German Armed Forces will be adapted to new Missions and new ChallengesExclusive Interview with the Chief of Joint Staff of the German Forces General Wolfgang Schneiderhan

Posted in Europe | 25-Mar-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan is Chief of Joint Staff German Bundeswehr: "We are ready for new missions!"
Exclusive Interview with the Chief of Joint Staff of the German Forces General Wolfgang Schneiderhan

Sir, what is the mission of the German Armed Forces at the beginning of the 21st century?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan: The drastic changes in our security environment in the wake of September 11, 2001, together with the reorientation of NATO and the European Union as well as the considerable increase in the number of missions have unavoidably had effects on the mission of the Bundeswehr at the beginning of the 21st century. However, our mission has not changed completely; only the priorities in the task spectrum have been adapted to the most likely future mission. Today we have to redefine the meaning of the term "defence". In today's world, risks and threats have neither boundaries nor borders, and they can affect us over long distances. Therefore, our aim must be to keep the risks and threats at bay and to contain them wherever they may develop. The most important tasks for the armed forces in the future are conflict prevention and crisis management and providing support for our allies and partners without geographic limitations. This includes the fight against international terrorism. The protection of our German territory and citizens will also have a high priority, as will the ability to conduct rescue and evacuation operations under national command whenever this may be necessary.

Sir, what are the most important capabilities that are necessary to accomplish this mission?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan: Our forces will have to adapt their capabilities and concepts to the conditions and challenges that are due to the new forms of conflict – including the fight against international terrorism – and the new actors in these conflicts, like warlords, clan chiefs, and terrorists. Moreover, we have to cope with the steadily increasing speed of technological innovation. All this results in new requirements that our armed forces will have to meet. Our highest priority will therefore be to improve our command, control, communication and information systems and to procure strategic transport and global surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. And instead of the heavily armoured weapons that we needed during the Cold War era we will need materiel and weapon systems that can meet the requirements for flexibility, mobility, multinationality, and interoperability. Last but not least, our training and equipment must cope with the challenges of network-based operations. This compound system of command, control, reconnaissance and effect will allow a rapid co-ordination of operations. Thus we can achieve more speed, effectiveness and efficiency in our military actions across the entire task spectrum. This is especially important for our future Response Forces, which will have to conduct network-based operations of the highest intensity in co-ordination with our allies and partners.

German Infantry 2004 - ready to go!
Sir, what structures are required for the German Armed Forces? Will the new structures enhance the Joint and Combined Operations and Combined Arms Combat?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan: The new Bundeswehr concept will implement three different categories of forces to meet the challenges of the future. We will have about 35,000 Response Forces that will provide a war-fighting capability and be able to conduct high-intensity, joint and network-based operations. There will be a total of 70,000 Stabilisation Forces; they will be able to fulfil a broad spectrum of tasks like peace-keeping and stabilisation operations and prepare the ground for solving conflicts as well as for nation-building activities, as necessary. We will also have about 147,500 Support Forces to ensure a timely and comprehensive support for all ongoing operations and to provide the basic support services.
Although we will retain the traditional organisation of the armed forces into service branches, the forces will be deployed for operations on a joint and combined basis only, and they will reach their full effectiveness only through the joint use of their capabilities.
Moreover, our capabilities for Joint and Combined Operations will be greatly enhanced with the implementation of the ability to conduct network-based Operations.

Sir, where are German soldiers currently deployed for peace support operations, and how many German soldiers are deployed?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan: The deployment of German Armed Forces is to be taken from this chart on this chart.

Sir, what social problems do the soldiers face after returning from deployments abroad?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan: One of the most difficult problems of our soldiers who come home from deployments abroad is connected with their reintegration into the normal military and private environment here in Germany. With respect to their reintegration into their private environment we can say that during the time they are separated from their families, both the soldiers and the families have different experiences during the long absence from home. The deployment period is six months currently and during this time the soldiers constantly live in a military environment with other soldiers. The families they left in Germany must then face all of the problems of daily life at home and solve them all alone. This means that the family members have to change their roles in the family and have to perform tasks that are normally done by the soldier who is abroad. But when the soldier comes back home and he wants to assume his traditional role again, he has to accept that there have been some changes in the family during the last six months. Such a situation can produce problems and conflicts. In order to support our soldier’s families during the time of deployment we are building up a professional family welfare organisation and integrating the families by means of information conferences.

Bulgarian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff General Nikola Kolev (right), and Bundeswehr Chief of Staff General Wolfgang Schneiderhan
With respect to the reintegration of the deployed solders into the military environment we can say that members of military units that are deployed abroad as complete units normally do not face any big problems when they come back. However, the situation is different for soldiers who are deployed abroad without their regular units. When these soldiers come back to their units they had different personal experiences during the last six months, and their individual expectations are totally different from those of their comrades who stayed here in Germany. Repeated deployments do not produce different problems, but they might aggravate the situation that I have just mentioned. In order to minimise any of these problems we just have decided to deploy our men and women generally for four month. We are convinced - by doing so – to fulfil our mission while avoiding social problems our soldiers may face.

Sir, what are the most critical capability gaps?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
The shift in emphasis in the task spectrum of NATO and the European Union to conflict prevention and crisis management, including the war on international terrorism, implies a reorientation of the armed forces and requires their adaptation.
The Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC) of NATO has identified some fields of action to eliminate weaknesses and deficiencies of the Alliance forces. The European Headline Goals (EHG) have also established binding targets regarding the creation of fully operational forces to be provided by the European partners. The aim of both of these initiatives is to improve interoperability and to enhance the military capabilities. They are concentrated on the most critical areas and shortfalls and require firm commitments from the partner nations.

The capability gaps that have been identified in particular are the strategic lift capability, the means for global reconnaissance and surveillance, and interoperable world-wide command, control, communication and information systems. In addition, the existing capabilities for defence against tactical ballistic missiles have to be enhanced. These capabilities are of vital importance to the Bundeswehr and for the fulfilment of our mission, and they are therefore being pursued with the highest priority.

Sir, what are the priorities for the German Armed Forces over the next decade?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
The new priorities in the task spectrum of the Bundeswehr make it necessary to achieve the right balance between the mission and tasks, on the one side, and the financial means that we have available, on the other. Key to this is to achieve an increase in the investment portion of the defence budget. In order to speed up the modernisation of the important materiel and equipment that will be most urgently needed, we will review the procurement priorities for our equipment and armaments. Moreover, we will streamline the structure of the Bundeswehr, with due regard to operational requirements. We will reduce the number of our military personnel to 250,000 and the civilian personnel to 75,000. And we will reduce the number of our military bases, mainly with a view to military and economic requirements. At the same time we will achieve a quick and lasting reduction in our operating costs by ending the use of costly obsolete materiel as quickly as possible.
Our first and foremost aim, however, is to maintain the proficiency and the high motivation of our personnel. We will have to train them and equip them even better than is the case today so that they will be better prepared to cope with the challenges of the future.
And finally, the permanently changing military, technological and social conditions call for a continuously ongoing development of our armed forces.

Many experts call for an end to the German conscript system. What is your view on this?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
The Federal Minister of Defence has established targets for the armed forces of the future by promulgating the Defence Policy Guidelines of 21 May 2003 and the Directive on the Further Development of the Bundeswehr of 1 October 2003. Pursuant to these directives, the mission of the armed forces must be adapted to the changes in the international security situation, and the tasks of the Bundeswehr must be given new priorities.

Our position on maintaining conscription as the right form of military personnel recruitment for our country has not changed. Conscription in its adapted form remains a requirement for the operational readiness, effectiveness, and efficiency of the Bundeswehr. Conscription was introduced in our country 50 years ago it has proved to be an approved method of personnel recruitment for our armed forces. Our country has developed an armed forces structure that ensures a high degree of efficiency, professionalism, and integration of the armed forces into society with a mix of conscripts, regulars, temporary career personnel, and reservists.

Notwithstanding the fact that some of our allies and partners have had various reasons to take a different approach, like saving resources and gaining more professionalism, and have abolished conscription altogether. There is no immediate reason for us to follow suit as experiences made by our allies indicate that not all intended aims could be reached and that adequate resources are needed to implement and sustain regular armed forces. There are many security-related, social, force-specific and financial aspects, as mentioned, that support the continuation of conscription. The German armed forces need conscription. From my point of view, the current and the foreseeable parameters leave us no realistic alternative to conscription to accomplish the task that we have been assigned.

Sir, what is your view on autonomous EU-led operations vs. NATO-led operations? What is your view on the formula "NATO first!" ?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
Since NATO is the world's largest permanent coalition and the world's most effective military organisation, it will remain the fundamental anchor of transatlantic security. I am convinced that NATO will continue to be vital for all of its members, and the Alliance will continue to be a uniquely flexible vehicle for transatlantic consultations and multinational co-operation.
"Berlin plus" was a significant step forward for a strategic partnership between NATO and the EU. This partnership now has to be brought to life in every-day operations, and we are working very hard on doing so.

When discussing future military operations the decisive question is not one of autonomous EU-led operations vs. NATO-led operations or the formula "NATO first". The question is which organisation can provide the appropriate means and is willing to become engaged. This question should be answered without preconditions. A good example for the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU are the current consultations on the transfer of the military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina from NATO to the EU. SFOR is quite a success and has created the conditions for a new type of "security presence" that requires a comprehensive approach, with the use of both military and civilian means. The EU has the necessary military and civilian means at hand. The aim is therefore to bring these two pillars to bear on the basis of "Berlin plus", with access to NATO assets and capabilities. This is an expression of a true NATO-EU strategic partnership.

Different Worlds: The Bundeswehr for Freedom in Afghanistan.
Sir, what is your view on an extensive role specialisation and on the pooling of military capabilities as well as on an extensive division of labour within NATO ?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
Today the costs of defence and the means required to successfully counter the whole spectrum of possible threats are enormous. Therefore, even economically very powerful nations can no longer develop and provide the means that are necessary to cover the full spectrum of defence tasks and maintain them in a modern and technically sophisticated state, except perhaps the United States. It is therefore mandatory to find partners, both within and outside the Alliance, that have the same interest in multinational co-operation, so that all can benefit from inherent savings options.
Basically there are two alternatives: First, to sacrifice certain national capabilities entirely, and to rely on a partner who is willing to provide his capacities as and when required. And secondly, to develop, procure and operate capabilities together with other nations.
For every single initiative to be taken, the possible savings and the consequences for national independence have to be weighed against each other. Principally we are striving for the full spectrum of means, some of which we might share and operate with our partners. A good example is the airlift capability, where the savings – compared to a purely national solution – could add up to 35 percent after the co-operation has been fully established.
In case that we have to rely completely on a partner's capabilities it is mandatory that we have assured access to them if required. This is a contentious issue, since national political, legal, economic and other constraints may exist.
In conclusion we can say that role specialisation, pooling of military capabilities, and division of labour within NATO are viable tools for effectively reducing the operating costs of military forces.

Sir, some experts express their concern that the new structure of the German Armed Forces will neglect the "collective defence" of NATO territory. What is your view on this?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
The defence of our country and collective defence within the NATO context have not been relegated to second place; rather, they have been updated to take account of the new realities. In the 21st century, stability and security will be threatened by new kinds of dangers and risks. The classic East-West confrontation between monolithic military alliances is a thing of the past. The new risks and threats are the asymmetrical risk posed by international terrorism, the dangers arising from religious extremism linked to nationalism, failing states, and also attacks on the foundations of our democratic societies. Such developments will have repercussions on our country's security, even if they take place at a great distance away from our country.
The new structure of the Bundeswehr which divides our forces into intervention, stabilisation and support forces takes the requirements for greater flexibility and mobility in the context of military crisis prevention and crisis reaction into account.

Sir, what role can conscripts play in "homeland defence" and in protecting the country, for example against terrorism?

General Wolfgang Schneiderhan:
The conscript system is based on the relationship that the citizens have with their country, as natural defenders of their country. Considering the changed security situation, it is no longer the great military threat in Europe that is challenging us; rather, it is the international terrorism that you mentioned in your question.
Under German law the fight against international terrorism is more a matter of priority for the police, but it can affect the armed forces, as well. The armed forces are therefore prepared to assist the responsible civil authorities if their assets do not suffice to deal with the situation.
In the current Bundeswehr planning concept, under the Personnel Structure Model 2010 the Bundeswehr will have a total of 55,000 conscripts. They are available for important tasks like securing the operational base of the armed forces and maintaining routine military operations. For example, conscripts play an important supporting role in the training programs for mission contingents, they provide relief for the operational forces by performing routine tasks, and they ensure the manpower-related survivability of the operational forces between the deployments.
According to the new task profile specified in the Defence Policy Guidelines, conscripts in basic military service have a key role to play in the defence of Germany and its citizens, just as the reservists do. To date we have seen many impressive examples of the contributions conscripts can make to the Bundeswehr relief efforts, such as in the case of natural disasters or in emergency situations. We certainly do not want to do without that kind of relief effort.