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Germany Table of Contents


The Armed Forces

Command and Control

Under the Basic Law, the federal minister of defense commands the Bundeswehr in peacetime, but that official relinquishes this role to the federal chancellor in the event of a "state of defense," that is, an outbreak of hostilities. The Ministry of Defense is traditionally headed by a civilian and assisted by two parliamentary state secretaries and two state secretaries. There are six nonmilitary divisions staffed primarily by civilians--personnel; budget; administrative and legal affairs; quartermaster, real estate, and construction; social services; and armaments. The military side of the ministry is composed of five military staffs--the armed forces office, army, navy, air force, and surgeon general (see fig. 14).

The top military position is that of General Inspekteur of the armed forces, an individual who is roughly equivalent to the United States chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The General Inspekteur is the supreme military representative of the Bundeswehr and military adviser to the minister of defense. The General Inspekteur 's planning responsibilities require him to develop overall concepts governing the structure, organization, command and control, equipment, and training of the Bundeswehr. The General Inspekteur also represents the Bundeswehr in international bodies. However, he is not part of the chain of operational command between the minister and the chief of staff ("inspector") of each branch of the armed forces.

The Bundeswehr has no general staff. Because of its tainted history and condemnation at the Nuremberg trials, that particular structure was omitted when the Bundeswehr was being planned. Non-NATO joint planning is conducted by representatives from the Bundeswehr and the service general staffs under the overall supervision of the Bundeswehr's Operations Directorate. The staffs of the army, air force, and navy are responsible for the operational readiness of their respective force components. They are involved in the coordination and approval processes of NATO plans for the defense of German territory but do not undertake operational wartime planning. Because Germany will relinquish operational command over its combat units--together with certain formations of its territorial army--in the event of war, there is little requirement for independent German war plans.

In passing the annual budget law, the Bundestag determines the number of military and civil personnel to be employed in the defense sector, sets out the basic features of the Bundes-wehr organization, and authorizes the financing of specific sums for defense. Parliament also decides other important aspects of defense policy, such as the duration of conscription. Before forces can be committed to military action, parliament must determine in accordance with Article 80a of the Basic Law that a state of tension exists or in accordance with Article 115a that a state of defense exists. If parliament cannot be convened on time, the twenty-two-member Joint Committee, with the president of the Bundestag presiding, acts on its behalf.

Many Bundestag committees also exercise some controlling functions over the Bundeswehr. The twenty-seven-member Defense Committee focuses on defense and security policy but can also function as an investigating committee.

Data as of August 1995