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Bartels calls for better equipment for Bundeswehr

May 21, 2015

The German parliament's new commissioner for the armed forces has called on the government to increase the funding of the Bundeswehr. Hans-Peter Bartels made the statement shortly after being sworn into office.

Amtseid Wehrbeautragter Hans-Peter Bartels
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

The Social Democrat politician (above left), who until now had been the chairman of the Bundestag's standing committee on defense, told lawmakers on Thursday that he planned to use his five-year term as the armed forces' ombudsman to push for a significant improvement in the equipment provided to Germany's men and women in uniform.

He also said he would push for renovations to be completed swiftly on many of the Bundeswehr's barracks, which Bartels' predecessor, Hellmut Königshaus, described earlier this year as "dilapidated."

The 54-year-old Bartels told the Bundestag that the current policy, which he described as "shortage management" was "no longer an acceptable approach."

He said that Germany's soldiers deserved to be provided with "100 percent" of the equipment required to do the job they were being asked to do, as opposed to "70 percent." He added that if the government wasn't able to provide the funding to do this, it would have to consider reducing the sized of the Bundeswehr.

"However, this would not only annoy our partners in Europe. It would be absurd," he said.

Well short of two percent target

The government already plans to increase the funding of the armed forces from the current 33 billion euros ($36.7 billion), but this is still well off the two percent of total economic output set as a spending target by NATO for members of the Western alliance. To be fair, Germany is not alone in this regard.

Speaking just minutes after taking the oath of office, Bartels also pointed to what could be increasing challenges for the Bundeswehr, particularly in light of the Ukraine conflict.

Bartels noted that if it got to a point at which foreign missions were no longer the "only real task" of the German armed forces, and the Bundeswehr was required to demonstrate the "credible capacity" to contribute to the collective defense of Europe, then its overall equipment standards had to be improved.

This he said, applied not only to things like tanks and armored personnel carriers, but also to things like flak jackets and night-vision equipment.

"This will cost money," Bartels said, without saying how much.

No comment on G36 rifle

Bartels takes up the new post at a time when less-than-adequate equipment and accommodation for the Bundeswehr has been making headlines, particularly with regard to the G36 standard issue rifle.

Just last month, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced that the government was looking for a replacement for the weapon, after a study commissioned by her ministry last year found that the accuracy of the G36 fell significantly when the temperature climbed above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

Bartels on Thursday refused to be drawn on the apparent shortcomings of the Heckler & Koch-made rifle, saying this was for technicians to judge. At the same time he stressed that the soldiers deserved to be provided with the "best-possible" equipment.

The Bundestag had voted late last year to appoint Bartels as the armed forces' new ombudsman.

pfd/msh (AFP, dpa)