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Germany

Military shake-up inquiry urges restraint over radical troop cuts

An inquiry into a major shake-up of the German military is to recommend restraint on plans to slash service personnel numbers. Instead, the government will be advised to cut desk jobs in the Defense Ministry.

Troops on shooting practice

Advisors says troop numbers must remain realistic

A German government commission is to urge caution on plans to radically reduction the number of service personnel numbers within the country's armed forces.

Findings of the inquiry are instead to recommend a dramatic scaling back of office staff in the Defense Ministry from 3,090 positions to just 1,600.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

zu Guttenberg said troop numbers could fall to 164,000

"As I see it, they need half the number of employees as they currently have at most," Frank-Juergen Weise, who chairs the commission, told the public television broadcaster ARD on Sunday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has been investigating ways to save money on the armed forced, with up to 240,000 people currently in uniform.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenburg has said that this total could be slashed to 164,000 troops in the future, with an end to the current German policy of military conscription.

However, the commission is expected to recommend that the figure be reduced to between 180,000 and 190,000, with further cuts being deemed impracticable.

Savings within ministry

Savings would instead be made at the ministry, which has its main base in the western city of Bonn - where 2,570 people are employed - and a smaller section in Berlin.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle welcomed the inquiry's findings

The six-strong commission is to hand over its 114-page report to zu Guttenberg on Tuesday, advising that remaining resources be concentrated in Berlin.

They said that the dual location of the ministry meant that it suffered from "fragmentation" and that a move to the capital move would allow more central control.

Civic leaders in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, have warned that major lay-offs there would lead to protests.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed the report on behalf of his Free Democrat (FDP) party, junior partners in the ruling coalition, saying that greater efficiency was necessary.

Speaking to ARD, Westerwelle added that the end of conscription to make way for a fully professional army was a "long-standing desire" of the FDP.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, apn)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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