Germany's defense ministry has for months been investigating whether it has enough armed forces personnel for its growing deployments. The answer seems to be no, according to media reports.
German media research network RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported Saturday that the defense ministry, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, wanted to expand the country's Bundeswehr (armed forces) by thousands of soldiers and civilian staff. The RND is a network which conducts research for more than 30 German daily newspapers.
The reports outlined an initial planned increase of 7,000 troops and 3000 civilian positions. In a second step, 15,000 additional personnel were planned.
A defense ministry spokesperson refused to confirm those figures, saying that no decisions had been made and investigations were still underway. A decision was initially expected in March but now looks unlikely until April.
Shrinking army, growing mission
Germany's armed forces are facing more diverse challenges than ever before, including taking part in the air campaign against the "Islamic State" group in Syria, peacekeeping in Mali, increased NATO commitments and the management of refugees.
But the military has steadily shrunk in size since German reunification in 1990. At that time there were about 600,000 soldiers, whereas today's Bundeswehr has filled about 179,000 of the 185,000 troop positions. The military also has about 56,000 civilian positions.
In January, military ombudsman Hans-Peter Bartels told lawmakers that Germany's defense forces were stretched to the limit and that previous cost-cutting was jeopardizing education, training and field missions. Bartels urged them to fully equip the military and significantly raise the armed forces budget. The expansion considerations reported Saturday also correspond with demands from the union representing Bundeswehr members.
se/ (dpa, AFP, Reuters)