Prospective soldiers are to be scrutinized by Germany's military intelligence agency for leanings toward Islamism, far-right or far-left causes. The intended law change has been adopted by Chancellor Merkel's cabinet.
Germany's Military Counterintelligence Service agency, based in Cologne and known by its acronym MAD, is to get 90 extra staff members to run checks on wannabe recruits under the amendment sought to Germany's Military Personnel Act.
The cabinet move precedes next Sunday's regional poll in Germany's northern state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, where Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) are being closely trailed by the anti-mass-migration Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The written explanation of the law change, which was published in Berlin Wednesday, said there were currently indications that "Islamist circles" were trying to place short-term recruits in the Bundeswehr so that they could receive training.
The law change would take effect in July next year and is likely to require approval from parliament, which has ultimate say over Germany's armed forces.
A defense ministry spokesman said the new procedure would require elaborate preparation because each year the Bundeswehr had thousands of applicants.
In the future, MAD would put military service applicants through prior checks. It would no longer rely on good conduct certificates and a recruit's affirmation to uphold Germany's post-war constitution.
Hundreds being scrutinized
Reports on Wednesday said MAD was currently scrutinizing 268 suspected far-right extremists, 64 possible Islamists and six suspected left-wing extremists.
The cabinet's written explanation also said that since 2007 the Bundeswehr had categorized 24 active soldiers as Islamists and dismissed 19 of them. In the past, 30 soldiers had traveled to Syria and Iraq, it added.
Two of Chancellor Merkel's conservative colleagues, domestic affairs spokesman Stephan Mayer of Bavaria's CSU party and Clemens Binniger of Merkel CDU who heads the parliament's control committee, said the change was "urgently necessary."
The committee chaired by Binninger has exercises federal parliamentary oversight of Germany's three federal intelligence agencies: MAD, the BND foreign intelligence service, and Germany's domestic civilian intelligence agency, known in German as the Verfassungsschutz, or the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
MAD employs about 1,250 civilian and military personnel. Outside its Cologne headquarters, it has seven outpost bureaus across Germany.
Germany suspended compulsory military service in 2011 and currently relies on recruits volunteering to become professional soldiers.
ipj/kms (dpa, AFP, ARD, Reuters)