Every year, as the budget talks approach, Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry officials warn that a cut to the defense budget, which grows consistently every year, would cause irreparable damage to the defense establishment's ability to combat the threat of terror and war.
On Tuesday, the Knesset State Control Committee will convene to discuss the portion of the recent comptroller's report on the funding of dental care in the IDF. The report found that the IDF funds dental care not only for its soldiers but also for thousands of civilians, in violation of protocol. The civilians include the families of career soldiers, pensioners, beneficiaries of military pensions, widows and next of kin. In addition, the report found, the IDF does not have any record of exactly how much it is spending on civilian dental care.
Ahead of the committee meeting, committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) said that "obviously a soldier, both in mandatory service or in the reserves, must receive full medical care, but such reckless spending -- which was never legally approved by order of the General Staff -- is unthinkable. While the IDF keeps threatening that if its budget is cut it would harm 'Iron Dome' or it would bring about another [Israeli] defeat to Hezbollah, it turns out that the IDF is managing its budget in a negligent, wasteful and amateurish fashion."
According to the comptroller's report, the eligibility for IDF funding of dental care was expanded to include tens of thousands of civilians -- pensioners, families, widows and next of kin -- under the order of the IDF chief medical officer and not by the General Staff as required by law.
In the report, the state comptroller noted that the chief medical officer's office did not have any information on the cost of this civilian care and therefore cannot accurately charge the families of career soldiers for the dental care they receive.
The report further notes that the IDF failed to conduct a thorough, up-to-date analysis of the dental care facility before providing subsidized dental care to soldiers. Such an analysis should have been conducted to gauge the quality of the dental care that the IDF provides its soldiers, the amount of time soldiers should have to wait for appointments, and the optimal locations for clinics. In the absence of such an analysis, the comptroller maintains, it is impossible to determine whether the dental care system that was established 25 years ago still provides the best possible care for today's needs.
"The dental care facilities are being managed without a central information system and without the ability to provide commanders with the basic data they need to best oversee the facilities, including information on how many soldiers were treated or how efficiently the service is being utilized," the comptroller wrote. "The IDF is failing to enforce the orders of the chief medical officer and the orders of the General Staff regarding steps that must be taken in the event that soldiers or family members of career soldiers don't show up for appointments. The dental care department never set standards for the appropriate waiting period for each of the different procedures. In their absence, it is impossible to determine whether the existing waiting periods are too long or within the desired norm."