COLOGNE, Germany ― The German armed forces continue to be plagued by serious equipment and personnel shortages despite a major effort begun in 2016 to turn a corner, according to the annual report by the parliamentary commissioner for the Bundeswehr.
The assessment comes just days after Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen vowed before senior international leaders at the Munich Security Conference that Berlin would follow through on its European Union and NATO commitment for a militarily stronger Europe.
The report by Hans-Peter Bartels, of the Social Democratic Party, says Germany will be hard-pressed to meet a NATO-wide defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2025.
While the defense budget is slated to grow from €37 billion (U.S. $46 billion) in 2017 to €42.4 billion in 2021, the percentage of GDP would remain constant at 1.2 percent, given Germany’s projected economic growth.
“Additional efforts are necessary,” Bartels wrote.
At the same time, managerial problems, not a lack of money, are to blame for the ongoing crisis, according to the commissioner. Programs that fail to deliver, undeployable equipment and a shortage of spare parts have led to tanks not running, planes not flying and units having to borrow rifles from each other.
For example, none of the six submarines was able to sail at the end of 2017, and flights of the A-400M airlifter are routinely canceled because few of the 14 aircraft work. On land, outages in the Leopard 2 battle tanks have reached a “critical mark,” with only 95 of 244 vehicles ready for deployment.
Gen. Volker Wieker, Germany’s chief of defense, told reporters in Berlin that despite equipment shortages, Germany would field the necessary personnel and equipment in time to lead the brigade-sized, multinational NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which is due June 30.
Germany has more than 15,000 soldiers deployed in 20 operations worldwide. Those units, Wieker argued, are unaffected by any shortages.
“I have heard no complaints from within Germany or from our allies that they aren’t doing an outstanding job,” he said.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.