A Crisis in German Defense

German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen, Jan. 31, 2014The German armed forces have come clean. They’ve admitted they’re incapable of managing arms procurement—and have systematically neglected the hardware that’s already in service. . . .

In late September, the German military sent an explosive report to parliament, confessing that half of the armed forces’ heavy equipment is unserviceable and can’t deploy in a crisis.

The German navy, for example, possesses 15 Sea King helicopters, but 12 of them are grounded. The situation is similar with respect to the naval Sea Lynx helicopter—just four out of 18 can fly—and the heavy-lifting CH-53 helicopter. Sixteen out of 43 CH-53s are functional.

The Luftwaffe can field only 80 Typhoon and Tornado fighters, out of 140 on the books. So short of equipment, at present Germany would be powerless to respond if a fellow NATO member were to ask for military assistance.

And the bad news doesn’t stop there. On Oct. 6, Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen released a report by an outside consultancy analyzing the military’s nine biggest weapons purchases.

The report is damning. Every single procurement effort suffers some combination of cost overruns, delays and technical shortfalls. And owing to the ministry’s unwillingness or inability to negotiate proper contracts, the government has had to pay for the overruns itself. The arms manufacturers waltz away with their full fees.

Projects including the Puma fighting vehicle and the A400M transport plane are years late and billions of dollars more expensive than the government originally estimated. Shady contracting practices and the overly-politicized management of arms deals are largely to blame.

Image: German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen, Jan. 31, 2014 (photo: Marc Müller)