There are going to be no drastic measures. Instead, this reform is about less top-heaviness, more operational equipment, and faster procedures. These are the goals of the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future. On 18 May, the Minister and the Chief of Defence presented this new approach to the public.
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Federal Minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and General Eberhard Zorn, Chief of Defence of the Bundeswehr, presented the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future to the public in Berlin on 18 May 2021. Prior to that, the spokespersons for the Defence Committee of the German Bundestag as well as the civilian and military personnel of the Bundeswehr had been informed about the plans.
During the presentation of the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future at the Federal Ministry of Defence, the Minister said: “We want to address important issues now.” There was a clear need for change to benefit the further development of the armed forces, the Minister stated. In this context, Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer referred to the position paper “Reflections on the Bundeswehr of the Future”, which she had presented together with the Chief of Defence on 9 February and which identified the need for thorough adjustments in the Bundeswehr, the defence administration, and the Federal Ministry of Defence.
The Minister stressed that in line with the Key Elements, the Bundeswehr would focus consistently on national and collective defence. She added that the Key Elements were oriented towards the needs of personnel at the unit level, who expected less top-heavy structures, more operational equipment, and faster procedures.
Not only did the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future contain proposals and recommendations, she continued, but also important policy decisions that aimed to speed up the procurement processes for materiel and equipment, streamline leadership structures, and further improve the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr. The goal was to make the Bundeswehr fit for the future, the Minister said.
During the presentation of the Key Elements, Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer made it abundantly clear that the Bundeswehr was not facing a complete overhaul. She said that there were no plans to conduct a drastic reform with disruptive measures, to close installations, or to reduce personnel.
At the same time, Kramp-Karrenbauer stated in very clear terms that ambitious goals for the Bundeswehr were pursued by the Key Elements. “Over the coming years, we have to do everything in our power to achieve these goals”, the Minister said. The time to act was now. She would also make sure that concrete proposals were available for policy decisions on the Bundeswehr of the future, regardless of which parties would form the next government.
The Chief of Defence of the Bundeswehr, General Eberhard Zorn, reiterated that he had stressed the focus of the Bundeswehr on national and collective defence time and again. The Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future were in line with this approach: “Our main focus is national and collective defence”, he said. The aim was to further strengthen the armed forces, particularly the lower levels of command. The Chief of Defence further said that more and faster progress had to be made on existing projects. “Capabilities need to be available at the right place”, General Zorn added.
As an example of the new approach laid out in the Key Elements of the Bundeswehr of the Future, the Chief of Defence cited the establishment of a new Bundeswehr Territorial Operations Command in Bonn and Berlin, which was to perform territorial tasks at home, including assistance in the wake of natural disasters, national emergency situations, and serious accidents. The Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command would, however, continue to serve as the core of the operational level of command in missions and standby commitments.
General Zorn underlined that the Key Elements focused on the goal of consistently increasing the operational and materiel readiness of the Bundeswehr. Since our Allies and partners in NATO and the EU were currently working on increasing the readiness of their forces, Germany, too, had to step up, he said.
State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Defence Benedikt Zimmer added that as part of the implementation of the Key Elements, the structure of the Bundeswehr procurement organisation was to be adapted so that it could work more smoothly. “We realised that there is a need for more action”, Zimmer said. For example, core competencies and responsibilities at the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support needed to be strengthened.
State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Defence Gerd Hoofe said that much progress had been made in recent years, particularly in the areas of personnel and infrastructure. “But we have to get even better”, Hoofe said. The Bundeswehr had to become quicker and more agile in these areas. “We want more flexibility”, the State Secretary highlighted. The Bundeswehr had infrastructure requirements amounting to no less than €20 billion. On a positive note, Hoofe mentioned that there was an increase in applicants for both military and civilian positions this year.