German: Defense report calls for cuts in staff

AP News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2010 10:19 AM
German: Defense report calls for cuts in staff

An expert commission is recommending that Germany's Defense Ministry cut its staff by half and reduce military troops by about a quarter as part of efforts to save money and transition from a conscript army to a more flexible, professional force.

Ministry spokesman Christian Dienst said Monday that the commission's recommendations must be evaluated before decisions are made. The recommendations will be presented Tuesday to Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Commission head Frank-Juergen Weise said a priority will be to reduce the number of staff who work in the ministry in two separate locations, in the former West German capital of Bonn and in Berlin, from 3,300 to 1,600.

Weise argued in comments to the ARD public broadcaster that the size of the ministry renders decision-making cumbersome and slow.

"The structures are not capable of success," he said.

The report also recommends cutting the military to a maximum of 190,000 troops from the current 250,000. Guttenberg, the defense minister, has already called for the end of conscription and a shift to a professional military of only 156,000.

Despite its size, Germany's military is only able to sustain deployments of some 7,000 troops abroad. Guttenberg has said the military is in desperate need of an overhaul to make it more nimble and able to respond to today's threats. Already he has reduced the length of time conscripts serve.

Weise argued that cutting back the military too severely would make it more difficult for it to focus on missions abroad and suggested cuts instead be made to equipment.

Germany's report comes a week after the government of Britain announced it would cut 17,000 troops, a fleet of jets and an aging aircraft carrier to save money.

Spain is cutting its defense budget for the third consecutive year in 2011, making for a 13.3 percent reduction since 2009. Italy recently reduced its order of Eurofighter jets by 25 planes to save $2.57 billion.