High-ranking officers in the IDF have warned that cuts in the defense budget are damaging soldier's health, Maariv reported Friday. (For Arutz Sheva oped on the subject posted on Thursday, click here.) One Brigadier commander stated that the lack of proper training exercises has lowered soldiers' overall level of fitness, bringing Israel "back to the situation before the Second Lebanon War."
"Competence levels are down," he lamented, explaining that current training exercises are not sufficient preparation for a real war. "We cannot excel if we don't train, if we don't preserve a certain level of fitness and skill, and are still trying to do our best."
The officer continued that the situation cannot continue where other areas of the IDF receive more funding, at the expense of vital training exercises for troops, which he already claimed affects the overall fitness level of the combat forces.
"You cannot maintain an army over an extended period of time with this low level of training," he reiterated. He stressed that the levels are so low that they would disqualify an expert in any other field who was underprepared. "If I were to undergo surgery right now, I would not trust a doctor with this relative level of training."
In response, a senior official from the General Staff stated to Maariv that the claims follow cuts dating back to July 2012, where defense cuts affected the general level of IDF training. Now, he insisted, rumors were swirling that the training cuts would begin to move upward to advanced training and specialized forces as well - rumors that are unsubstantiated.
"We really did stop providing training in certain units [until now]," he stated. "We shortened or cancelled some exercises in other units, but we are looking to fix this in 2014. We will return to the level of training we had in 2007 and by next year, we will have seen immense improvement in this area."
The officer also revealed that a plan to amend the training program for ground forces will be finalized next week by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, after already being signed by Deputy Chief Gadi Eisenkott. That plan, which has not yet been released to IDF training officers, seeks to reduce the training of regular service soldiers by as much as 15%.
Reservists' training will not be affected, however. "There were a lot of discussions and struggles within the IDF about which programs would be hurt by the [budget] cuts, but Gantz has minimized the damage," the official state. "In the end, with all of the pressures from the cuts, we've managed to maintain a high level of training overall, particularly in advanced training programs."
The officials also acknowledged the importance of training in the event of a two-front war, as tensions have escalated on the Israel-Syria border and as Hamas continues to build terror tunnels into Israel from Gaza. "When I was a soldier, we only had one enemy," he recalled.
The news also follows troubling reports that Egypt is building up its own arsenal, backed by Russia, to stand a reasonable chance against an IDF attack. The arms package is said to value over 4 billion dollars and include surface-to-air missiles.