Guttenberg's five proposals


The German Minister of Defence v.Guttenberg has offered five proposals in the discussion about the conscription. He's expected to face the most resistance from his own party (the Bavarian CSU) - in part because of party politics (he's a rising star of the party and a threat to its chairman) and in part due to the dogmatic pro-conscription stance of the CDU/CSU.

Said conscription has turned into a farce because only a few ten thousand young men serve annually - and only so for six months due to the influence of the anti-conscription junior federal government coalition party (FDP, liberals).

Here are Guttenberg's five proposals:

Modell eins sieht einen Gesamtumfang von 205.000 Soldaten vor. Die Zahl der Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten wird in zwei Schritten bis 2012 auf 155.000 reduziert. Es bleibt bei 25.000 Grundwehrdienstleistenden W6 und 25.000 FWDL.
Modell zwei wäre die Radikalverkleinerung in drei Schritten bis 2013 auf 150.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten. Keine Wehrpflichtigen, keine Kurzdiener. Die Einberufungen enden 2011.
Modell drei: Ebenfalls vom kommenden Jahr an keine Einberufungen mehr, Abschmelzen in sechs Schritten bis 2016 auf 156.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten.
Modell vier: 156.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten (in sechs Schritten bis 2016) plus Freiwilligenkomponente von 7500 Kurzdienern. Guttenberg hat bereits deutlich gemacht, dass er sich auch vorstellen könne, diese Komponente auf bis zu 15.000 aufzustocken, wenn das Parlament das wünsche – ein Hinweis mit Appellcharakter an den Haushaltsausschuss.
Modell fünf mit insgesamt 210.000 Mann ähnelt Modell eins: 180.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten plus 30.000 Grundwehrdienstleistende. Hier kursiert die Bewertung, dieser Ansatz wäre um zwei Milliarden Euro teurer als Modell 4.
(source: FAZ)


Model one envisions a total strength of 205,000 soldiers. The count of professional and volunteer soldiers will be reduced in two steps to 155,000 till 2012. It remains at 25,000 conscripts W6 (six months) and 25,000 extended term conscripts (conscripts who volunteered toe extend their service to up to 23 months).
Model two would be a radical shrinking in three steps  till 2013 down to 150,000 professional and volunteer soldiers. No conscripts, no short-service soldiers. The Bundeswehr would stop calling  conscripts in 2011.
Model three: Likewise no calls of conscripts beginning in 2011, reduction in six steps till 2016 down to 156,000 professional and volunteer soldiers.
Model four: 156,000 professional and volunteer soldiers (in six steps till 2016) plus volunteer component of 7,500 short service soldiers. Guttenberg has already expressed that he could expand this to 15,000 if the parliament wants it - a hint at the treasury committee.
Model five with a total of 210,000 men resembles model one: 180,000 professional and volunteer soldiers plus 30,000 conscripts. This is rumoured to be two billion Euros more expensive than model four.

(Explanation: I called those volunteers who volunteered for four (enlisted), eight (junior NCOs) or twelve  (junior officers) years. "Professional soldiers" was my translation for those NCOs and officers who either stayed in the Bundeswehr after that volunteer period or joined afterwards with needed civilian skills (such as doctors) - these continue to serve till retirement.)

It's big news that a debate about the Bundeswehr has made it into the first slot of evening TV news. Such discussions are rather rare.

The five models don't look promising, and it's most likely a waste of time to discuss them in detail for lack of detail and because they're just starting points for a discussion that's expected to last for months because Chancellor Merkel is incapable of quick decision-making (she prefers to play party politics instead of addressing issues).

The savings will likely be disappointing (model five's description already hints at it) and the impact on force structure may very well be disadvantageous. There was an expectation that new infantry units if not formations would be raised/reactivated because the parallel overseas missions have exposed the lack of light troops. This is extremely unlikely to happen in all five models.

I personally don't oppose all personnel or budget cuts for the Bundeswehr or frequent structural reforms.
Instead I'm all for doing it right: Cut the fat, reorganise to an efficient force optimised for its constitutional mission with the very low medium term level of threat and very strong alliances in mind. I fail to recognise this in the whole discussion.



  1. I absolutely agree with your argumentation. But I am quite curious about what mean by "very strong alliances" in this post? Are you referring to your recent proposal for integrating most German brigades in multinational corps? Why do you want to keep these institutions in times of budget cuts? Aren't they rather inefficient fighting units because of too much bureaucracy?

  2. North Atlantic Treaty, Lisbon Tretay

  3. Yes that's obvious. What I meant was wether your emphasis on alliance orientated thinking has any influence on the future structure of the Bundeswehr. Not long ago you posted about keeping German brigades integrated in multinational corps established according to some European internal agreements. You also suggested to dissolve ineffecient strucutures. The first thing that crosses my mind in this context are those mixed units. Aren't they just European politics of symbolism? Creating standards in training, communications and equipment would be much more useful IMHO.

  4. Multinational corps with national brigades make sense because they give smaller allies such as Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark the opportunity to develop and retain the ability to run a Corps HQ. Their operational thinking could atrophy without it because their armies aren't large enough to form an own corps. I expect such allies to build up one or two national Corps in a force expansion phase if the alliance defence requires larger forces than today.

    A multinational brigade on the other hand (tactical level) is symbolic policy-driven nonsense. This is acceptable as a project to exchange some know-how and it may work in combat service support, but it's utterly pointless as a real combat formation. The cohesion and friction unnecessarily bad in such multinational formations.

    I disagree with you on standardising training in the alliance. This may have benefits in air forces and navies, but it's too disadvantageous in armies. Let them compete instead. Free-play brigade exercises (real ones, not computer sims) can reveal weaknesses and force the losers to improve.
    Training standardisation would be a design by committee and strangle innovation.

  5. Didn't thought of it this way. Thanks for the answers and keep going! Looking forward to your book...

  6. As a Libertarian, who lives on an island, Im lucky enough to get the reality to meet the theory in the UK not needing conscripts.

    If the UK wasnt protected by the sea, I could see an advantage in putting every male, or even every adult, through a basic infantry course.

    But thats not what Germany is doing, its nabbing a few thousand unluky individuals for a few months, which makes no sense.