The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Högl, was on the road for 100 days to visit German military facilities around the world. From equipment shortages to staffing issues, the Bundestag deputy should uncover all shortcomings. The experiences she made flowed into her annual report. Her conclusion: “The Bundeswehr has too little of everything”
So while the most important results of their research are already known, reports Oliver Moody, Berlin correspondent for the British newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times
of the countless bottlenecks, breakdowns and humiliations of soldiers that Högl listed in her paper.
Equipment shortages become a safety risk
A frightening picture emerges, especially when it comes to the equipment of the Bundeswehr. The Bundeswehr lacks means of communication, so that soldiers have to open the hatch of a tank or even get out to communicate with each other.
The situation is similarly bad for parachute equipment: In 2022 there were 66 parachute accidents because the force would still have to use a faulty T-10 system, according to an excerpt from the report shared by Moody.
Accordingly, the parachutes cannot be controlled sufficiently at high speeds or changing winds. This is also criticized in the report: “In view of the changed requirements for parachute systems, it is incomprehensible that the T-10 system was not replaced more quickly and that there were again delays”.
Ten years for helmet orders
In view of the past, it is doubtful that the orders will now be made up for quickly. So it took ten years until an order for helmets for helicopter pilots was formulated. In the USA, on the other hand, according to Moody on Twitter, the helmets have been in use since the 1990s.
According to the report, it also took eight years to procure new clothing for paratroopers. Worse still, some German paratroopers had to buy their own headlamps and camouflage helmets.
The situation is no different in the Bundeswehr’s IT department: the staff of a naval administration office had to wait several months for a computer. The media department of the Bundeswehr is said to have waited a full seven years for new audiovisual equipment.
Bundeswehr must use 28-year-old dot matrix printer
The infrastructure of the Bundeswehr is also showing its age. In addition to broken toilets, showers and a lack of WiFi, work is also hampered by outdated equipment. For example, the Institute for Microbiology at the Bundeswehr Medical Academy in Munich has to print out its results using a 28-year-old dot matrix printer, which means that the ribbons have to be washed and recolored by hand.
Another example of the poor condition is the barracks of the Bundeswehr Artillery School in Idar-Oberstein, which have not been renovated since the 1960s. The result: draughty windows, water damage from burst pipes and holes in the roof, and unusable bathrooms. Also the kitchen was run down and unsanitary. In addition, the roofs of the technical maintenance halls have been in danger of collapsing since 2018. All of this is set to be repaired – but not until 2042.
Report uncovers shocking cases of right-wing extremism
In addition to equipment shortages, Moody has also investigated cases of right-wing extremism in the German armed forces. Even if the total number of suspected cases fell slightly last year, the examples are still frightening.
The report documents that soldiers were punished for wearing Z symbols and for saying that Ukraine needed to be “denazified”. In other cases, the Hitler salute was shown in connection with racist insults and references to slavery.
Cases of anti-Semitism are also known: a soldier is said to have shown a picture of a chimney with the inscription “The bigger the Jew, the warmer the room”. stole ammunition at the barracks party, played neo-Nazi music and organized a football game with a pig’s head – he has not been prosecuted so far.
harassment among soldiers
The report also reveals some cases of humiliation among soldiers: During an “equator baptism” on a naval ship, a sailor was tied to a beer table and had a “mass of raw, mince-like material” stuffed into her ears, nose and eyes. When she subsequently complained to her superiors, it was decided that no disciplinary action was necessary as her consent to the harassment was “voluntary” and she allegedly could have stopped at any time.
It is therefore no surprise for reporter Moody that 21 percent of new recruits left the Bundeswehr within the first six months last year. Rather, what is surprising for him is that, given these conditions and the demands of the profession, almost 19,000 new people join the ranks every year and the total number of soldiers remains stable.