The Failure is in the Conduct – Summary of the Winograd Report
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Minister Yitzhak Hertzog stated: "in the meeting we talk, make decisions, hear summaries, but the things presented are already very “ripe”, and there is not a real dialogue process…"

Beyond supporting decision-makers as they deliberate policy alternatives, as the source of relevant information and analysis techniques, the professional administrative bodies "Educate" the decision-makers.

"...when the PM is required to make an immediate decision, in times of crisis – he must make a decision on the basis of his knowledge and experience, without support from other sources. In such moments, crucial issues are bound to be determined according to his judgment, knowledge and experience – and he is very lonely in them."

The Failure is in the Conduct – Summary of the Winograd Report

Against the backdrop of the publication of the Winograd Committee's Interim Report, the Reut Institute highlights the main issues that should be considered when examining the conduct of the Government of Israel and the Defense Establishment.

The committee's conclusions and recommendations regarding the conduct of the government and its affiliated agencies include:

Structural Problem in the Political System

"Regime constraints" - Despite the fact that formal discussions took place, mechanisms for guidance, inspection and control of decision-making processes did not operate. The committee determined that "regime constraints" offer a partial explanation of this failure. (art. 5, p. 145).

Structural Failure in Management Culture

Lack of control mechanisms - The government approved decisions, despite the fact that individual ministers lacked understanding of their significance and failed to appreciate their consequences. The control mechanism of the government for defense and political processes did not work properly. This is a structural failure that has existed for years. (art. 70, 71, p. 125).

"Rolling" chaos - According to the Committee, the war was conducted in a "rolling" manner through ad-hoc decision-making processes (art. 41, p. 121). "Rolling" is a typical attribute of some of the Israeli government agencies and is not a unique occurrence. This dynamic constrains the ability to diverge from the normal trend in times of crisis, and to operate in an orderly fashion.

Decision-making without sufficient consultation - The Prime Minister (PM) had decided on the proper course of action before convening a meeting to discuss the way forward. His stance on the issue was consolidated without consultation with the relevant experts (art. 120-123, p. 132-133).

The Personal-Political Component:

When should the Minister of Foreign Affairs be involved? - In Israel, routine political-security deliberations typically include only the PM and the Minster of Defense. The Foreign Minister is involved when their relationship with the PM permits or when their attendance is required (art. 31, p.109).

Leaks are the manifestation of short-term thinking - The government is not included in important security and political deliberations for fear of leaks. The committee states that the culture of governance in Israel is unprofessional and irresponsible. The PM is forced to plead with his ministers not to leak information. The issue of leaks exemplifies a form of thinking that does not take national interests into consideration (art. 6, p.146).

The Prime Minister Serves as the only Integrator

The extent of the Prime Minister's authority and responsibility - The Committee writes: "The PM is the only integrator of information on the different issues (political, defense, and intelligence). Currently, no other person or body that carries out this role. All information resides with him, and only with him, due to the fact that information is passed on to him from myriad sources, and because he receives secret or sensitive information that no one else receives... maintains direct contact, sometime in person, with other head of states... therefore, when the PM is required to make an immediate decision, in times of crisis - he must make a decision on the basis of his knowledge and experience, without support from other sources. In such moments, crucial issues are bound to be determined according to his judgment, knowledge and experience - and he is very lonely in them." (art. 32, p.109).

The Strength of the Military-Professional Echelon compared to the Prime Minister's Weakness

The body that "does it all" is dominant - The military is the dominant force in Israel in political-security issues. This is due to the fact that it is responsible for staff work and planning, as well as implementation. (art. 39, p. 110).

Absence of an administrative unit alongside the Prime Minister - The weight given to the military's recommendations increases when the political echelon lacks experience and knowledge on defense issues, when professional units that incorporate understanding of political and security issues are not in place to support the political echelon, and when there is a need for immediate decision-making. (art. 43, p. 111).

The Army does not trust the political echelon - The Chief of Staff instructed his staff not to express independent opinions when the IDF's position is requested. The assumption is that internal discussion is positive; however, the military should provide one unified recommendation to the political establishment (art. 83, p. 128). Thus, the army avoided "confusing" the PM, denying him his essential role to ponder, consider, and cope with uncertainty.

Neglect of the political factor - The decision to go to war was made without consulting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and without relying on its sources of information. (art. 135, p. 136, footnote 34).

Bottom-Up: The Professional Rank Recommends and The Prime Minister Decides

Need for two-way exchange - There is a need for constant feedback between the political echelon that is supposed to determine the goals and the military echelon that knows and can evaluate its capabilities. It is crucial to avoid situations in which the relations are reduced to the one-way transfer of information and intelligence from one body and directives from the other body. Mutual understanding of the limitations of each side and the context in which they operate is essential.

One party presents options and the other approves - The professional echelon participates in discussions to gain government approval, not to debate. Minister Yitzhak Hertzog stated: "in the meeting we talk, make decisions, hear summaries, but the things presented are already very "ripe", and there is not a real dialogue process..." (art. 50, p. 48).

What should the Chief Decision Maker's Perspective Be?

Responsibility to balance - The PM should operate on the principle of responsibility that can balance ideological, political and electoral considerations. The decision made need not be popular, but it must promote Israel's long-term (art. 25, p. 108).

Strategic perspective - According to the committee, strategic perspective provides the basis for evaluating the Prime Minister's conduct. Through this perspective, long-term objectives are determined, according to which specific actions and goals are derived while examining developments in the environment. This perspective is based on the existence of mutual feedback between goals and capabilities (art 26, p. 108).

Recognition of the chief decision maker's constraints - The PM should have taken into account his limited experience and knowledge regarding the Lebanese arena, as well as the limited preparedness of the Office of the Prime Minister, and therefore, to be stricter about making a responsible, careful and intelligent decisions. (art. 112, p.131).

Recommendation to Establish Tools for Strategic Control to Support the Prime Minster

Staff work, supervision, and control - Due to the authority and responsibility that lies with the PM, it is essential to guarantee the availability of suitable tools including a mechanism to aid him in staff work, efficient execution of decisions, and supervision of implementation. The PM should have the tools to obtain suitable background material, to engage in-depth with this information, to deliberate with professional bodies and to ask questions that would help him form his position. (art. 33, p. 109).

The new National Security Council (NSC) - Implementation of the Committee's recommendations requires the improvement of decision-making processes in political-security issues, and depends on the existence of an advisory body that supports the PM. The NSC is currently the administrative body that provides support to the PM. However, in practice, the NSC does not answer the needs and should therefore be rebuilt.

The NSC should operate as an:

  • Integrator - Integrate information and analysis from varied government offices on political and security issues, based on a long-term perspective.
  • Operator - Conversion of insights that are the product of staff work into decisions.
  • Advisor - Provide an informed opinion on all current political and security issues. (art. 14, p. 147-8).

The educational role of the administrative bodies - The PM is required to hold a professional decision-making process. Beyond supporting decision-makers as they deliberate policy alternatives, as the source of relevant information and analysis techniques, the professional administrative bodies "Educate" the decision-makers. (art. 15, p. 106).

Exposing implicit and explicit working assumptions - As part of the criteria for evaluating the function of decision-makers, the committee holds that an essential part of the decision-making process is an examination of the moral and factual assumptions that underlie the process, so that they can be updated and adjusted as times change. (art. 20, p. 107).

Inadequate Quality of Discussions

The chief decision-makers consolidate a decision before the meetings - Before arriving at the "Seven-Ministers' Forum," the PM and the Defense Minister had consulted with each other and army sources. They arrived with "ripe" suggestions. To the wider ministerial meetings, they arrived with ready decisions. When the three strongest factors in the system arrive at a meeting with a unified decision, the discussion is no longer effective. (art. 57, p. 81).

Discussion without debate - The absence of a comprehensive "fall-back" plan or a consolidated framework for operation can be explained by the fact that no political or security forum held an organized discussion that considered alternatives or made recommendations. In the meetings that were held, no deliberation, consultation, or consideration of options took place. (art. 54, p.123).

Professional echelon was ill-prepared for deliberations - In meetings that took place, there was a lack of background information, in-depth summaries of the arena, and discussion of the implications of the operations under discussion. (art. 55, p. 123).

Lack of understanding of the significance of discussions - The government authorized army operations in Lebanon without discussion or in-depth consideration of the issues. The committee stated: "one minister expressed support while declaring that he did not know what he was supporting." (art 54, p. 124).

What is an effective discussion comprised of? - According to the Committee's recommendations, a meaningful political-security discussion is comprised of the following principles: "the place of the issue as it is related to national security and political-security strategies; evaluation of the current situation, interests of main players, goals, principles of operation, alternatives, schedules, end-state and expected results in the short-term and the long-term, taking both an optimistic and pessimistic perspective. Further aspects must be considered, including: disagreements, the nature of the forum in which the discussion is taking place, and alternative views. These are meant to prevent failures that are the result of "group-think." (art. 8, 9, p. 146).

Sources

Interim Report of the Winograd Committee, 4/30/07. For the full report (in Hebrew), click here.