Political debate on the structure of the Bundeswehr given the official go-ahead
On 23 August, Federal Minister of Defence Dr. Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg informed the experts of the government coalition in Berlin on models for the structural reform of the armed forces. After the meeting, he made a short statement to the press.
The Minister of Defence affirmed that “in future, the Bundeswehr will not be defined by the budget situation, but shaped to meet security and defence challenges.” He presented five models for the future structure of the armed forces to the experts of the government coalition, but made it clear that these models are just rough plans. Zu Guttenberg stated that they will not be elaborated in detail until the Chief of Staff, Bundeswehr has presented his report.
These models are based on a total of 150,000 to 180,000 temporary career volunteers and regulars. Some of these models call for the suspension of compulsory military service, whereas others plan for 25,000 compulsory service conscripts and 25,000 voluntary extended service conscripts, or alternatively 30,000 compulsory service conscripts with no voluntary extended service conscripts. One of the models suggests the introduction of voluntary military service.
For reasons of specialisation, the Minister of Defence recommended Model 4, which proposes a Bundeswehr consisting of temporary career volunteers and regulars as well as a minimum of 7,500 voluntary military servicemen. “This is a model that will result in a smaller but better Bundeswehr. The Bundeswehr’s operational capability will be improved whilst maintaining its ability to protect our own country.”
Regarding the future form of military service, zu Guttenberg explained: “I consider it to be extremely important that we keep conscription in our Basic Law.” This retains the option of conscripting persons liable to military service in future, too, if the need arises.
By rendering military service more attractive, young people are to be encouraged to undertake tasks in the Bundeswehr and other areas of society on a voluntary basis. The debate on the new structure of the armed forces is not over yet. The Minister emphasised that “this is an important debate that for years now has not been conducted with the necessary intensity.”