2014/09/29

The current MoD crisis in Germany

.
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).*
________________

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.
________________

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 complaint 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 ministers 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.
________________

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.
.

No comments:

Post a comment