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German military facing recruitment gap, says commissioner

April 2, 2023

The Bundeswehr is facing recruitment issues that are even worse than its lack of equipment, a top official has said. Commissioner Eva Högl said a plan to boost personnel numbers is "unattainable."

A soldier of the German Armed Forces is with his weapon in position Munster Lower Saxony, Germany
Some potential recruits are left waiting for up to a year for a response from the Bundeswehr, Eva Högl has saidImage: Sven Eckelkamp/IMAGO

The German Bundeswehr is falling short of its goal to boost the number of its personnel and must focus on recruitment, the   parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Eva Högl, told Funk Media Group in an interview published Sunday.

"The Defense Ministry is pursuing the target that the Bundeswehr should grow from currently 183,000 soldiers to 203,000 by 2031," Högl said.

"I see that as unattainable," she added.

The warning comes as Germany is looking to massively increase spending on defense to update its armed forces in the wake of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bundeswehr's numerous problems

Högl said the main problem was the high dropout rate of recruits as well as an extensive delay between potential recruits registering their interest and the Bundeswehr career center sending a response, which she said could be as long as a year.

"The challenge with personnel is even greater than with materiel," she said.

Germany's armed forces face chronic problems

On Saturday, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that he expected shortfalls in funding and equipment for the Bundeswehr to continue beyond 2030, pointing in part to Germany sending equipment from its own stockpiles to Ukraine.

Högl's role as commissioner is to advocate for the rights of soldiers. They can contact her directly if they feel they are being mistreated.

The Bundeswehr has taken a hit in recent years due to scandals highlighting the influence of far-right extremism on a significant number of soldiers, including the sharing of antisemitic remarks in chat groups, singing happy birthday to Adolf Hitler and even some individuals taking part in a far-right plot to overthrow the government.

ab/sms (dpa, AFP)

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