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The Bad News Bundeswehr: An Examination of the Truly Dire State of Germany’s Military

  • January 17, 2023

Storing ammunition on a large scale for these mini missions was too expensive, so the Bundeswehr, like industry, relied on a “just-in-time” delivery system and closed down several storage depots without further ado. Mais is still suffering the consequences today.

The three German divisions and the eight brigades beneath them “are not immediately deployable” as large units for national and alliance defense – none of them – Mais wrote in a confidential strategy paper in the autumn.

Mais likes to compare the troops to the fire department, which deploys immediately when the alarm is raised. He says the armed forces aren’t in a position to do that. The radio, ladder and hose for the fire truck would have to be fetched from various barracks across the country.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Bundeswehr’s to-do list has only grown longer. Mais is providing the troops for the NATO presence in Lithuania. Although the combat units are not fully deployed in the Baltics, the mission is tying up soldiers and equipment for the longer term. This year, the Bundeswehr is also the rotating leader of the NATO rapid response force, which must be permanently operational for this purpose and mobilizable within a few days, including all necessary equipment.

Germany has promised NATO even more. Beginning in 2025, a mechanized division should also be able to mobilize within 30 days. The following year, an airmobile infantry brigade is to be added, and from 2027, a second operational division. This Mais, warns in his strategy paper, makes a “fundamental realignment” of the army and a departure from the well-planned cycles of previous foreign deployments urgently necessary.

Mais has already taken the first steps without instructions from the ministry. This autumn, he ordered that the army in the future must focus on response capabilities for national defense. Like his boss, the inspector general, Mais is now calling for the Bundeswehr to finally recognize that, in the future, Germany will have to permanently provide large units capable of a “cold start,” with mobilization times dictated by NATO. But that, he wrote, will only be possible by “fully equipping the units.”

Mais has begun preparations. The 10th Armored Division in Veitshöchheim will be the first major unit to be fully equipped and thus operational in 2025. That alone is a daunting task. All units previously subordinated to this division that are not focused on alliance defense will be assigned to other units starting in the spring.

The idea behind it is simple. In the coming two years, the division should focus on its 2025 mission and be relieved of units not needed for that purpose. The same model will then be used to make the next division operational later. Step by step.

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