German Defense Minister Guttenberg favors a plan to reform the army by halving the number of ground troops and battle tanks, SPIEGEL has learned. His ministry is due to present a reform plan in autumn in a bid to cut costs and boost the army's effectiveness.
Germany's ground forces would be almost halved under a reform plan favored by Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, SPIEGEL has learned.
An internal paper suggests cutting the army from 95,000 soldiers to 54,558. The number of battle tanks would also be reduced by almost half. The strength of the infantry would remain almost unchanged at around 10,000 troops.
Critics say the reform plan won't improve the situation of German infantry soldiers on foreign missions, who are being worn down by the high frequency of missions and insufficient rest and recuperation time. Germany is currently the third-biggest international troop provider in Afghanistan with more than 4,000 soldiers stationed there.
The government decided in June to radically downsize the German army as part of its austerity program. The Defense Ministry is currently reviewing a number of different reform plans aimed at modernizing the army and improving its ability to conduct military missions abroad. The ministry is expected to submit its proposal in the autumn.
The reforms have led to a debate about whether Germany should end conscription. The pro-business Free Democratic Party, the junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in the center-right coalition government, is calling for conscription to be abolished.
But the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) fear a grassroots rebellion in their parties, where many see conscription as a valuable tool to anchor the army in society.