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Under the revised military structure introduced in 1992, the Bundeswehr will become increasingly dependent on the rapid mobilization of reserves to bring both the main combat brigades and the support units up to authorized strengths in an emergency. In early 1995, the reserves of former service members (enlisted to age forty-five; officers and NCOs to age sixty) numbered about 441,900, of whom 358,000 would report to the army, 10,900 to the navy, and 73,000 to the air force. Some 50 percent of the army's main weapons systems depend for their operation on staffing by reservists.

After discharge, former soldiers are liable for reserve service until age forty-five, or until age sixty in time of war. Officers and NCOs are subject to recall until age sixty. Reservists can be called up for one fifteen-day period of training a year and for any number of call-ups of up to three days in emergencies. The average reserve unit assembles once every two years. Reservists with crucial skills tend to be called up more frequently; less-skilled reservists or those in less vital units may not be called up at all. The number of call-ups is determined in the annual defense budget in terms of reserve slots, each slot equivalent to 365 duty days. A total of 4,000 reserve slots were authorized in 1993, which permitted about 100,000 individual call-ups. By contrast, 35,000 slots were authorized per year during the early 1980s.


The deep reductions in the first half of the 1990s in the size of the active Bundeswehr and the accompanying deactivation and consolidation of units, together with base closings and personnel transfers, have placed serious strains on the morale of the armed forces. Previously, an NCO could expect to pass almost his entire career at a single post, usually in or near his hometown. In the restructured army, many senior NCOs have been reassigned to distant parts of Germany; serious disruptions of family often have been the result. Garrison housing is likely to be unavailable, and affordable housing may be difficult to find off post. In many cases, wives must give up jobs that provide a much-needed second income. Frequently, NCOs prefer to commute long distances to their new posts or simply to live apart from their families. Assignment to eastern Germany, where there is a strong need for NCO cadres, can be especially burdensome because of poor living conditions there.

The decline in popular support for the Bundeswehr further undermines the morale of service personnel. According to a poll taken in mid-1992, only 47 percent of Germans were convinced that the country needed armed forces, down from 75 percent in 1984. A similar spirit has pervaded the ranks of conscripts and young soldiers who accept military training rather than the alternative of civilian service. Pacifist and church organizations have counseled young Germans on seeking conscientious objector status, and in 1991 the number of conscientious objectors was roughly equal to the number of draftees. A vocal peace movement has also influenced many civilians to reject the company of military professionals. Soldiers often avoid wearing their uniforms in public to escape unfriendly comments or treatment.

NCOs complain that it is difficult to instill discipline and impose a strict training regimen on indifferent conscripts who, in the changed international atmosphere, never expect to be faced with an actual military contingency. Conscripts expend minimal effort during their months of military training, living mainly for weekends with their families. Conscripts generally are garrisoned close to home; some can even commute on a daily basis, treating military service as little different from a factory or office job. Conscripts are entitled to free time to compensate for exercises conducted beyond regular duty hours, although this entitlement will end in 1996.

Some professional soldiers, skeptical that twelve months of service (scheduled to be ten months in 1996) can produce combat-ready soldiers and fearing that political pressures could lead to an even shorter period of service, advocate abandoning the universal military system. One reason for retaining universal military service is the belief that it helps prevent the military from again becoming a distinct caste with few roots in democratic civilian society. Officers hoping to induce promising conscripts to volunteer for longer enlistment also view conscription favorably.

The pride the Bundeswehr takes in the high standards of its personnel and the quality of its training and weaponry was blunted by the absence of German contingents from the international forces assembled to defeat Iraq in 1991. The constitutional limitation on German troop deployments outside the NATO area has been a blow to the prestige of the career military men, many of whom feel that they are regarded as shirkers by their NATO partners. The July 1994 decision of the Federal Constitutional Court to permit out-of-area deployment when approved by the Bundestag will reduce the likelihood of such situations occurring again.

Data as of August 1995

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