Ministry of Defense director general General (reserves) Udi Adam recently ordered the suspension of the tender for building an intelligence center in the Negev at a cost of billions of shekels. Publication of the tender was scheduled for late this year. 12,000 soldiers, officers, and non-coms are slated to serve in the new center starting in 2024 according to plans developed by the Ministry of Defense and the IDF.
Five large companies and groups passed the initial selection stage in recent months and were approved for participation in the tender. The tender was for the selection of a franchise holder to build the new center and operate it for 25 years.
While the IDF and the Ministry and Defense were going ahead with the tender on a predetermined timetable, however, it emerged that decisions relating to development of transportation infrastructure for enabling thousands of people serving in the intelligence center to reach it and other IDF bases in the Negev had not yet been taken. A defense establishment source involved in the plans for moving IDF bases to the Negev told "Globes," "We will be unable to begin working on construction of the intelligence center before work on another railroad track between Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva begins.
"Most of the soldiers serving in the intelligence center will have to travel to it in the morning and return in the afternoon to their homes in the central region. If there is no way to transport them, we will be unable to open the new center, because people will be stuck in traffic jams for five hours every day."
With an estimated cost of NIS 10 billion, the new intelligence center near the town of Omer is regarded as the largest of the enterprises in the transfer of IDF units southward.
Ahead of the move, technology companies involved in joint plans with the IDF and the Ministry of Defense have already moved their activity to the high-tech park in Beer Sheva. Ben Gurion University of the Negev has already begun making large-scale investments in building infrastructure to enable it to accept more students and expand its academic staff.
One of the alternatives under consideration is transporting thousands of soldiers, officers, and non-coms daily to the new center with hundreds of buses traveling on the existing road infrastructure in the south. This involves using 250-400 buses on the existing roads, which will affect the entire traffic system in the southern region.
Delays in building the intelligence center, however, will necessarily also lead to substantial delays in the Ministry of Defense's plans for vacating 1,800 dunam (450 acres) of land currently used by the IDF in the Glilot area. Delivery of the land to the Israel Land Authority, so that it can be readied for construction of housing in one of the most desirable areas in central Israel, will be significantly delayed. "There is a domino effect here, all because of one weak link in the Ministry of Transport," a source in a government ministry said.
The Ministry of Finance stated, "Issuing the tender late this year, as previously scheduled, without clear transportation solutions with the consent of the relevant government ministries, will jeopardize the ability to move the required personnel to the south and the operational capabilities of these units."
The Ministry of Transport said in response, "The joint team of the Ministries of Finance, Defense, and Transport and the Prime Minister's Office devised solutions for moving the IDF to the Negev. These solutions include, among other things, limited rail service and enhanced bus service, including direct buses to basis from the area where the soldiers live, while eliminating unnecessary moving of soldiers through the various means of transportation. Transporting soliders by rail at this stage is impossible, due to the demand at peak hours and the expected damage to service for other people in the country."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on August 28, 2017
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