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Facts and Findings

Stagnation instead of Growth

by Amelie Stelzner-Doğan, Patrick Taube

Why the Bundeswehr is not an attractive employer and how it can become one

The Bundeswehr must grow in terms of personnel in order to be able to meet the demands placed on it. Despite efforts, its goal of 203,000 active soldiers is a long way off. Why has the Bundeswehr so far failed to recruit and retain personnel and how can it become an attractive employer in the future and thus a guarantor of security for Germany and its allies?

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Russia's all-out war of aggression against Ukraine since February 2022 has turned the security policy environment of Germany and its allies upside down. Peace in Europe can no longer be taken for granted but must be defended, if necessary, by military means. Consequently, the Bundestag (with the votes of the governing coalition and the CDU/CSU parliamentary group) has made the necessary funds available in the form of the Bundeswehr Special Fund to restore the Bundeswehr and equip it for modern threats. However, once the large-scale procurements financed by the special fund, such as the F35 fighter jet, are in the backyard, the troops will lack sufficient personnel to fulfil the missions formulated for them in the recently published National Security Strategy.

 For years, the Bundeswehr has found recruiting young people for the force difficult. Despite the so-called "personnel, material and finance" turnaround of 2016, which was proclaimed by the then Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen after Russia's attack on eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014, little changed in the personnel body. The Bundeswehr did manage a small increase in military personnel to 183,000 active soldiers, which has remained constant in recent years. However, this number is still far from the target of 203,000. Moreover, the number of personnel in the armed forces even shrank during the past months to 180,770 in June. 

The Bundeswehr can by no means be accused of a lack of ambition in recruiting personnel, but the profession of soldier remains unique in its nature, mission, and the danger that comes with the job. Given the demographic change, the Bundeswehr must compete with civilian employers for young minds. To this end, the Bundeswehr must offer its personnel appropriate remuneration as well as options for a good balance between professional and personal interests.

Furthermore, a social year could, on the one hand, introduce young people to the armed forces, while at the same time integrating the Bundeswehr more strongly into society and also opening up the prospect of a career in the Bundeswehr to more people.

Read the full title: „Stagnation instead of Growth - Why the Bundeswehr is not an attractive employer and how it can become one“ here as a PDF.


Please note, to date the paper is only available in German.

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The series informs in a concentrated form about important positions of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung on current topics. The individual issues present key findings and recommendations, offer brief analyses, explain the Foundation's further plans and name KAS contact persons.


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