2012/05/26

Rank inflation in the Bundeswehr

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The political leadership of the Bundeswehr wasn't convincing since, well, since the end of the 80's.

One of the symptoms of this is the personnel system mess in the Bundeswehr - "too many chieftains and not enough Indians", as it's usually called.


The government doesn't raise the pay appropriately and doesn't make service attractive, so the only way out for recruiting and retaining was to promote many soldiers to higher ranks.

Back in the 80's a tank driver was an enlisted conscript, now he's rather a junior NCO.
Back in the 80's a Feldwebel (lowest senior NCO rank) was respected for his training and experience - nowadays you first need to get to know him, for he could be anything from useless to competent. Staffs are huge, too.

One of the reasons for rank inflation at high levels (among professional officers) is likely NATO; you cannot send an NCO pilot to a staff where his colleagues with comparable qualification are ranked major or more. Certain positions de facto require a certain quantity of stars or a certain officer rank, so the Bundeswehr provides this rank (and doesn't do so only temporarily).

Multiple rounds of cutting the personnel size of the Bundeswehr affected mostly the short-serving soldiers of low ranks, while the professional and long-term volunteer soldiers were not cut away. Nowadays there's no useful balance between "chieftains and Indians" any more.

Global Observer has figures about the planned new Bundeswehr structure:


18.31% officers
32.94% senior NCOs
19.73% junior NCOs
29.02% enlisted personnel

71% "chieftains"!

Everybody knows that this sucks, and everybody knows that this is the result of a bureaucracy following its momentum, not a result of deliberations about how to be able to expand the forces quickly if the need arises.
Those junior NCOs are effectively glorified enlisted personnel. The phenomenon known as "Neckermann Stuffz"* (a soldier who has the second junior NCO rank already on day one of his basic training) has been known since the mid-90's at the latest.

This rank inflation erodes confidence in superiors, confidence in subordinates and is generally an example of how corrupting language harms overall communication.


I consider the cutting of the Gordian rank inflation knot as the litmus test for a good minister of defence; every really good minister of defence would cut it. The others only administrate the misery.


S Ortmann

*: Neckermann is a mail order retail company.
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4 comments:

  1. I consider the cutting of the Gordian rank inflation knot as the litmus test for a good minister of defence

    Good luck with that. I think that the only cure for rank inflation is a war-- there is a lot of pressure to get rid of the deadwood and promote solely on ability.

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    1. During medieval times an captain was someone who got elected by the troops. During later wars bad officers where simply very likely to get eliminated even by their own subordinates. Those where the mechanisms which after some muddling ensured the proper level of responsibility and competence. And to day? The worst this which can happen to a bad officer is premature dismissal with retained rank and full pension rights. Any punishment at all. Quite the contrary. The only european army where you can still get properly sacked, which I'm aware of is the russian one. And it shows. Even during the uttermost economic disaster they where still able to win some wars, where in comparable situations the NATO fails again and again. Heck - last time the caucasian army spanked an nato controlled shop in just 18 hours pretty badly. The best was the reward for the corresponding leaders shown on russian news. It was just a hand by the russian president. Nothing more. No medals for just doing the job properly.

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  2. The european armies in general are already a complete joke. I consider them to be just a kind of social service. It's no accident they are loosing one war after another agains opponents which should in fact be ridiculed about. However there is in my opinion only one way for proper cutting the rank inflation problem: a true war. The average lifespan of a red army lieutenant was just 16 days during WWII, which was several times less then for a common soldier. OK. I'm not quite serious here....

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  3. One reason to inflate the upper ranks is to allow for a more rapid expansion of your military.

    I assume that is not what is happening here.

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