to the deputy chief of staff; and drilling units on emergency call-ups when massive enemy fire is being directed at main highways and equipment warehouses.

Second in importance were suggestions to call up reservists for operational duties more frequently in order to improve their abilities to work together; replace the IDF’s cargo trucks; improve and adapt the advanced Digital Infantry system to be used by the infantry brigades; and continue dispersing the physical locations of reservists’ emergency mobilization, keeping them away from the permanent bases.

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Strategy ‘for next war, not previous one’

While assuring the public that issues of concern were being dealt with, or would be soon, Bar-Lev said said that “the current ground maneuvering concept will not be relevant in a few years. The prime minister is leading a budgeting concept for the IDF in 2030, which to my understanding will lead to the reduction of the IDF’s maneuverability unless it includes a new concept that will be suitable for the next war and not for the previous one.”

The most critical pieces to ensure the army’s preparedness for the future, he stressed, were the NCOs, who directly command the enlisted personnel in the field. “Non-commissioned officers in preliminary permanent service must have their wages raised, even if it comes at the expense of an addition F-35 squadron,” he stressed.