Franz-Josef Meiers

 

In the course of his stocktaking of the armed forces in 2011 the German defence minister, Thomas de Maizière, detected “serious deficiencies”. The Bundeswehr has been “structurally under-financed for the assigned tasks for years.” Despite longstanding re-organizations the national objectives for an army in action have been reached neither in personnel nor in material matters. It does not have “neither sufficient capabilities, nor optimum management structures, to fulfil its tasks effectively.” Arms’ planning is in “disastrous” condition. Bundeswehr planning, arms planning and budgeting complement one another only marginally. The „partial reforms“ of the last years have „not been sufficient.” The structures of the Bundeswehr are insufficient for both the present and the future purposes. Thus, the most comprehensive and radical reform in its history had become necessary in order to strengthen the efficiency, effectivity and mission orientation of the Bundeswehr. “This situation requires changes from everybody,” is his sobering result. Defence minister Thomas de Maizière is confronted with the insoluble problem to have to reduce the numbers of personnel in the Bundeswehr drastically, to transform the armed forces into a highly flexible “breathing body of personnel”, to adjust all the equipment even more effectively and radically to the operational requirements of an army in action, and to fulfil the saving instructions of the Federal Government by 2015, all at the same time. The problem then and now is that the reform of the Bundeswehr will not get a reliable financial basis until 2015 and beyond, and in addition to that, it will not get the necessary time to contribute to the consolidation of the federal budget on a sliding scale. Thus, the continued structural under-financing of the defence budget until 2015 and beyond will make a reform of the reform unavoidable again, as has been emphasized in a paper from the command staff of the armed forces. “The only asset” of a reduction in personnel under 160.000 soldiers is “that this most probably will achieve the financial goal”. On the other hand, a significant strengthening of the mission capabilities and staying power of the Bundeswehr, and of the security-political Germany’s capacity to act, will, however, not be achieved. It is not possible to pursue a capabilities-oriented approach and to fulfil the short-term saving instructions of the federal government at the same time. This is like trying to square the circle. A reform limited by the budget does not open creative developments for a modern and forward-looking Bundeswehr. Like in the past, this reform will lead to the same disappointing results as the previous reform struggles of the Bundeswehr. A re-alignment of the Bundeswehr as an army in action fundamentally depends on “a lasting financial background for the required capabilities.” The success of the re-alignment of the Bundeswehr decisively depends on whether defence minister Thomas de Maizière, unlike his predecessors, is able to bring together the security-political and financial general set-ups for a re-alignment of the Bundeswehr.