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There have been several press articles on the future format of German Armed Forces. In any case, manning will be trimmed again and make out of Bundeswehr the smallest one among the main countries. However one factor should be taken into account to moderate the mere figures.
In accordance with its fundamental law, the civilian part of Ministry of Defence is rather large and many tasks, which are traditionally devoted to the military in other European countries, belong to the civilian side of the ministry, in German the ‘Bundeswehr- und verteidigungsverwaltung’.
The figures made available in German media are the following ones:
-Army: 47.000 men,
-Air Force: 19.000 men,
-Navy: 9.000 men,
-Medical service: 11.000 men,
-Joint services: 26.000 men.
(source: Stern.de of 22. June 2010)
These figures do not mean that much, the most interesting will consist in the number of combat units that will remain, including their support and service support. As well, critical to observe will be the capability to commit effectively troops. For the time being, all the possible troops are declared to NATO. At least theoretically. However, when SACEUR needs reinforcements, or when the EU Council wants to launch an operation, reality is much more painful. Therefore, I would not criticize German figures until one can discriminate what they really mean.
For this reason, Mr v. Guttenberg words make sense when he declares to the Spiegel on 14th June: ‘It cannot be, with 252,000 soldiers, that we have already reached the limits of our abilities when only 8,000 soldiers are deployed at the same time’, which means that the Germans do not have their money worth.
So let us see how many soldiers the Bundeswehr will declare ready for deployment once the reform will start implementation. Thanks the support of the defence civilian services, it could work, but Germany will then have to fix what assets will be mutualised, with whom, and mainly with what conditions.
Recent publications have shown that some European countries are looking for new paths in order to more involve their armed forces in their budgetary saving policy. Really fascinating thing is that bold initiatives are on preparation, without any real conceptual work being performed beforehand, but under the pressure of the current budgetary crisis. More precisely this new orientation is not the result of a need expressed by the Armed Forces but a pure political will, intending to fully involve the military in the struggle for balanced budgets.
When looking after a promoter of optimisation in defence spending, one can look towards the European Defence Agency, which already and clearly demonstrated some years ago that the 200 billion Euros spent yearly for Defence do not generate the efficiency that it should, because of the numerous redundancies, while some other domains are left apart by our nations, despite vows for a better future.
Now the politics have seized the initiative and decided to search for mutualisation or at least of some of the military assets, in order to have the armed forces contribute to the budgetary balance of their respective nations and limit the costly redundancies.
After the statements of Mr von Guttenberg, the German Minister of Defence (already published on this blog), came a statement of Mr Morin, the French Minister of Defence, during a hearing at the Defence committee of the Assemblée Nationale, while shortly after the public relations of the ministry issued a press release dealing again with this issue.
On 7th July, Mr Morin declared: “My British counterpart and I have decided to launch a quite ambitious operation. The new British government wishes that we analyse very thoroughly what competences and assets that each country should keep as an asset to exert full sovereignty, those which can be mutualised and those for which interdependence can be envisaged.”
Some days later, the French Ministry of Defence released that both French and German Ministers agreed to think over the possible pooling and mutualisation of assets between both countries.
This sentence is really meaningful, as this is close to a cut and paste of Mr Guttenberg’s statement on German Defence review, who explains in his ‘Tagesbefehl’ (order of the day) to Bundeswehr he that he will look for savings through a better task repartition within the Alliance.
On point must be made clear: at the moment you mutualise or even pool some assets, you are bound to your partner, who will have to clearly state whether he supports you in the operation you are planning for or if you should simply leave it by lack of support. At the moment our nations will have recognized that they can no more afford to own the full scope of capacities and assets to operate in autonomy, the European Army will be. May be not on the format of the traditional forces we know with the same uniform and the same patches, but it will be, with those non-visible and strong links which have already led to the European Union as it is today.