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Budget cuts

May 28, 2010

The German defense minister wants to close military bases in an effort to slash defense spending. Local municipalities and military advocates have criticized the controversial plan.

the German military base in Mittenwald
The military cant't escape drastic spending cuts caused by federal budget constraintsImage: AP

In an effort to slash defense spending, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has said that there is no way around the closing of the German military bases.

"In the end… there will be base closures," Guttenberg said Friday on German public television.

"We can either ignore this for the next few years, and then give the concerned parties a terrible shock when the moment comes. Or we can give them a chance to at least mentally prepare for this now," the Christian Democrat politician said.

Paradigm shift

Guttenberg has announced radical reductions in the face of federal budget constraints. In a speech on Wednesday, he said he hoped to save 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) a year in the German army, but the specific details haven't been worked out.

In an interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, the head of the Armed Forces Association Ulrich Kirsch criticized the proposals, calling the savings measures a "paradigm shift" with profound consequences for the Bundeswehr.

"Minister zu Guttenberg said that the attractiveness of the armed forces should not suffer under the savings measures. I'm very skeptical about that," Kirsch told the station MDR Info.

Loss of revenue

A closure of military barracks would also mean a severe blow to the communities that house the troops.

"We expect that this decision will be made with us," the chief executive of the German Association of Cities and Municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, told the Financial Times Germany.

zu Guttenberg in Afghanistan
Guttenberg says smaller bases should be closed to save moneyImage: AP

"If the Minister says the the armed forces should be more firmly anchored in society, then they cannot be withdrawn from the area," Landsberg added.

In his interview with ARD, Guttenberg stressed that base closures stood "at the bottom of the list" of austerity measures. The first steps would be cuts to staffing and equipment.

Editor: Rob Turner

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