IDF leaning toward cutting service for many male soldiers

28/07/2004 The IDF Manpower Division is seriously considering instituting a revolutionary change that will shorten the terms of some male soldiers from three years to between two years and two years and eight months. According to the plan, soldiers who serve a full three-year term will receive higher wages, somewhere around the minimum wage, during their last few months of service.

Well-placed IDF sources said yesterday that they are relating very seriously to the plan. The goal is to “differentiate between tracks of army service,” the sources said. There are good reasons to shorten the length of service for soldiers involved in non-crucial assignments. If higher wages are offered to soldiers who serve three years, their motivation during their final months will be unharmed, they said. The IDF General Staff has discussed these suggestions for some time, and former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak considered shortening IDF service for male soldiers by between four to six months in the late 1990s. But Manpower Division officers recently informed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s personnel subcommittee that the IDF is now inclined to implement the shortened service plan. The IDF will reach a final decision on the matter by the end of the year, the officers said. Subcommittee chairman MK Haim Ramon (Labor) has pressured the Manpower Division to institute the changes. His panel pointed out that only 77 percent of draft-age Jewish males currently are inducted into the army, and only 60 percent finish a three-year term. That last figure, Ramon warned, could drop to just 50 percent in the upcoming years. Should that occur, Ramon said, the IDF will suffer a morale crisis comparable to what has happened in the reserves corps over the past few years. Since there is an unequal distribution of the burden in the IDF, Ramon has told the army that “rational” circumstances should apply: rather than sanctioning early releases on an individual basis, it makes sense for the IDF to determine in advance the length of time soldiers who carry out particular assignments will serve. Ramon added that soldiers who shoulder the full three-year burden should receive appropriate compensation. The proposed plan includes the following features: l A minimal service length will be designated (members of the Knesset subcommittee have referred to a two-year minimum; Manpower might prefer a 30-month minimum). l After the minimal service period, soldiers with less important (e.g. administrative, non-combat) roles would be discharged. Officers estimate that some 15 percent of the soldiers would be discharged at this stage; some IDF sources think the figure could be as high as 20 percent. The remainder will serve three years and receive higher wages during their final months. Differential salaries might be paid to soldiers during this final service period, and combat soldiers could receive monthly salaries higher than the minimum wage of NIS 4,000. l Other changes in the IDF wage system might be implemented under the plan. The IDF might modify its current arrangement of discharge payments and other payments disbursed during a soldier’s service; it could raise monthly payments made to soldiers. Senior IDF sources yesterday expressed support for the plan, and predicted that it has a good chance of being approved. The IDF Spokesman said that about a quarter of all candidates for army service meet with mental health officers prior to their scheduled induction. About 12 percent of all inducted soldiers are discharged during their first year of service; of these, 60 percent leave for psychological reasons. ——————————————————————————–