2014/09/29

The current MoD crisis in Germany

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The current German Minister of defence is under rhetoric fire after the press paid attention to the (embarrassing) state of operational readiness of big ticket items such as fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The issues are long-known and many smaller embarrassments don't get much attention.

The latter is a pity, for those smaller embarrassments do reveal that the problem isn't the overall MoD budget ("Einzelplan 14"). A well-documented example was the neglect of mortars; the tubes were considered unsafe due to poor documentation of practice firings and it took almost a decade to procure some military off-the shelf replacement barrels (should have been possible within one year even at a leisurely pace).

The Bundeswehr/MoD also embarked on useless procurement projects such as the 3rd EGV (auxiliary support ship), the useless corvettes or the colonial patrol cruiser without colonies, the F125 frigate class - all while the very same money could have fixed a great many equipment shortages.
Some -especially helicopter- readiness shortages are the consequence of teething problems which in turn are the results of insisting on a domestic development and procurement even though a license production could have met the actual requirements decades earlier, and cheaper.

I'm perfectly "unimpressed" by the current head of the MoD, but there's no way how these shortcomings can be blamed on the current office holder. The pattern goes back decades. In fact, the MoD and its then-minister already messed up the creation of the West German military in the late 50's and early 60's. Utterly wrong vehicle choices such as HS30 and F-104G were paired with an impressive ineptitude at procuring and distributing enough spare parts and ammunition well into the 60's.
This may sound harsh, but the Leopard 2 was probably the ever big ticket item the German MoD got right (the Type 206 sub class was preceded by a string of utter failures).*
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The MoD deserves trouble for its string of failures, but the current blame game is opportunistic. The firing of the procurement agency's head by the minister is opportunistic as well:
That agency should have been humiliated, disbanded and razed to the ground as a warning for other failing bureaucracies** - with all non-engineer employees ever blacklisted for every federal procurement tasks in the future. But this should have been done long ago already.
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Finally, there's another annoying aspect of the current political affair:  The usual suspects seize the opportunity to call for a bigger budget, implying that wasting more money will somehow improve the situation. To give more money to a wasteful bureaucracy only encourages it to produce more and to complain about more shortcomings.

A common complain is that somehow NATO requirements are not being met, or commitments to NATO cannot be met.
The correct answer to this is "So what? Who cares?"

A man needs to obey a minister's decree. More important is a more specific minister's decree. Both draw their power exclusively from the law (enacted by the legislative branch) which empowers the minister to issue the decrees in the first place. So laws are ranked higher than decrees. More specific laws rank even higher. Constitutional articles (created or modified by an even more demanding legislative effort) are more powerful. More specific constitutional articles overrule some others, though.

Now where's a minister's "commitment" in this ranking?
Nowhere. An elevator boy could have said it, and it would be as forceful.

Now remember that in all democracies the legislative branch holds the budget power. So even a "commitment" in shape of a law would be overridden by the next budget law, which includes the next Einzelplan 14.

So again; there's perfectly no reason to care about what some NATO representative says about our commitments, and even a letter of intent or promise of our minister doesn't carry any weight in face of the power of a budget law. This is the rule of law and separation of powers.

The 'more military spending!' clique only pretends that such commitments hold power, since these play into their cards. And of course do minister like to make promises, but then they cannot keep them because it's the legislative branch that holds the budget power. The ministers like to point out those fake commitments to the legislative branch, but again and again said legislative branch doesn't give a shit about fake commitments and dictates a modest military budget.

The actual treaty commitments of the North Atlantic Treaty are different; they have the force of a law. Yet this treaty says absolutely nothing about us needing to have only a single operational naval helicopter or whatever. I've read the treaty multiple times; most people would be astonished by what the treaty members actually committed to, and what not.
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As usual, I don't think that the German press gets the critique of the MoD and the Bundeswehr right. The current affair was predictable, includes hardly any news, is being exploited by the usual suspects and will no doubt be very short-lived. 
Maybe the minister simply pissed some journalists off during the visit to Iraq and is merely getting some payback. The affair may also be interpreted as backlash against the new rather aggressive and militarised foreign policy which includes direct weapons shipments and training to Iraqi Kurds as well as a while ago a concerted effort for a 'debate' on security policy which was obviously aimed at getting us into more conflicts.
This affair will most likely not contribute to substantial, long-lived improvements.

S O

*: Gepard, Roland and Fuchs are debatable. The Luftwaffe reliably purchased the wrong planes. The navy got is somewhat right with its mine countermeasures and bought some capable light submarines after major mistakes, but its surface ships were never impressive. The F122 ASW frigates were probably the best surface combatants, but they were an adapted Dutch design (Kortenaer).
**: This may sound harsh, but it's not driven by emotion (only). I am convinced that the collective instincts of bureaucracies include the pursuit of appreciation and respect, not only maximised budget, leadership positions and powers. A proper warning shot and deterrence of other bureaucracies that gets them in line to serve the people instead of only themselves should include (cheap!) humiliation in order to exploit this preference for approval and respect.
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Zur derzeitigen Krise im BMVg

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Das derzeitige Skandälchen um die Einsatzbereitschaft von Fahrzeugen der Bundeswehr behandelt meines Wissens nach nur bereits länger bekannte und existente Probleme. Viele kleine Peinlichkeiten bekommen dabei keine Aufmerksamkeit.

Das Letztere ist bedauernswert, denn diese kleineren Peinlichkeiten legen offen, dass das Problem nicht die Höhe des Haushaltes an sich ist. Ein sehr gut dokumentiertes Beispiel war die Mörserkrise der 90er Jahre, welche mit wenig Geld und mit einem simplen Kaufvorgang hätte gelöst werden können - aber annähernd ein Jahrzehnt dauerte.

BMVg/Bundeswehr haben auch einige klar verschwenderische Großprojekte wie den 3. Einsatzgruppenversorger (= großteils eine Werftsubvention), die nutzlosen Korvetten und die F125er - koloniale Patroullienkreuzer ohne Kolonien. Die entsprechenden Budgets hätten  genügt, um weitverbreitete Mängel dutzendweise abzustellen.
Einige Mängel der Einsatzbereitschaft - insbesondere bei Hubschraubern - sind die Konsequenz von Kinderkrankheiten und Entwicklungsverzögerungen bei Entwicklungsprojekten, die anstelle simpler Lizenzproduktionen durchgeführt wurden. Der Bedarf an modernen Hubschraubern hätte schon Ende der 1980er mit etablierten Mustern für weit weniger Geld gedeckt werden können.

Ich persönlich bin vollständig "unbeeindruckt" von der derzeitigen Führung des BMVg, aber die Mängelliste aus diesem Skandal kann schwerlich nur oder hauptsächlich ihr zur Last gelegt werden. Das Muster reicht Jahrzehnte weit zurück.
Das BMVg und der damalige Minister haben bereits die Aufstellung der Bundeswehr in den späten 50ern und frühen 60ern verbockt. Es wurden völlig falsche Plattformen (HS30, F-104G) angeschafft und gleichzeitig eine erstaunliche Inkompetenz bei der Beschaffung und Verteilung von Ersatzteilen und Munition demonstriert. Es mag harsch klingen, doch der Leopard 2 ist vielleicht das einzige wirklich erfolgreiche Großprojekt des BMVg* (die Typ 206 Uboote folgten einer Reihe fürchterlicher Pleiten).

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Das BMVg verdient Ärger für sein Versagen in Serie, doch das derzeitige Zuschieben des schwarzen Peters ist blanker Opportunismus. Ebenso opportunistisch ist das Bauernopfer des Leiters des Beschaffungswesens.

Das Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung hätte schon vor langer Zeit gedemütigt, aufgelöst und abgerissen werden sollen als Warnung für andere versagende Bürokratien.** Alles nichttechnische Personal sollte dabei auf eine schwarze Liste gesetzt werden und nie wieder für irgendeine Beschaffung des Bundes zu tun haben dürfen. Doch dies hätte schon vor langer Zeit geschehen sollen - nicht erst auf Druck der Presse
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Und schließlich gibt es noch einen äußerst  ärgerlichen Aspekt des Skandälchens: Die üblichen Verdächtigen nutzen die Gelegenheit für den Ruf nach einem größeren Budget für die Bundeswehr (Einzelplan 14). Sie implizieren dabei, dass mehr Geld zu verschwenden irgendwie die Situation verbessern würde. Doch einer verschwenderischen Bürokratie ein größeres Budget zu geben verleitet sie nur dazu, weitere Unzulänglichkeiten zu provozieren und dann lauthals nach noch mehr Geld zu rufen.

Ein diese Tage häufig zu lesender Vorwurf ist auch, dass irgendwie irgendwelche NATO Anforderungen nicht erfüllt würden, oder dass Zusagen an die NATO nicht eingehalten würden.
Die beste Antwort hierauf lautet "Na und? Wen interessiert's?"

Wir müssen eines Minister's Verordnung befolgen. Wichtiger ist jedoch eine noch speziellere relevante ministeriale Verordnung. Doch beide beziehen ihre Macht ausschließlich aus einem Gesetz (von der Legislative verabschiedet), das den Minister überhaupt erst zur Schaffung oder Änderung einer Verordnung authorisiert. Gesetze sind also höherrangiger als Verordnungen. Speziellere Gesetze übersteuern dabei die Allgemeineren. Verfassungsparagraphen stehen noch über allen Gesetzen, und authorisieren oftmals überhaupt erst Ausnahmen von sich selbst in Gesetzen ('Alles Nähere regelt ein Bundesgesetz.'). Die spezielleren Verfassungsparagraphen übersteuern dabei die Allgemeineren.

Nun, wo steht eines Minister's Zusage oder eine Anforderung durch die NATO in dieser Rangliste?
Nirgends. Ein Zeitungsausträger könnte Unsinn reden, und es wäre ebenso gewichtig.

Nun möge man sich erinnern; in allen Demokratien hat die Legislative (der Gesetzgeber, hier; der Bundestag) das Budgetrecht. Sogar ein Gesetz zu Zusagen über Militärausgaben würde also vom nächsten Haushaltsplan übersteuert, wenn dieser präzisiert in Einzeltitel den nächsten Einzelplan 14 vorgibt.

Also nochmal; es gibt absolut keinen Grund, Anforderungen der NATO oder auch Willensbekundungen unserer Minister irgendetwas zu geben; sie sind belanglos angesichts der faktischen Macht des Haushaltsplanes. Ob der Minister der NATO Bürokratie  bestimmte Zusagen für kommende Haushalte macht oder ob ich diese mache ist rechtlich exakt gleich nicht bindend.
So läuft das mit dem Rechtsstaat und der Gewaltentrennung. Minister haben sich an Gesetze zu halten und ihre Macht reicht bei weitem nicht bis in die Kompetenzen des Parlaments hinein.

Die 'mehr Militärausgaben!' Fraktion tut natürlich so, als wären irgendwelche belanglose Zusagen äußerst gewichtig und unbedingt einzuhalten, da ihnen dies in die Karten spielt. Und natürlich machen Minister gerne Zusagen, die sie dann dem Gesetzgeber (bzw. dem den Haushaltsplan entwerfenden Finanzministerium) vorhalten können. Schließlich wollen sie mehr Budget für sich herausholen - für eigenes Prestige und Spielereien. Doch wieder und wieder interessiert sich der Gesetzgeber nicht für dieses Gehabe und gibt wiederum nur einen gemäßigten Einzelplan 14 vor.

Die tatsächlichen Verpflichtungen aus dem Nordatlantikvertrag sind eine andere Geschichte; sie haben die Kraft eines Gesetzes, da der Vertrag ratifiziert wurde. Doch dieser Vertrag sagt überhaupt nichts darüber aus, wieviele einsatzbereite Bordhubschrauber die Bundeswehr haben muss, oder Ähnliches. Ich weiß es, denn ich habe den Vertrag mehrfach gelesen. Die meisten Leute wären erstaunt, was für Verpflichtungen dieser Vertrag tatsächlich enthält, und welche alle nicht.
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Wie üblich halte ich wenig davon, wie in der Presse Bundeswehr und BMVg behandelt bzw. kritisiert werden. Dieses Skandälchen war vorhersehbar, brachte kaum Neues zu Tage, wird von den üblichen Verdächtigen ausgenutzt und wird ohne Zweifel nicht lange in den Schlagzeilen bleiben.

Vielleicht sind bloß einige Journalisten auf dem Trip in den Irak eingeschnappt gewesen und zahlen es jetzt zurück. Man kann den Presserummel auch als Gegenschlag gegen die vergleichsweise aggressive und militarisierte neue Außenpolitik werten; immerhin liefern wir Waffen direkt an die im Krieg befindlichen Peschmerga und bilden ihre Kämpfer auch direkt aus. Es gab zudem vor einigen Wochen eine konzertierte Aktion, um eine neue 'Debatte' zur Sicherheitspolitik anzustoßen, offensichtlich mit der Absicht, uns in Zukunft in mehr Konflikte hineinziehen zu können. Auch das mag einen journalistisch-politischen Gegenschlag provoziert haben.

Erhebliche und nachhaltige Verbesserungen der Misswirtschaft werden wohl kaum eine Folge dieses Presserummels sein.

S O

*: Gepard, Roland and Fuchs are debatable. The Luftwaffe reliably purchased the wrong planes. The navy got is somewhat right with its mine countermeasures and bought some capable light submarines after major mistakes, but its surface ships were never impressive. The F122 ASW frigates were probably its best surface combatants, but they were an adapted Dutch design (Kortenaer).
**: This may sound harsh, but it's not driven by emotion (only). I am convinced that the collective instincts of bureaucracies include the pursuit of appreciation and respect, not only maximised budget, leadership positions and powers. A proper warning shot and deterrence of other bureaucracies that gets them in line to serve the people instead of only themselves should include (cheap!) humiliation in order to exploit this preference for approval and respect.
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John Oliver on drone strikes

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2014/09/27

Physics detail: IR wavelength and glass

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I believe I did mention sometime that normal glass isn't suitable for infrared sensors, and thus damage to such sensors' glass cover may be a huge spare parts problem in wartime.


This is indeed correct, and it's the reason why you can see with a thermal camera how well or badly your windows insulate a home thermally.


There are special glasses for IR sensors and other applications which require a high IR transmissivity, but they are not common and not used in armoured glass. It makes generally little sense to armour a transparent sensor cover, for (except in some freak version of polyurethane polycarbonate) stopped ballistic objects tend to cause enough damage to distort the vision unacceptably.

This kind of commander independent thermal viewer (rotatable IR sensor) on top of tanks may thus easily turn out to be largely useless in closed terrain, where all hostile infantry and stragglers take a harassing shot at it (if taught about this vulnerability):


The ability to cover the sensor with a movable bulletproof cover when it's not needed may help a lot (similar to the slotted window covers of old APCs and half-tracks), but the only real solution to the issue (and similar issues) is to have plenty spare parts (not only in depots, but also in the unit and the vehicle). The ability to replace a damaged window quickly or even under armour protection (as it's done with the panoramic view mirror modules or the cupolas and driver position) would be very useful.

This applies as well to the new kind of APC, which uses large windows (due to improvements in armoured composite glasses) instead of the traditional panoramic mirrors for the driver and other crew members/passengers. This approach is popular for MRAPs, blue helmet APCs and generally APCs not meant for the thickest of fights.

Windows are similar to tires; vulnerable to bullets and in need of a good spare parts reserve and supply.


This is an example of the not-totally-obvious issues* an armed bureaucracy faces if it serves the public. 

The bureaucracy's self-interest isn't in building up large stocks of spares, particularly not if no previous painful experience has pointed out the need for this (because of the spare being part of an innovation). War reserve stocks of ammunitions are painfully low and were painfully low in many countries (the Soviets/Russians addressed this by keeping ancient ammunition in stock until they sold out to client states, with respective dud rates).

This identifies a spot where the self-interest doesn't necessarily push the bureaucracy into doing the right thing, and hence this spot would be a good one for civilian oversight. Methods of oversight may include freedom of information requests (which might be answered on such topics at least in some countries) and similar more powerful parliamentary requests for information.
You may end up having a gazillion bucks military failing to do its trick for more than four days if no such oversight is forced on it.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: Similar to the discarding sabot issue with IFV autocannons which I mentioned earlier and the unprotected and thus often-perforated bore evacuators on M1A2 Abrams tanks in 2003/2004.
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2014/09/26

They probably think their taxpayers are stupid

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new development project: "MUTT"

In service generations ago already, considered obsolete: "mule"

The concept is the same. To have a tiny 4x4 vehicle to carry backpacks and stuff in order to lighten the infantry's load (or alternatively to move a crew-served weapon such as a ATGM launcher or a recoilless gun).
There is almost no reason to believe the new thing will be substantially better than the old one, but delay and development expenses are still deemed acceptable.
This isn't a "not invented here" problem; it's a "not invented by this generation" problem.

They could buy ATVs off the shelf, paint them with 8 $ spray cans and would have a 99.9% solution. It might use petrol instead of diesel, but such tiny amounts of petrol can locally be sourced even in the Sahara desert.

On another note, the United States Marketing Corps continues with its racket.


Some bureaucracies have spun out of control, and are only following their self-interest with a very different idea of efficiency than what taxpayers would expect. Overseers need to reign in and bring these bureaucracies back on a society-serving course, or the waste of resources will go on well above unavoidable levels. There's no reason to believe the bureaucracies' whining about budget cuts as long as they keep wasting taxpayer money. This is a near-universal point, applicable well beyond the examples above.

S O
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2014/09/25

Police use of firearms in Germany

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There was a very popular and successful German television crime show in Germany, Derrick. 281 episodes in almost 25 years, broadcasted in about 100 countries. The lead character was always portrayed by the same actor, and this lead character fired a total of about five shots with his handgun on people over the course of a quarter century.

This by almost all crime shows' standards extraordinarily non-violent manners were actually a drastic exaggeration of police violence in Germany - even more so compared to today's real world standards!

The actual use of firearms by almost a quarter million of German policemen, policing 80 million inhabitants of Germany, was much less.

Year 2013 German police statistics:
100 shots fired in context of persons, of which 41 were warning shots and 17 were aimed at material.
This leaves a grand total of 42 shots fired on people. This killed eight people and wounded 20. 38 were fired in an emergency situation, 4 were fired when a suspect attempted to flee (not hits).


42 shots fired on people in a year, among 80 million inhabitants. 
(German police hardly carries tasers or other electro shock tools!)

This statistic is not a one-off. We've had similar results for years (see same link or here for 2012).


Germans love when we've organised a problem down to a minimum, and no matter how uncomfortable it's to be on the receiving end of a submission technique applied by a police(wo)man, our society no doubt did organise (train) lethal violence by police(wo)men down to a minimum. This is something the nation can be proud of.

S O
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2014/09/23

What education does to you

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I recently watched a video of a beauty pageant being asked the question

"Government tracking of phone records has been in the news lately. Is this an invasion of privacy or necessary to keep our country safe?"

Frankly, I cannot really imagine being asked this - as a beauty pageant, that is. Still, I felt a challenge and wanted to know if I could come up with a quick, fine answer. And this was the moment when my education kicked in, in full force:
What I came up within a few seconds was approx. this:

The bureaucrats who do this are following their bureaucracy's instinct to grow in budget, power and abilities as much as possible. The bureaucracy serves itself, not the people. Without external supervision and control they will continue on this path till the expenses and damages done are about as great as the benefits, and the bureaucracy needs to stop its expansion to avoid repercussions.
Stern oversight would be necessary, which politicians are supposed to provide. Yet politicians don't serve the people either; they serve themselves. They, too, are subject to the principal-agent problem in which we the people -being the principal- have a servant or agent with its own will who doesn't serve us the way we want it. We should thus bypass this principal-agent problem and decide in a plebiscite whether we're fine with this government activity or not.
The answer whether said activity is a good or bad thing is a personal one, rooted in our preferences which the bureaucrats and politicians know only approximately. Only the people as a group can give the conclusive answer; in a vote.

So under some self-inflicted time pressure I came up with a logical thread of argument from the original question to a conclusion which at the same time is a solution. This wouldn't have been possible without education; I would have expressed my personal preferences only if I hadn't said education.
I made use of 
(a) The budget-optimising model of a bureaucracy / Niskanen's bureaucrat
(b) The principal-agent problem
(c) the economic concept of preferences and decision-making
(d) plenty mid-20th century econ and psychology research results lingering in the background

Sure, those are some of my favourite concepts (all of which I mentioned here before), but the question was at my core interests as well. Other learned concepts would be applicable to different questions.

I suppose once you have it (higher education) it's fairly easy to see what it's good for. It provides you with mental tools and training in their use.
I have no doubts that the link between studying on a university for a degree and an officer career in the Bundeswehr makes sense. Historical and foreign examples of officers without higher education revealed intellectual shortcomings which such higher education largely prevents.* Psychology and economics are likely more helpful than engineering or medical studies in this regard, though.

S O

*: Just one reference; Van Creveld's "The Sword and the Olive", in which he writes about the IDF's history and change over time, including how they, too, felt that more education for officers was necessary. Their current generation of top politicians includes many relatively uneducated former war hero-generals such as Scharon.
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