The Israel Defense Forces is considering trimming the amount of days that soldiers in the reserves must serve in the second half of 2013 to cope with the 3 billion shekel ($800 million) budget cut agreed to earlier this month.
To deal with the shortfalls in reserves, the IDF would decrease or cut regular-unit training, allowing the army to redeploy regular soldiers to locations normally manned by reserve soldiers. The move should allow the IDF to save funds normally earmarked for regular training.
In addition, the IDF was also considering slowing its procurement for Iron Dome and David's Sling missile defense systems, according to Army Radio. Altogether, the cuts could save the IDF upward of NIS 1 billion ($270 million).
The IDF has yet to finalize its plans, but analysts believe that the IDF will decide this week. The IDF would likely only implement these alternatives if the army could reinstate standard regular service and reserves at the outset of 2014.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Army Radio that he could not confirm the report, but said that drastic moves were necessary to cope with the budget restructuring midyear.
"There's no doubt that cutting 3 billion shekels is painful and difficult, and it will be reflected in three ways: reserves, training or procurement. In my opinion, these cuts are going to hurt all three of these fields," Danon said.
IDF officials are very concerned about the impact reducing or canceling regular or reserves training would have. Senior IDF and defense officials warned that such reductions could drag the IDF back to its 2006 capabilities. The IDF has encountered the budget cut imposed on the defense establishment in the middle of the 2013 working year, and the defense establishment had already spent most the funds allocated to the IDF in 2013 -- mostly to defense contractors -- before the government agreed to the budget cuts. For this reason, the IDF will have to free up additional funds by canceling training exercises and reserves.
IDF officials are wary of the consequences such cuts could have on the army's capabilities. Still, senior IDF officials are determining their policies based on the fact that regular services are operating at relatively high levels of fitness, after years of proper training. Doing away with half a year of training should not cause mortal damage to the IDF's capabilities, officials said.
IDF officials were also confident in combat reserves because they have completed adequate training. The impact of canceling six months of exercises should be minimal, especially if training returns to normal levels in 2014.
In response, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said, "The state budget approved by the government of Israel stipulated that the defense budget would be cut. The IDF is examining the available alternatives that will allow us to fulfill our duty of security and defense, while operating according to the ratified budget. Once the decisions are made, the political echelon will present them. The IDF sees the utmost importance in protecting combat reserves' capabilities, because they provide the IDF's core power."
"We are facing a difficult 18 months and we will have to work within the new budget constraints," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday. He stressed that the defense establishment has yet to finalize its work plan under the new budget, but confirmed, "It might have a short-term impact on some of the important elements. We will exercise the necessary discretion."
Ya'alon also commented on the pending S-300 missile system deal between Russia and Syria, saying the deal "constitutes a threat. I cannot say that [Russia] has accelerated its shipments [to Syria]. I hope the shipments are suspended altogether, but if they arrive, we'll know what to do."