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Germany details Bundeswehr reform

by Staff Writers
Berlin (UPI) May 18, 2011
Germany will slash by one-fifth the number of troops as part of a broader reform that is intended to transform the country's armed forces.

The organization and structure of the Bundeswehr was "inadequate" to handle current and future missions, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Wednesday in Berlin.

"That pertains to their abilities, financing and its leadership structure," he said

The reform includes cutting the number of troops from the current figure of 221,000 to a maximum of 185,000 to improve efficiency and reduce costs, he said. The number of civilian personnel will be reduced by 21,000 to a total of 55,000.

Germany has 7,000 troops in foreign missions, with the biggest part serving with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Another 4,400 soldiers are ready at all times to help with international response forces and EU Battle Groups.

First unveiled last summer by de Maiziere's predecessor Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the reform was given a second look after it came under fire following Guttenberg's resignation over charges that he cheated in his doctoral thesis.

It wasn't immediately clear which bases would be closed and how much money could be saved by the measures. Germany had hoped to save around $11 billion with the reform but de Maiziere said it wasn't sure whether that level could be reached given the transformation challenges ahead.

Guttenberg's plan to end the draft, a cornerstone of Germany's armed forces structure, was among the measures retained, also because lawmakers backed it in March.

That means Germany for the first time in its post-World War II history will rely on a purely professional force, backed by a minimum of 5,000 short-term volunteer recruits.

The German industry will also have to adapt. Leading German military officials have in the past called on German defense companies for innovative and cost-efficient products.

In a bid to make arms procurement more efficient, de Maiziere said he would create an experts' commission at the Defense Ministry to check whether purchases fit the Bundeswehr's new profile.

Germany is one of the world's major arms exporters. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates the country is No. 3 in the global market, trumped only by Russia and the United States.

Companies including ThyssenKrupp, Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann develop high-quality submarines, ships, armored vehicles and tanks. And European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., a multinational giant producing all kinds of airplanes and helicopters, has a strong German profile.

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