Bundeswehr commissioner calls for ‘Ikea’ approach to army’s procurement woes
The German army could solve its manifest equipment issues by adopted the “Ikea principle,” the commissioner for the Bundeswehr in Germany’s parliament, Hans-Peter Bartels, said in the annual report on the state of the military, published on Tuesday.
Bartels clarified that this means “chose, pay, and take away” from what is already available rather than wait a decade for new equipment based on loosely-defined “functional capability requirements” to be “reinvented, awarded, tested, certified and then introduced in slow increments over 15 years.”
The Bundeswehr has long been suffering a shortage of equipment from combat boots and body armor to tanks and helicopters, and outdated aircraft that regularly encounter a multitude of issues.
Bundeswehr suffers while arms industry produces for export
Unfortunately, the report noted, “the Bundeswehr is still far away” from having 100 percent of the weapons, ammunition, and personal equipment it needs to fulfil its duties for defense in Europe as well as through its alliances like NATO. To Bartels, it was unconscionable that Germany’s arms industry was at the same time pumping out new technology for export.
“Why does it take seven years to refurbish 100 old tanks to the most model level, when in just two years, the same industry can make 50 brand new tanks for another nation?”
The report gave the example of much-needed new helicopters, saying that “only a few” of the 53 Tiger aircraft the Bundeswehr ordered had been delivered, “and the project already has a delay of 134 months and is 1.3 billion euros over budget.”
As for the navy, the report said, “of the 15 large battleships that we should have on paper….only nine currently exist, and there are no reliable plans for the arrival of new ships.”
‘Massive’ personnel shortages
The annual overview also highlighted another long-standing issue faced by the Bundeswehr, a dearth of personnel. A lack of prestige surrounding military careers, combined with a 2011 decision to nix a period of mandatory military service after school for young men, are just two of the factors that have made it difficult for the army to recruit.
Some 21,000 jobs remain unfilled, the report said. For instance, the air force has only 53% of the necessary staff for its technical department, while the artillery force has only 70% of both the non-commissioned and commissioned officers it needs to be fully operational.
The “most massive” problems remain with the Germany navy, the review notes, blaming “long absences from home combined with high professional and physical demands,” as well as a lack of clarity about proposed bonuses for those who change career paths to join the navy.
Another key area lacking personnel was cyber-warfare defense, where a high level of specialization is needed, but those qualified are usually drawn to more prestigious, better-paid, or more comfortable jobs outside of the military. Only about 75% of these positions are currently filled.
Bartels also wrote in his foreword that while he believed progress had been made in terms of ending sexual harassment, providing PTSD therapy to veterans, and tackling right-wing extremism in the ranks, “further awareness and action seems necessary.”