Vernuccio’s View: Germany Fails To Do Fair Share

President Donald J. Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel | July 7, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House came at a time when both trade and defense issues highlighted the relationship between the two nations. Despite a six-year high rate of economic growth  and a surplus of revenue over expenditures, Germany continues to starve its armed forces of necessary funding.

According to studies prepared by Berlin, the nation’s military faces both significant shortages in both manpower, equipment, and maintenance.  A very substantial portion of  Germany’s strength on paper is not available for actual use. According to the publication Warfare:

“Number of weapon systems ready for action:

  • Eurofighter Typhoon jet airplanes: 39 of 128
  • Tornado jet airplanes: 26 of 93
  • CH-53 transport helicopters: 16 of 72
  • NH-90 transport helicopters: 13 of 58
  • Tiger helicopters: 12 of 62
  • A400M transport planes: 3 of 15
  • Leopard 2 tanks: 105 of 224
  • Navy frigates: 5 of 13”

Business Insider reported in February that “Over the past several months, the entirety of Germany’s submarine fleet has gone out of action, the Bundeswehr, its armed forces, has outsourced helicopter training to a private company because its own helicopters are in need of repair, and more than half of the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2 tanks, its most common model, were out of order, with just 95 of 244 in service. Those are only the latest reports of German military deficiencies…During a visit to Germany at the end of January, US Army Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, said he would take the German government at its word that it would increase defense spending to the 2% target, but he cautioned against falling short. ‘It’s important for all of our NATO allies to live up to their commitments,’ Esper said. ‘If not, it weakens the alliance, clearly, and Germany is such a critical member of NATO’.”

The European Security Journal  found that, in addition to the fact that only a fraction of Germany’s crucial weapons system are capable of working, 21,000 positions are vacant within the German army. The status of the armed forces situation of the EU’a largest member state raises concerns for the collective defense of the entire region. Even a planned increase of over five billion Euros by 2021 in the defense budget, Germany will still only spend 1.15% of its GDP in defense, far below from the NATO’s 2025 target of 2% of GDP.

The Journal notes that In order to strengthen Germany’s capacity to contribute to collective defense, and fully perform its obligations under European security policy and within NATO, it will not only be necessary to rapidly expand the nation’s manpower;  equipment and maintenance must be addressed also. There are shortages of heavy major end items such as tanks, helicopters and ships, as well as munitions and personal equipment for servicewomen and men. It notes that “The shortages are making themselves felt everywhere. They are having impacts on training, exercises and the confidence with which equipment is handled in action. The often excessively long amounts of time taken for the repair work carried out in the private sector are part of the problem when it comes to the major end items that are in short supply…Furthermore, large and small procurement projects must be sustainably sped up. For example, planned decommissioning measures mean the Navy only has nine of the 15 large combat vessels that are supposed to be in its fleet today, and minesweepers, tenders and tankers are filling the gaps, its operational capability is in a critical state, to say nothing of the scandalous shortage of operational Navy helicopters (at a time when it theoretically has a total inventory of 43 helicopters). But it is not only the objective shortages of personnel and materiel themselves that represent a problem, for the laborious business of administering this scarcity is burdening the Bundeswehr additionally as well.”

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