Less top-heaviness, more operational equipment, and faster procedures – these are the main themes of the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future. There are no plans to make drastic changes. Federal Minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Chief of Defence Eberhard Zorn presented the new document.
After informing the spokespersons for the Defence Committee of the German Bundestag and the civilian and military personnel about the plans, the Federal Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence presented the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future to the public in Berlin.
The Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future contain important policy decisions that aim to speed up the procurement processes for materiel and equipment, streamline leadership structures, and further improve the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr. The goal is to make the entire Bundeswehr fitter for the future.
Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer and Chief of Defence General Zorn had already set out the need for thorough adjustments in the Bundeswehr, the defence administration, and the Federal Ministry of Defence (FMoD) in their position paper of 9 February 2021, “Reflections on the Bundeswehr of the Future”.
The Key Elements make it very clear that there are no plans for a major reform of the Bundeswehr. The goal is neither to close installations nor to downsize the Bundeswehr. Rather, the Minister and the Chief of Defence intend to considerably improve the future viability of the Bundeswehr. To make sure that Germany remains a powerful and competitive player in security policy as well as a reliable partner and ally, they believe that the Bundeswehr must be even more rigorously geared toward the changed requirements with respect to capabilities, organisation, and operational readiness.
This is why the Key Elements pay particular attention to the requirements of national and collective defence. The focus of the Bundeswehr as a whole has to be shifted towards these requirements once more. Essentially, this means to streamline Bundeswehr structures, to reduce dysfunctional processes, and to optimise command and control structures. This will ultimately benefit the ability to act of the Bundeswehr – through less top-heaviness, more operational equipment, and faster procedures. The operational level of command will be strengthened and the Bundeswehr will become faster and more flexible.
The aim of this is to ensure the comprehensive operational readiness of the Bundeswehr. The main element is to strengthen the unit level. The Minister also underlined this point in her bulletin in which she laid out the new proposals for the Bundeswehr personnel.
There will be no changes to the size and stationing concept of the Bundeswehr. New personnel is to be recruited and existing personnel to be retained. The Bundeswehr personnel management system will master this challenge by implementing faster and more agile recruitment procedures and more proactive and flexible personnel planning.
The FMoD with its body of personnel will be streamlined and systematically adapted to match its core tasks. Regardless of specific structures and procedures, the main priorities in this process are cooperation with the German Bundestag, the ministerial supervision of subordinate agencies, command and control of the Bundeswehr, and the ability to strategically coordinate and control the armed forces. A more stringent definition and delineation of responsibilities will free up personnel to take on new tasks at the unit level.
The Ministry will keep its two locations in Bonn and Berlin. This decentralised structure of the Ministry has been an asset during the pandemic in particular.
A Territorial Operations Command will be established in Bonn and Berlin. It will perform territorial tasks at home, including assistance in the wake of natural disasters, national emergencies, and serious accidents.
The 16 regional territorial commands of the Bundeswehr will be strengthened and enabled to take on tactical command and control functions. Defence administration structures must be efficient, effective, robust, and able to exercise command and control in critical situations up to and including national and collective defence. The regional structures will be adapted and decentralised accordingly. This principle will also be applied in meeting the enormous infrastructure requirements of the Bundeswehr. Financial and executive responsibilities are to be pooled, especially for relevant Bundeswehr building projects carried out under its own responsibility, in order to have sole control over infrastructure construction processes.
Domain commands will facilitate more effective command and control of operationally ready forces. There will be domain commands for the land, air/space, sea, and cyber and information domains. Four chiefs of service (army, air force, navy, and cyber and information domain) will be in charge of these domain commands and the training and provision of operationally ready forces. The structural target of 203,300 military and 67,800 civilian Bundeswehr personnel remains in place. In addition, cross-cutting support forces will optimise the troops’ combat effectiveness.
The Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command will continue to serve as the core of the operational level of command in operations.
As of April 2022, the Bundeswehr Health Care Headquarters will be built up in Koblenz. Parts of the medical service will be even more closely integrated with the unit level. A Surgeon General of the Bundeswehr position will be established within the Federal Ministry of Defence to highlight the importance of Bundeswehr health care. The Surgeon General will assume responsibility for health care within the area of responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Defence and for the directly subordinate Bundeswehr Health Care Headquarters in order to provide even better support to operationally ready armed forces.
Planning and procurement will be strengthened and streamlined and responsibilities for these areas will be reassigned. A strategic planning board will be set up at the FMoD, establishing systematic requirements controlling early in the process. As regards procurement, the work of the procurement organisation working group will be continued consistently. The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) is to focus more clearly on its core tasks in the future, i.e. the development, procurement, and further development of defence materiel.
Currently, the responsibility for the in-service use of materiel is held centrally at the BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr. This responsibility will be returned to the actual users in the major military organisational elements. Consequently, systems for the domain-based coordination of competencies and responsibilities, or “system houses”, will be established, pooling all competencies and responsibilities regarding a particular system, e.g. the Eurofighter.
For operations across domains, a Bundeswehr Joint Doctrine Centre will be established at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College.
The Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future are based on the coalition agreement of the German government and aim at a significant improvement of Germany’s strategic capacity. Specifically, foreign policy and security and defence policy are to be made much more visible in politics and public discourse, for example by hosting an annual Security Week. All security policy expertise available at the Federal Government ministries should be pooled and reliably coordinated, for example by a National Security Council.
The Bundeswehr will contribute to achieving the Federal Government’s climate goals, the most important being to mostly attain climate neutrality in Germany by 2045 and achieve a climate-neutral federal administration by 2030. The necessary sustainability and climate protection strategies for the Bundeswehr are currently being produced. They are to be the main guideline for action.
All in all, the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr will in future no longer be measured looking at individual systems, but at the Bundeswehr as a whole.