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German military splashes $170mn on external advisers but fresh problems keep haunting it

German military splashes $170mn on external advisers but fresh problems keep haunting it
Germany’s military pumped far more taxpayer money into expertise than any other government body this year, as the understaffed and underequipped Bundeswehr struggles with growing problems and failures.

The Defense Ministry paid €155 million (US$170mn) for “external advisory and support” in the first half of 2019, according to a request for information from the opposition Left Party and seen by DPA news agency. The hefty sum is also almost as much as all other 13 ministries spent on expertise, local media reports.

Anticipating potential backlash, the Defense Ministry tried to explain the sizeable bill, saying the bulk of that money – €109 million – went to digitization and IT services.

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Nevertheless, even that figure leaves other bodies far behind. For instance, the Interior Ministry spent only €78.7 million during the same period, while the Education Ministry was allocated a tiny €293,000 for advisers.

It remains to be seen if the increased spending will be of any help for the Bundeswehr. One of Europe’s biggest and best-trained militaries has been faced with mounting problems regarding hardware, materiel and manpower.

Just this Wednesday, the German armed forces grounded all Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters, citing technical flaws. The suspension of flights comes on the heels of two incidents involving faulty combat aircraft in the past two months, in which a total of three pilots were killed. 

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Media reports have also exposed the dire state of some branches of the military. Local media said that fighter jet pilots have to wait months or even years for their turn to fly training missions. Unsurprisingly, many Air Force officers lack adequate skills and sufficient flight hours to operate their jets safely and professionally.

In recent years, the Bundeswehr has been a steady source of news on heavy armor that breaks down, and warships that are not seaworthy.

The military has also had trouble filling key rank-and-file positions. The number of new recruits dropped from 23,000 in 2017 to 20,000 last year, a parliamentary report found in January.

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