A German Bundeswehr NH90 helicopter flies past a Boxer armored fighting vehicle at Camp Marmalin Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. The German military plans to offer lifestyle improvements to entice volunteers. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP)
BONN — German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, pushing to make military life more attractive, today unveiled “Bundeswehr in Führung – Aktiv.Attraktiv.Anders” (Bundeswehr in leadership – Active, Attractive. Different).
Under the program, about €100 million (US $136 million) will be invested during the coming five years into improving workplace conditions as well as the public image of the military. The money is supposed to come from the existing defense budget.
According to the official timetable, most of the planned measures should be implemented by the end of 2015. The agenda is dominated by new working time models, fewer relocations and a better career planning.
“At an average, around 60,000 young men and women must apply at the Bundeswehr each year,” said the minister, regarding the number of candidates needed annually since the suspension of conscription in 2011. To attract more volunteers, the agenda addresses eight major topics and plans 29 measures.
To improve the balance between family and career the ministry wants to extend flexible childcare. Flexible working hours as well as more part-time work and more IT-workplaces are also planned to improve the attractiveness of a military career.
On missions, the Bundeswehr also wants to introduce unlimited free phone and Internet starting in 2015. The Bundeswehr also wants to let volunteers apply via the Internet.
Von der Leyen wants to establish an internal labor system in which professional soldiers with a fixed-term of enlistment and volunteers will receive guidance for future careers in the Bundeswehr.
Equipment improvement in the barracks is also planned. Starting in 2015, the agenda plans to introduce TV, refrigerators and free Internet.
Starting in 2015 a nationwide “Day of the Bundeswehr” will be held annually to improve the military’s public image.
“We want the best and we need the best,” said von der Leyen. While being a special employer, the Bundeswehr also competes with employers from the civil sector.
“Precisely because we ask a lot of the soldiers, we need to offer them a lot in the basic operation,” said von der Leyen, responding to some critics of the program. “Who is investing billions into the equipment, can also invest millions into the personnel.”
Doris Wagner of the opposing Green Party and member of the defense committee of the German Bundestag said the agenda would be a step into the right direction. However, she doubts that €100 million will be enough.
While agreeing with the agenda, Lt. Col. Andrè Wüstner, the head of the German Bundeswehr Association, said similar programs had shipwrecked due to missing budgets or bureaucratic obstacles.
“Just as important are legislative measures for the adjustment of the social frame conditions as well as the securing of adequate equipment for training and missions,” he said. The government plans a law including pension, payment and other legislative measures for September. ■