The Ministry of Defense is tense ahead of the Yohanan Locker Committee on the defense budget for the coming years. The committee will draw up a budget plan that will replace the Brodet Committee plan from 2007. IDF Major General (res.) Yohanan Locker is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former military aide, and the brother of Prime Minister's Office director general Harel Locker. His committee has not yet convened, but the Ministry of Defense is preparing its arguments "in an effort to obtain recommendations that will give the defense establishment annual budget certainty over the next decade," according to a top defense source.
The Ministry of Defense believes that its demand for mechanisms for clear linkage to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and changes in public sector salaries will reduce the annual street brawl with the Ministry of Finance Budget Department. The demand is a lesson from the lack of clarity in the Brodet Report, which resulted in differing interpretations amounting to billions of shekels.
"Without simple and clear linkage, the future Locker Committee report will be worthless and will miss its target, which is the creation of a settled long-term budget structure. If the committee establishes such a mechanism, its recommendations have a high chance of survival, and they won't collapse in a couple of years due to irrelevancy," a top defense source told "Globes". "Locker and the committee members must not fall into the trap that caught the Brodet Committee members. Years after they drew up their proposal, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Finance are still arguing, 'What is a real Brodet and what is an unreal Brodet'."
The Brodet Committee called for a NIS 30 billion streamlining by the IDF. The Ministry of Defense says that the proposal collapsed because of the Ministry of Finance's incorrect interpretations, which failed to take into account rising prices for various budget items, including for routine operations, arnona (local property tax), and fuel.
This time, the Ministry of Defense also plans to insist on settling the issue of supplemental financing for operations that are not purely defense, but which it considers as "add-ons" and therefore necessitating additional funding to protect them from its core budget. The issue involves expenses imposed on the defense establishment by the government or crises that the Ministry of Defense is harnessed to solve.
In the past decade, the Ministry of Defense handled housing for the evacuees from Gush Katif in 2005, and the slaughter of multitudes of poultry because of the bird flu panic.
In addition to securing budget supplements to protect the core defense budget, the Ministry of Defense will be required to deal with any deviation from the budget in the event of an across-the-board budget cut by all ministries. "Defense budget certainty will not only benefit the defense system, which will be able to make long-term plans, but also the Budget Department. Obviously, budget directors do not like it when the prime minister decided to transfer NIS 2.75 billion to the defense budget, two months after the Knesset approves the state budget, as happened this year," said the source.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to establish the Yohanan Locker Committee in October 2013. The committee will submit its recommendations by the end of 2014.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 2, 2014
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