Status: 02/23/2021 11:32 a.m.
The first report by the Armed Forces Commissioner Eva Högl is again a list of shortcomings – it starts with missing cold protection suits and ends with the transport helicopter, which is always ailing. But one thing is new.
By Stephan Stuchlik,
ARD capital studio
It may be phrased in a somewhat disrespectful way, but basically the Armed Forces Commissioner is the “suggestion box of the Bundeswehr”. Anyone in the troop who disagrees with the material or personnel management, who has small or large problems can file a complaint with her. Parliament calls her “soldier’s lawyer”, a term that the current defense commissioner Eva Högl should probably like better than a suggestion box.
ARD capital studio
But beyond all terminology: Either way, small personal stories regularly end up in the annual deficiency report that show better than many other things what is actually wrong in the Bundeswehr. Högl’s first annual report on the situation of the Bundeswehr is no exception. It suits that ARD capital studio exclusive before.
The Navy soldiers complained as early as 2019 that they needed cold protection suits when deployed outside. The answer given by the Federal Armed Forces Procurement Office: Presumably this could “still” be organized in 2022. Högl, who has been responsible for the armed forces since May 2020, also pointedly commented in the annual report: “Four years processing time – in the best case”, such processing times are “unexplained”.
Functional underwear remains a private matter
Despite all the reforms of the youngest defense ministers, the Bundeswehr’s internal procurement system has apparently remained what it always was: slow, bureaucratic and cumbersome. Of course, this also has to do with public procurement law, which employees have to adhere to, but why is it in almost every military report since 2015 that soldiers have to stock up on functional underwear privately because they cannot get this equipment quickly can provide? Is there no other way? The annual answer is: apparently no. So-called hand money, with which the commanders can make small purchases on site, seems to have helped, but by far not enough.
Permanent problem transport screwdriver
This applies to small items in the truest sense of the word, but there are also long-running issues with large equipment, i.e. complaints that recur almost verbatim every year: Reports in the report about material that either arrives too late or not at all, in the worst case not even ordered is.
The CH-53, the heavy transport helicopter, was put into service around the 1970s, it has high failure rates and can only be repaired with difficulty. But until today the ministry has not explained which model should follow it, there was an award procedure, which was stopped last year. The additional requirements of the Bundeswehr had made the models in question so expensive that a purchase did not appear profitable.
More money, more commitment
The complaint about the lack of the new heavy transport helicopter is already in many defense reports from Högl’s predecessor, as well as the complaints about missing tanks and outdated combat aircraft. Only: In contrast to before, the Defense Ministry has a significantly larger budget of around 47 billion euros for 2021, and in contrast to before, the Defense Minister wants to take on more and more responsibility, both in the context of EU and NATO missions.
But how should the missions in Mali and Niger work without modern transport helicopters? What should the desired engagement in the Indo-Pacific look like if “ships and boats are already missing”, as described in the military report, if and “personnel and material reach their limits”?
Problem child KSK
And then there are serious problems inside the group. The Armed Forces Commissioner finds clear words on the subject of “Inner Leadership”: The re is something wrong here if she takes the soldiers’ complaints seriously. Like her predecessor, she describes right-wing extremism as a serious problem. In the case of the Special Forces Command (KSK), which is particularly affected, the reform program of Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is on the right track. SPD politician Högl is surprisingly confident: The reforms, which include the dissolution of the notorious 2nd company and a reorganization of training, could be completed by this summer.
Whether Högl would have explicitly praised KSK commander Markus Kreitmayr for his “exemplary leadership” in her report, had she known that he was now the focus of criticism, is questionable. According to recent reports, Kreitmayr is said to have offered soldiers who had illegally appropriated ammunition the prospect of impunity if they were returned anonymously at the beginning of 2020. This is a serious allegation, not least in view of the weapons and ammunition finds in a right-wing extremist member of the KSK. Here the suspicion arises that there is still more to reform at the KSK than the report by the Armed Forces Commissioner describes.
… and then some praise
A premiere can be found in the current report: The description of the Bundeswehr mission against the corona pandemic, for which Högl almost exclusively finds words of praise: “It is good that the population is relying on the help of the soldiers in these difficult times Bundeswehr can leave. ” The troops themselves are particularly motivated with this special form of administrative assistance.
Thousands of soldiers help in vaccination centers: there is a lot of praise for this.
At the end of the day, the military commissioner even suggests a mission medal for the soldiers in the anti-corona fight. One has the impression that the author is also happy to finally be able to give unlimited praise and to close the suggestion box. Whether the medal will really exist in 2022 is in the stars. The only thing that is certain is that the report by the armed forces commissioner will also come in 2022. Many deficiencies in the Bundeswehr, however, will remain.