German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen today (10 May) unveiled a plan to dramatically raise the number of recruits to the Bundeswehr. After 25 years of budget cuts and falling numbers of soldiers, von der Leyen is proposing a 180° shift with the recruitment of 14,300 soldiers and 4,400 civilians more than initially planned by 2020. Based on a new concept of “lighter human resources” this project should give greater flexibility to the Bundeswehr, currently engaged in Mali, in Iraq and in Syria. Today’s current enrolment limit for the Bundeswehr is set at 170,000 professional soldiers and 15,000 volonteers.
Von der Leyen would also like to give greater say to senior officers in the recruitment process. She also suggests that the physical aptitude tests should be adapted to the potential career path of the candidate so as to give greater flexibility in recruitments. A future IT specialist, for example, would have to do fewer push-ups, abdominal exercises and pull-ups than a candidate interested in joining the special forces.
If the intention is there, it remains to be seen where the defence minister will find the financial means for her plan because although the rise in the defence budget has been approved by the government, it is still waiting for the green light from the Bundestag.
Apart from the question of the budget, regularly brought up by the German press, the Bundeswehr is also suffering from its own rules and regulations. The most recent example mentioned by the British tabloid, the Daily Mail: German soldiers having to withdraw from NATO exercises because they had reached the legal limit of extra working hours they are allowed to do. As any extra hours beyond this would not be paid, the soldier concerned has to stop work. He is replaced by another soldier who will inevitably also reach his limit of working hours. A return to the times when battles were interrupted for tea and cakes?