BUREAUCRACYGermany's Military Upgrade Hobbled by Bureaucracy

By Ralf Bosen

Published 8 June 2022

Germany’s military suddenly has €100 billion to spend on new equipment. Thousands of people in one of Germany’s largest government agencies are tasked with procurement. But that may turn out to be a major problem.

The German army, air force and navy have long had to work with insufficient equipment. They lack mission-capable tanks, helicopters, body armor, backpacks, and night-vision gear. Even warm underwear for the troops on NATO’s eastern front is in short supply.

Now the government wants to modernize the troops. It is planning a debt-financed special fund of €100 billion ($107 billion) for new and upgraded equipment. Money is no longer an issue.

But according to critics, the barrier might be the government agency responsible for procuring the equipment: the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology, and In-Service Support (BAAINBw). About 6,500 people work at its headquarters in the western city of Koblenz alone. In total, 11,000 people are employed at the agency across 116 offices. They regulate the purchase of everything from high technology to socks.

An Inflexible Behemoth of an Agency?
The BAAINBw has long been considered in urgent need of reform. Several German Defense Ministers have tried and failed to do so. To summarize the accusations against the agency: it is a planned economy-oriented administrative juggernaut that delays processes rather than speeding them up.

For example, parachutists have been waiting for new helmets for 10 years, the German Bundestag’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Högl, told the daily newspaper taz. The holdup has been that the helmet, which is used in the United States, is “first tested again quite extensively, to see whether it also fits on German heads and really protects as well as we would expect according to German standards,” Högl complained.

Högl also told German public broadcaster ZDF about a visit to a tank battalion that had to work with 30-year-old radio equipment and consequently was “not capable of leadership and communication” in maneuvers with other NATO units.