The German cabinet has agreed a reform which will reduce the size of the military and suspend compulsory service from July on. As a result, the last draft will be on January 3, 2011.
There'll be fewer soldiers on parade in future
The German government on Wednesday approved the plans of its defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, to reduce the size of the German military, the Bundeswehr, by 65,000 soldiers to 185,000. Included in the reform are plans to suspend conscription from July 1 next year.
This means that the last young men will receive their draft notices on January 3, ending a practice which goes back to 1957 and the start of German rearmament after World War II.
The government has decided only to suspend the draft and not to abolish it. Abolition would require a change to the constitution, and the provision will remain in case a general call-up becomes necessary in a time of crisis.
The new armed forces will include 170,000 professional soldiers and 15,000 volunteers, who will serve for up to 23 months. Guttenberg argues that a smaller Bundeswehr will be more effective in dealing with modern military challenges.
A smaller military is still too expensive
The defense minister has pushed for an end to conscription
The plans are being made at a time when the military is under financial pressure. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wants the defense ministry to save 8.4 billion euros ($11.2 billion) by 2014. The defense minister says he can't meet that target without reducing size of the military to 160,000.
The suspension of conscription is expected to lead to an increase in the number of young people wanting to go to university. The German states, which are responsible for financing education, say they are not prepared to pay the additional cost. The chairman of the conference of state premiers, Wolfgang Boehmer, said that, if the central government created the financial burden, it should be prepared to discuss paying for it.
The suspension is also expected to lead to extra costs for social service providers, who have so far benefitted from the civilian service alternative to the draft. The cabinet also agreed on a new program of voluntary civil service, but the minister for families, Kristina Schroeder, has already said that it will not fill the gap completely.
Author: Michael Lawton (epd, dpa, Reuters, dapd)
Editor: Rob Turner