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Defence Ministry plans troop reduction to 165,000 volunteers

DDP/The Local · 13 Aug 2010, 08:50

Published: 13 Aug 2010 08:50 GMT+02:00

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Government sources told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that Guttenberg favoured this plan to end the country's conscription programme and cut back on troop numbers, which he will present on August 23 at a joint meeting of defence and foreign relations officials.

The Defence Minister has reportedly jettisoned his previous radical plans to take troop numbers even lower to 150,000, the paper said.

But the ministry feels a military of 165,000 soldiers would be able to fulfil its duties and meet budgetary constraints, the paper added.

Some of the centre-right government politicians signalled they were open to major changes in the Bundeswehr.

On Friday general secretary for the conservative Christian Democratic Hermann Gröhe told daily Berliner Zeitung that the job of the military had changed and officials needed to think creatively.

While a strong military is important to the CDU, “That doesn’t mean one can’t discuss conscription,” he said.

But head of the DBwV German Military Association Ulrich Kirsch insisted that any reforms must be accompanied by billions in government funding to make the changes attractive to soldiers.

“If there is a failure to invest in the people in the armed forces the reform will collapse,” he told daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

Security policy spokesperson for the pro-business Free Democrats parliamentary group, Elke Hoff, said the Bundeswehr must become more professional.

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“We must be prepared for international deployments and in the coming years or even decades struggle with asymmetrical threats – with terror networks, individual maniacs and organised criminality,” she told the paper.

This summer Guttenberg, of the CDU’s sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), has come under attack by his own party members, who support conscription. But he has insisted on military reform, saying conscription is too expensive lacks military use.

Germany is one of the few remaining European countries to still have conscription.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:31 August 13, 2010 by moistvelvet
Good, stop wasting our money as the conscripts are of no use to anyone, infact make the cuts go even further! Exactly what does Germany need 165,000 troops for anyway? Obviously you need alot of troops to guard the many bases which hold them! Cut the troops, save money and concentrate on a proffesional useful armed force.
10:06 August 13, 2010 by 9900lawre
Your right, conscripts don't have to work past 40 or so hours a week, deploy on operations unless all out war, etc...

But 150,000 regulars couldn't defend more than one border (Eg, Poland) at any one time. Lets rely on the fact that all the former eastern block counties are really friendly now and we have nothing to fear.

30% less soldiers also means 30% more work for those that remain whilst the current commitments are upheld. If your employer sacked 30% of his work force and expected you to do 30% more then i'm sure it wouldn't be too long before you quit. This in turn putting more stress on those left behind. How low do you go before the quality of the soldiers life is seriously affected?
10:31 August 13, 2010 by RP_Lifer
Not sure how I feel about this ...

Only concern would be will Germany have the ability to defend itself if a world war scenario should happen. History tells us that for the last 1000's of years war is a part of the cycle, far be it from me to think we have evolved to peaceful tolerant people.

All it takes is a match ...
11:00 August 13, 2010 by moistvelvet
@9900lawre, first of all what makes you think 265,000 of Germany's finest conscript army could defend one state border let alone the country. The conscripts are poorly trained and are of no use, leeches on resources that could be better spent elsewhere in defence of the nation. 30% less soldiers does not equate to 30% less work if the contribution they make is 0% in the first place, as I said the only use they seem to have is to guard the very camps within which they are based. Remove the conscripts, you remove the need to base them, therefore you remove the need to guard them.

@RP_Lifer, history also tells us that the British Empire ruled most of the world, that the Norse invaded North America, surely you are not suggesting that we should be on the look out for British imperialism and longboats! Because of the events over the past 1000 years the world has evolved into a system of states that will not allow Europe to implode in bitter rivalry, too much is at stake with economies and reliance on trade and cooperation with other states for one country to stand alone rather than be part of the international community. This form of inter-state relationship didn't really exist until the last century, so European countries do not need to defend themselves they just need to defend each other collectively, as only a combined European force can attempt to counter the hegemony of US power, which is currently the only superpower. With emerging global power coming from China and India, it is obviously better to rely on a North Atlantic alliance or alliance of industrialised countries rather than believing that a 265,000 strong semi-proffesional army bloated with conscripts can offer the best protection of German national interest.
11:34 August 13, 2010 by RP_Lifer
@ velvet, No one told me to stop watching for the Vikings ... DOH!

But seriously, we can attempt to be as civilized and evolved as we want but remember, 100 years from now we (today) will be looked at as antiquated. All I am saying is that as long as we walk the earth there will be wars, it is probably one of the most important task of the government to protect its citizenry from outside enemies. I am not saying that Germany should keep its semi-prof force of 265k I am just saying that this is an important balance of savings vs. readiness. I think it is very acadmic or naive to think major wars are a thing of the past, over time, its a natural event and will reoccur eventually.

I think your collectiveness in theory is very solid however in real world application goes out the window when it goes down.
12:14 August 13, 2010 by cobalisk
So because other countries have scrapped their civil service requirements (conscription or alternate) Germany should as well.


Because Germany does so well when it follows the ideas of others rather than create its own solutions based on distinct culture and economic need.

The real impact of the current system is not defense, it is an integrated society where a large portion are REQUIRED to render some kind of service to their country. This is a good model and should not be scrapped in favor of yet another underfunded volunteer service which preys upon young people of limited means.
16:08 August 13, 2010 by ErnestPayne
German demilitarisation? My parents and grandparents generations would have been delighted. Nice to see a country reduce its military based on actual threats.The bundeswher(?) would be best used dealing with floods, forest fires, and other natural disasters. Let the amuricans fight afghanistan on their own.
17:52 August 13, 2010 by 9900lawre
With, ernstPayne &@Velvet, theres another article that has popped up with a very good use for the beloved conscripts that Germany wants to bin. The floods on the German/Chech/Pol borders.

Get sand bagging lads and get those publicly funded waterproofs into good use.
20:00 August 13, 2010 by wxman
I agree with ErnestPayne, but go one step further. I think America should get out of Afghanistan as well. We'll just inform them as we leave that the next time terrorism is traced to their country a lone B-2 will drop nukes. Also, the next time Europe needs help getting out of a jam, we'll tell them to go Cheney themselves.
12:47 August 15, 2010 by Major B
Just knew this was coming. What a frigging joke. But watch them continue to criticize the U.S. while remaining of of the top three military arms exporters in the world. Yes, the folks in Dusseldorf can go to bed at night with the exalting feeing that their nation is supporting peace while grandson Fritz goes to work at the smalls arms export factory and Olga goes to work at the submarine plant which will sell those super quiet diesel engine dolphins to whoever. Well, theres always Britain as a reliable ally, and now even Poland. Feckless cowards up at the German defense ministry.
09:16 August 16, 2010 by suburbangeorge
Well this is sort of funny. I buy VW parts from Germany. I had/have the oportunity to buy a lot of euro style bumpers for a Scirocco 1 and wanted advice on low cost shipping so I joined this site. Here I am commenting on German politics. In regards to wxman's comments, you have to try to remember that the citizens of Afghanistan are also human beings just like you. As the father of a 2010 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, I have had this debate with my son over the last four years that he was a Cadet. Concerned about the risk that he would be subject to once he was deployed, I argued that we should rely more on our technology and weapons superiority. He explained that nukes and weapons like them don't descriminate and that he was taught that, to the best of his ability, he should only try to kill "bad guys". As difficult as it sounds, "anti-insurgency" means making friends with the population and enlisting their help against the "enemy". The USA gets huge benifits for assuming it's role as "the world's policeman" but those who are the actual "policemen" contribute unproportionately. This brings me to my second thought. Robert Heinlein(you may know him from his "A Stranger in a Strange Land") proposed a system in "Starship Troopers" that I totally agree with even though it would exclude me. To earn the franchise(right to vote in elections), you would need to do two years "government service". This could be military, peace corps, local service or something else. The idea is that only those who are commited enough to society to offer part of their lives to society should direct it. Maybe we'd have less wars
19:17 August 20, 2010 by panzerkommandant
its a mistake guttenburgs new plan for the bundeswehr will turn the once mighty armed force into a joke sad because when im old enough i plan to join thr bundeswehr, 160,00 could barely defend berlin.
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