Europe’s Armed Forces at the Millennium: A Case Study of Change in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany

Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #11

By Lutz Unterseher

November 1999
Factors affecting military adaptation in Europe

Between November 1989 and December 1991 the fundamental strategic realities that had shaped European defense policies for forty years changed completely. In rapid succession, East Germany was opened, the Warsaw Treaty was abrogated, and the Soviet Union dissolved. Soon after this the once vast Soviet military was distributed among the former republics of the USSR, Germany was reunited, and former allies and member states of the USSR began looking West for new affiliations. Insofar as Western Europe’s principal role in the cold-war division of labor had been to prepare a vigorous home defense against a massive Eastern onslaught, these developments set Western European defense policies adrift. In short order, the defense postures of most Western European nations had been, in important respects, rendered obsolete.

As early as NATO’s 1990 London Summit, members of the Western alliance were seriously debating a new strategic concept emphasizing “out of area” roles and missions. This discussion gained impetus from the outbreak of war in the Persian Gulf. However, for the European members of NATO, the enhancement of out-of-area capabilities has posed a practical challenge that is more serious than that faced by the United States. The USA’s armed forces have been globally configured ever since the Second World War. Indeed, the modern US military has been fashioned to be nothing but an “out of (home) area” instrument. Although a few former colonial nations of Europe had maintained some long-range power projection capability throughout the cold-war period, the net trend in Western Europe (especially after the 1960s) was toward home and regional defense.

The requirements now being adduced in light of the Balkans experience are not particularly new. Strategic lift, precision-guided weapons, electronic warfare and reconnaissance capabilities, command and control assets shortfalls in all these areas were asserted following the Gulf War. And many (although not all) European military establishments have been keen to push development in these areas. One of the reasons for hesitation, however, has been the lack of a strategic rationale clear and compelling enough to solidify a broad consensus among governing elites and publics.

What is the proper balance between military and non-military initiatives? What types of missions might be undertaken “out-of-area”? How far afield should European militaries be prepared to go? How do current procurement plans relate to specific mission requirements? Around these questions there is no concurrence of opinion. The US example suggests one set of answers to these questions. But these questions go to the heart of European and American differences over how best to achieve security in the new era. 1

One factor that favors following the American lead is status competition. By some assessments, the features that distinguish the US armed forces – the predominance of highly-advanced weapon systems and platforms, comprehensive information warfare capabilities, strategic mobility, and all volunteer personnel – have become the signifiers of credible military power. Thus, fielding even a facsimile of such capabilities is supposed to have a political-strategic value quite apart from their actual operational utility. But status competition can also directly undermine more utilitarian goals. In some European nations, for instance, the desire for a distinct and assertive voice in strategic affairs has prompted continued investment in nuclear arsenals, which compete for scarce resources with power projection and other conventional programs.

The most serious impediment to ambitious modernization schemes lies at the nexus of economic issues and national strategy. Current efforts to increase the proportion of volunteers, adopt a higher-tech equipment mix, and develop power projection capabilities are supposed to be funded by reductions in force size. The feasibility of this solution depends on how far and in what ways European governments pursue the goal of multifaceted modernization. The US armed forces offer one model — but US expenditures per active-duty service person are more than twice the European NATO average.2 Thus, the price of “going American” would seem to be either deep force cuts or significantly increased defense spending. Either of these outcomes would have serious economic (and perhaps social) ramifications.

Contrary to common American assessments, European NATO countries cannot simply increase their defense spending with impunity. Although Europe currently devotes a significantly smaller share of its GDP to defense than does the United States, this is counter-balanced by its devoting much more GDP to international affairs spending.

Near-term financial concerns have been amplified by the challenge of European economic integration and by the costs of assistance to the East, which has been borne largely by European states. The broader context of these concerns is the process of economic globalization, which implies more intense economic competition (especially vis-á-vis the United States and Japan) and greater pressure on government budgets. In this context, European governments are not eager to add pressure to their budgets or to add people to their pool of unemployed (which already constitutes 11 percent of the labor force).

Europe could help fund military enhancements by cutting back on its non-military foreign policy initiatives – an area in which Europe far outspends the USA. But, once again, such a move would go to the heart of differences between the US and European (or, at least, continental) approaches to national security. Another option is to undertake a very different sort of military modernization than the US model suggests – one tailored closely to defensive and peace operations, with less emphasis on precision strike, employing conscripts or a moderate mix of conscripts and volunteers, and relying on a far more selective infusion of high-technology. This might be consistent with both budget realities and non-military security initiatives. And, indeed, some European militaries are thinking along these lines – but they stand outside the NATO mainstream.

The sum of these observations is that there is no easy path toward the types of restructuring now being contemplated by a number of European governments. Specific cases are examined in detail below. But in no case is the challenge simply one of mustering the requisite will and resources to “do the right thing.” Instead, what is at issue are fundamental matters of national strategy bearing on the role and identity of Europe in the twenty-first century. These matters were not summarily settled by Operation Allied Force, nor could they be by any single operation — even one less controversial.

2. France

France and the United Kingdom share the distinction of being the only countries of European NATO with the status of nuclear powers. For both countries, the possession of weapons of mass destruction underscores their role as permanent members of the UN security council. However, since becoming a nuclear power in 1960, France has placed a particular emphasis on its nuclear capabilities, seeking to continuously modernize them by indigenous means. This reflects France’s resolution to maintain its national independence and to pursue its perceived interests despite international disapprobation. More so than Britain, France has been eager to protect and assert its status as a “big power” in its own right.

The French Republic does not fully participate in the military organization of the North Atlantic Alliance and has not since 1966 when Charles de Gaulle withdrew the country’s forces from NATO’s integrated military structures. Despite “rapprochement” in recent years, France’s participation still focuses mainly on NATO’s political bodies. Over the years, and especially since the Vietnam war period, France has often taken a leading role in formulating and asserting assumed European interests vis-á-vis the United States. And the “grande nation” had a pioneering function in uniting her partner countries under the roof of what is now called the European Union. This was done in close co-operation with the Federal Republic of Germany.

Although Germany is economically stronger than France and has a larger population, France has claimed to be the senior partner in their relationship.3 To support this contention, French politicians routinely cite their country’s military potential — not just its nuclear capabilities, but also its means of conventional power projection and its will to use them.

Like Britain, France is an old colonial power with a venerable tradition of “sending troops abroad”. More recently, however, an elite consensus has formed around the proposition that resource constraints dictate a partial military disengagement from some areas of interest, such as francophone Africa. Compensating for this reduction in overseas military presence will be an increased emphasis on power projection capabilities. Thus, the missions and conflict scenarios that remain on the French military’s agenda will continue to demand a considerable allocation of resources. Indeed, the relatively broad spectrum of functions to be performed by its forces,along with the particular emphasis that France places on indigenously developed technology, may portend a serious mismatch between aspirations and resources.

2.1 Basic trends

2.1.1 Defense spending

In 1985, when the cold war had reached its peak, the French Republic spent $ 46.5 billion on defense — a level typical of French military expenditures in the 1980s.4 By 1996 French defense spending had receded to $ 41.4 billion; the figure for 1997 is $ 41.5 billion. Thus, French military expenditures fell by more than 10 percent between 1985 and 1997.

Expressing these figures in terms of GDP share shows that in 1985 France allotted 4 percent of its GDP to defense. In both 1996 and 1997, by comparison, the GDP share going to defense was 3 percent. Putting this effort in a broader context: for NATO Europe the average value of defense expenditures in relation to the GDP was 3.1 percent in 1985 and 2.2 percent in 1997. Thus, in relative terms, the resources committed by France to the defense sector have been and remain above the average. Like most other European NATO countries — with the notable exceptions of Norway, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey — France spends less than before. But the absolute gap between France’s defense/GDP ratio and the European NATO average has been reduced only marginally.

The impression that the French Republic spends considerably more on defense than many of its partners has to do partly with the fact that in France, unlike in most countries, there are relatively strong paramilitary forces (the “Gendarmerie”) integrated into the national military organization and supported through the defense budget. If one subtracts from the French total the expenditures for the active elements of the Gendarmerie (along with the money for their pensions), France’s defense/GDP ratio in 1997 was 2.6 percent.5

In 1996, the then bourgeois-conservative majority in the Assemblée Nationale (the lower house of Parliament) passed a “loi (law) de programmation” for the defense sector that fixed annual defense expenditures at FF (Francs Français) 185 billion for the years 1997 to 2002.6 When a socialist-green cabinet came to power in summer 1997, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin committed himself to this mid-term plan.

The “loi de programmation” is part of a comprehensive reform package which has the year 2015 as its long-term planning horizon. It prescribes drastic cuts in military manpower, transition to an all-volunteer force, and major organizational changes. In the context of this program, it was seen as realistic to reduce the annual defense budget from an average of approximately FF 195 billion (for the period 1991-1995) to 185 billion.7 As it turns out, however, military spending in 1997 diverged significantly from the target figure: the French Ministry of Defense spent FF 5.5 billion more than planned.

In 1998 actual expenditures were brought roughly into line with the plan; in 1999, another deviation from the goal was unavoidable, with the defense budget amounting to FF 190 billion. Looking forward to year 2000, the French once again will miss their goal, with FF 187.4 billion earmarked for defense, instead of 185. This track record casts into doubt future year budget projections. So, the official figures given in the following table must be viewed with reservation:

1999 2000 2001 2002
185 (190) * 187,4 * 185 * 185 *
190 ** 184,6 ** 179 ** 177 **
* Cash, FF billion
** Real terms, FF billion, 1999 French prices (assumed GDP deflator of 1.5 percent p. a.) 

If we assume that the fiscal guideline of the “loi de programmation” will finally be respected, French military expenditures will shrink by nearly 10 percent (in real terms) between 1999 and 2002.

2.1.2 Personnel: levels and composition
In 1998 the French military forces had an active strength of 358,800 uniformed forces, excluding the para-military Gendarmerie. The proportion of conscripts amounted to 36 percent (or 129,250 in absolute terms). These conscripts had regular service terms of 10 months, with the option of extending them to between 12 and 24 months. Trained reserves in 1998 were reported to number 292,500.

Turning to the Gendarmerie, which is France’s national force for domestic security missions: it had 93,400 active members in 1998. Of these, 13,000 persons or 14 percent of the total were conscripts. In addition, the Gendarmerie had 139,000 paid reserves.

The uniformed section of the French armed forces is complemented by a comprehensive support structure which in 1998 had nearly 100,000 civilian personnel. Hence, in 1998, the French MoD had on its payroll a total of approximately 550,000 active personnel.

Presently, the French armed forces are in transition to the pattern of an all-volunteer force. Conscription has been suspended from 1996/97 on. The French hope, although perhaps not realistically, to complete the main tasks of transition by the year 2002.

The official plan prescribes that the overall number of active personnel (service and civilian combined) be reduced by 20 percent to 434,000. The uniformed section (ie. the armed forces plus Gendarmerie) is to go down from 452,200 to 352,700 — a reduction of 22 percent. Civilian staff will be reduced by 18 percent from about 100,000 to 82,000.

The reserves are more affected by the established reform process than any other element of France’s military. In the future there will be only voluntary reserves numbering no more than 100,000 persons for both principal branches together — the armed forces proper and the Gendarmerie. In 1998 the combined potential of trained, mobilizable reserves was approximately 430,000 persons. The planned cut will par away more than 75 percent of this complement. However, only 250,000 (or less) of the total reserves had routinely been invited to maintain some contact with the forces. Taking this into account, the significance of the planned cut is somewhat mitigated.

More than in the past, the reserves are to undergo refresher trainings. But it remains to be seen what concrete measures will be taken – and to what effect. The 100,000 personnel of the future reserve force are to be divided equally between the Gendarmerie and the armed forces proper. The Gendarmerie will use them to fill up its skeletonized units in times of major challenges to domestic security. The regular armed forces will use them mainly as individual replacements for combat losses. (In peacetime nearly all formations of the military forces will be fully manned. Mobilization of units shall be exceptional.)

The size of France’s military during the Cold War presents quite a contrast with both its present and future planned size. In 1985 the military component comprised 476,600 active personnel. Of these, 50 percent were conscripts, with regular service terms of 12 months (voluntarily extendable to between 16 and 24 months). The paramilitary component of the armed forces had 89,500 in 1985. This means that between 1985 and 1998 the military forces lost 25 percent of their personnel, while the Gendarmerie gained a little.

2.2 Adapting to a new environment

2.2.1 Risks, interests and military tasks

Even during the Cold War France did not focus its security policy exclusively on the threat from the East. The leadership of the French Republic exercised a vision of geopolitics that crossed some of the boundaries of the East-West divide. They also tended to flout the emerging conventions of post-colonial behaviour. France was bold enough to develop some military-industrial co-operation with Romania (whether NATO or the Soviets liked it or not). And it was brazen enough to support its postcolonial policies in francophone Africa (the “communauté”)with force when it deemed necessary.

Assessing the post-Cold War era, the French politico-military elite now sees itself having to deal with two geostrategic developments of special concern:
On the one hand, the new era is characterized by a rapidly evolving, conflict-prone multipolar international system;
On the other hand, there is the rise of the U.S.A. to the status of “sole remaining superpower”. From the French perspective, the United States has often seemed to be a random factor in world politics. Difficult to predict, but impossible to ignore. And now it is less constrained geopolitically than during the East-West stalemate, and France enjoys less leverage.

Perceiving rapid change, increased uncertainty, and new relations of power, the French elite have sought to reassess and clarify France’s role and objectives in the field of security and defense policy. Three main security imperatives were spelled out in a 1994 defense “White Paper” (Livre Blanc), and they remain relevant today:
Defending the interests of France

In principle these interests can transcend the immediate material well-being of the nation and also include the acceptance of international responsibilities — for instance, in Africa. Of course, as in the case of all nation-states, the sense of moral responsibility usually tracks closely with the perception of national interests. For France, the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East are also regions of explicitly declared interest. And the protection of vital oil supplies is recognized as potentially involving the use of armed force.
Constructing Europe and contributing to international stability

According to this precept, France should use its “rank in the world” (which is not just a function of economic strength, political flexibility, and cultural influence, but also of military power) to play a leading role in the further integration of Europe. “If France proves strong on the continent, it will speak in a firm voice every where else” (Livre Blanc). In and outside Europe, therefore, France is supposed to exert her influence to contribute to war prevention and the strengthening of the international order.
Implementing a global conception of defense

France views herself as an actor of global relevance. “A global conception of defense combines military defense with a civil and economic one, as well as a social and cultural one” (Livre Blanc). This reflects France’s application of a “wider notion of security.” 8 In this view, the prerequisite to France’s playing a global role is the maintenance of national cohesion, commonly shared values, and immaterial assets (such as the French language).

From these basic security imperatives four main tasks for the French forces are supposed to derive:
Deterrence (“la dissuasion”) — based on sea- and air-launched nuclear weapons. By these means France seeks to protect its vital interests against any major threat. Deterrence is seen as the ultimate guarantee of the country’s independence and a contribution to “equilibrium in Europe and in the world”.
Prevention (“la prevention”) — based on the use of high-performance surveillance technology and the stationing of troops (such as the Foreign Legion) in France’s overseas territories. By these means France seeks to limit risks, reduce instability, and stem emergent conflicts in a timely fashion.
Power projection (“la projection”): This is a high-priority task of the French military typically involving land, air, and maritime forces, preferably in close co-operation. French assessments of this task are vague with regard to the definition of power projection missions,their purposes, and targets. But French mainstream opinion seems to concur that such capabilities are vital to ensuring the nation’s rank as a major, Twenty-first Century world power.
Protection (“la protection”) of France’s domestic territories: The absence of a distinctly military threat to the territorial integrity of France makes it possible to leave the task of home protection to the paramilitary forces (the Gendarmerie). Their activities are related to “new risks” and tasks, such as: riot control, anti-terrorist campaigns, fighting international organized crime, reducing illegal immigration, and environmental protection.

2.2.2 International integration and national profile

The interdependence of our interests with those of our main partners is steadily growing. Our relative weight in the communion of states prompts us to seek the best alliance and the best instruments for strengthening our power. That is why France’s action increasingly occurs within a multilateral framework of co-operation, especially the European Union, the Atlantic Alliance, the CSCE and UNO. —— Livre Blanc
Despite France’s departure from the NATO command structure in 1966, it has never during the post-WWII period thought or sought wholly to “go it alone”. Instead, recognizing that it must cooperate in the security field, France has sought to flexibly vary its modes of cooperation with the aim of optimizing its national influence.9 Thus, although France does not (even today) fully participate in the North Atlantic Treaty’s military organization, it nevertheless plays an important role in NATO dominated missions (such as the ones in Bosnia and in the Kosovo). It has also participated in various UN missions and provided the OSCE with observers while nonetheless asserting a prerogative to act forcibly on its own outside its home territory when it perceives its interests to be at risk.

In 1998 France still had about 25,000 troops (from all services, including the Gendarmerie) stationed in her overseas territories and in francophone Africa, although a degree of disengagement from Africa had been underway since 1997 (when the socialist Jospin became Prime Minister). This disengagement was indicated by the closing of a major military base in Central Africa and significant troops reductions. The conceit has been to encourage Africans to develop and operate their own regional security arrangements (thereby rendering French intervention less necessary in the long run). The French Republic continues to regard the communaut–as a sphere of interest, however, and reserves the right to intervene (even without international backing), if it sees no alternative.

Significant French military presence in Germany ceased to exist in mid-1998 when the small division France has integrated into the “Eurocorps” was withdrawn to home territory.10 During the Cold War, by contrast, France’s military commitment to Central Europe was quite substantial. In 1985, for instance, it had 48,500 soldiers stationed in Germany. This number rose to nearly 53,000 by 1991, but then declined continuously in subsequent years.

2.3 Plans and Orientations

2.3.1 Force structure: changes and goals

In 1998 the French Army comprised 203,200 active soldiers — 57 percent of the armed forces total of 358,800 (not counting the Gendarmerie). The respective figures for the Air Force and the Navy were 78,100 (22 percent) and 63,300 (18 percent). The rest were personnel in the Strategic Nuclear Forces and in central staff facilities.

Back in 1985 the distribution of personnel among the services was somewhat different than today. The Army was relatively larger (with 63 percent), whereas the Air Force (20 percent) and Navy (14 percent) had less weight in the overall array. Thus, both the Air Force and (especially) the Navy have gained at the expense of the Army. Looking forward, the trend away from the Army is due to continue but the change will be less significant. And this time it is the Air Force that will benefit most. Current planning foresees the future forces comprising 136,000 Army soldiers — or 53 percent of the total (257,100 without Gendarmerie). The Air Force share will rise to 25 percent (63,0000) while the Navy retains a steady share of 18 percent (45,500). In sum, we are witnessing a gradual equalization between French ground power, on the one hand, and air and naval power, on the other.

The changing balance among the elements of the French military reflects the perception of a reduced ground threat to France as well as an increased emphasis on long-range power projection and quick crisis response. Any further reduction in the ground forces would be problematic, however. The limiting factor for the French political-military establishment is their desire to preserve France’s world rank as a military power. For this, the nation must possess enough ground forces to both support its routine overseas commitments and substantially affect military interventions by international bodies and “coalitions of the willing”. In this context it is interesting to note that in Britain the relative share of the Army in the overall military organization has been going up (actually to the percentage envisaged by the French planners for their own forces). 11

Looking beyond the regular military forces (narrowly defined) to include the Gendarmerie in our purview, an even more striking structural change becomes clear. In 1998 the Gendarmerie claimed approximately 20 percent of the total uniformed complement. In the future its allotment will be even larger. In the context of personnel reductions for the forces as a whole, the personnel strength of the Gendarmerie will actually grow slightly, pushing its share of the total up rather significantly to 27 percent of all active uniformed personnel. This reflects the importance France has given to home protection in the face of “transnational” threats, such as terrorism.

Compared to Britain, a country also committed to substantial military reform, there is much less concern among French planners about the development of cross-service structures. There is relatively more concern in France, however, about the flexibility of command and control, the extent of cooperation among the services, and the ability to quickly assemble modular “force packages” that are mission-adequate. Indeed, a review of the present Army force structure and how it is supposed to change, shows some rather significant reform in the direction of modularization.

Present structure (including Foreign Legion):
1 corps with
2 armored divisions and 1 mountain division together comprising:
– 5 armored battalions,
– 4 mechanized infantry battalions on tracked MICVs,
– 4 motorized infantry battalions, and
– 3 mountain infantry battalions;
1 armored “division”/Eurocorps comprising 2 armored and 1 mechanized infantry battalions.
Rapid Action Force with
1 airborne division (6 parachute battalions, 1 light armored cavalry battalion),
1 light armored marine division (2 infantry battalions on wheeled APCs and 1 light armored battalion),
1 light armored division (2 armored cavalry, 2 infantry battalions on wheeled APCs), and
1 airmobile division (1 infantry, 3 combat helicopter, 1 support helicopter battalions).
Element of the Franco-German brigade: 1 light armored and 1 motorized infantry battalions. And,
Territorial defense forces: 7 infantry battalions.

In the future the corps and division levels of organization will be abolished. There will be only 9 combat brigades which can be flexibly organized into 4 major combat groups. The make-up of these will vary with actual mission requirements. Support will be provided to the combat- brigade packages by a matrix-type organization incorporating logistics units (15 specialized battalions) and other support units (19 battalions for additional fire power, engineer capacity, reconnaissance and telecommunication).

The planned combat brigades will come in several varieties, all intervention capable:
2 armored brigades (each with 2 armored and 2 mechanized infantry battalions),
2 mechanized brigades (each with 1 armored and 2 mechanized infantry battalions),
2 light armored brigades (each with 2 light armored and 2 light mechanized infantry battalions),
2 infantry brigades (each with 1 light armored and 3 motorized infantry battalions), and
1 airmechanized brigade (with 3 combat/utility helicopter battalions and 1 reconnaissance helicopter battalion).

The envisaged structural change, which will make the resulting force somewhat lighter and more agile than the old one, is accompanied by a significant reduction in the total number of battalions (combat and all kinds of support): from 129, before the reform began, to 85.

Turning to the other components of the armed forces:

Air Force
In 1998/99 the Air Force had 395 combat aircraft organized in 17 squadrons (5 fighter, 7 ground attack, 2 reconnaissance, 3 training). There were in addition 13 transport squadrons, 2 squadrons for Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) purposes, and about 100 utility/liaison helicopters (6 squadrons) in use. The fleet of strategic tankers numbered 11 machines. The ground-based air- defense organization comprised 10 squadrons with 48 fire units.

Details about the future organization of the air force are not available. However, reduction goals have been set: The fleet of combat planes is to reduce to 300 aircraft. The transport fleet will reduce from the current 86 aircraft to 52; however, range and payload are set to increase. The number of utility helicopters will decline from approximately 100 to 84. Only the tanker fleet will grow in size by nearly 50 percent, from 11 to 16 aircraft.

In 1998/99 the maritime forces of the French Republic comprised:

4 strategic nuclear submarines,
8 attack submarines (6 with nuclear propulsion, 2 conventional), and
41 principal surface combatants, including:
1 conventional aircraft carrier (27,000 ts),
1 cruiser (training),
4 destroyers (4,000 – 5,300 ts),
15 frigates (3,000 – 4,500 ts), and
16 corvettes (1,100 ts).

Excluding the strategic submarines, but including other vessels (such as for minesweeping and for transporting/delivering naval infantry), there were about 100 ships. The naval air arm had a total of about 60 aircraft, of which 33 were for maritime patrol/ASW purposes.

In the future the Navy may include 1 – 2 aircraft carriers (34,000 ts, nuclear-powered), only 81 other ships, and 22 maritime patrol aircraft. There will be two major groupings: 1 carrier force and one for amphibious landings. Total ship tonnage will decline from 314,000 ts (before the plan) to 234,000 ts.

2.3.2 Equipment: current status and intended procurement
The French forces currently possess a satellite communications capability and an upgrade is planned — either in co-operation with European partners (Eumilsatcom with Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy) or as a national venture. France also has a space surveillance capacity: Helios IA (a satellite for optical reconnaissance) that was launched in 1997. Helios IB is supposed to follow in 1999. And planning includes the development of a more capable version: Helios II. The French radar satellite program (Horus) has been postponed, however.

Unlike Britain, France does not possess its own AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) capability, but – like Britain – it has a capable fleet of maritime reconnaissance aircraft. While the U.K. is about to procure an airborne ground surveillance system (ASTOR) for operational-strategic (theater-related) use, France already has in service 4 systems (the helicopter- based Horizon) for the tactical context (meaning operations at the brigade/division level).

The main holdings of weapon systems and respective plans in the three military services are as follows:

Army equipment and procurement
1,200 main battle tanks: almost 90 percent are obsolete AMX-30 B2s (105 mm cannon, weighing 36 tons). The rest are Leclerc tanks (53 tons, modern, with a 120 mm cannon like Leopard 2 and Abrams), which have been plagued by mechanical problems. Plans for the future are to reduce the Leclerc fleet to only 420 vehicles.
340 “light tanks”: all AMX10RC, a 16-ton, wheeled armored reconnaissance vehicles with a 105 mm cannon. In the future, the French plan to field 350 new “light tanks” of unspecified characteristics.
700 tracked, mechanized infantry fighting vehicles: all AMX-10P/PC, weighing 13 tons, but obsolete.
3,800 APC: VAB wheeled armored transport vehicles, weighing 13 tons.
220 pieces of field artillery and 270 systems of mechanized artillery (AU-F-1, 40 tons, 155 mm, modern, but with mechanical problems).
58 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System).
340 light attack helicopters (SA-341/SA-342), to be replaced by 180 medium attack helicopters (the Franco-German Tiger, resembling the American Apache, but somewhat less capable).
170 medium utility helicopters (Puma, Super Puma etc.).

Information about the future is relatively scarce. The two new systems mentioned — Leclerc and Tiger — are modern, but do not constitute cutting-edge technology.

Air Force equipment and procurement
Most of the 395 combat aircraft this service had in 1998 were French-designed Mirages (of various models and configurations, fighters as well a fighter bombers). Only 50 were Jaguars — a medium fighter bomber of Franco-British origin.

The bulk of the future Air Force’s 300 combat aircraft will consist of Rafale multi-role machines (which are as expensive as the Eurofighter, but somewhat less capable). Plans are to procure about 295 of these systems, with at least 30 of them going to the Navy. Thus, the future Air Force may have about 260 Rafales. The rest of the combat element will consist of Mirage 2000 aircraft. This is the most recent and advanced Mirage model and it comes in both fighter and strike versions.

In overview, France’s fighter modernization scheme appears very demanding. By comparison, Germany’s Luftwaffe will be able to buy only 160 Eurofighters (at most) through 2015. Like the Rafale, this aircraft has a current systems price of about $ 85 million.

Navy equipment and procurement
Soon after the turn of the century the French Navy will have its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in full service: the “Charles de Gaulle” weighing 34,000 ts. Its main complement will be the Rafale multi-role aircraft and the American “Hawkeye” early warning systems (40 planes and rotocraft altogether). Completion of the second carrier project remains uncertain.

The bulk of the bluewater surface fleet will consist of frigates (carrying helicopters armed with ship-to-ship and air-defense missiles). There are no plans to build new destroyers, however some new frigates are to be procured. France pioneered the development of a stealth-frigate — its 6 vessels of the La Fayette class — and has embarked now on a joint project with the U.K. and Italy to build a Common New Generation Frigate. France plans to procure 4 of these vessels for its Navy.

There will be no more conventional attack submarines in the French Navy, although the current number of 6 nuclear attack submarines is to be maintained. This may require the replacement of 2 to 4 vessels though the year 2015.

2.3.3 Frame of reference

Apart from the issue of leaving the security of the home territories almost exclusively to the reinforced Gendarmerie, the French military reform raises two central issues: Can France remain a credible nuclear power and can it develop a modern, reliable force for substantial power projection?

The future of France’s nuclear arsenal
Unlike Britain, France did not import strategic missiles from the U.S.A. The French politico-military establishment has always insisted that national independence requires the indigenous development of the main elements of nuclear power, no matter what the additional costs might be. In response to the Cold War’s end France did withdraw from service its ground-based, medium- range nuclear missiles (18 systems) and the 30 substrategic missile launchers (“Hades”). But France will continue to deploy both sea-based and air-launched nuclear weapons.

France describes its sea-based strategic arsenal as serving a minimum deterrent role. However, these weapons are sufficiently accurate to serve in a warfighting or strategic counterforce role. The air-launched weapons might be employed “tactically”, but France describes them as serving the purpose of “final warning” weapons that is, their use is supposed to constitute (and signal) a “final warning” before larger-scale strategic attack.

The seabased component comprises 4 strategic submarines.12 Each submarine loads 16 missiles and each missile carries 6 warheads. Around the year 2008 the current missile type (M 45) will be replaced by the M 51 missiles, giving greater range and accuracy which translates into an enhanced counterforce capability. Thus, despite the end of the Cold War, France is maintaining and even further developing its warfighting options. The air-launched nuclear capability the “final warning” force will also be upgraded. The current medium-range, stand-off weapon (ASMP) is to be replaced by a new model (ASMP2G) and the forthcoming Rafale aircraft will take over from the Mirage 2000 as its platform.

All in all, the planned upgrades to France’s nuclear forces constitute a fairly comprehensive and dedicated effort. And this signals France’s belief in the continuing importance and relevance of its nuclear arsenal. The retirement of its land-based systems corresponds to both the dramatic reduction in the European landward threat and the increased accuracy of sea-based systems, which now can provide in one package the qualities of accuracy, relative invulnerability, stealth, and strategic mobility.

Power projection goals

France’s new goals in this area were shaped largely by its experience in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Apart from elements of air- and seapower, France had sent to the Persian Gulf one small, light mechanized “division” — about 10,000 strong – plus some elements of air- and sea-power. The performance of the French ground force suffered from lack of modern equipment (eg. nightvision gear) and from the poor integration of conscripts. France had filled out its deployed units by rapidly pulling conscripts from various other units, and this had had a discernibly negative affect on unit cohesion and morale. The Gulf War experience had a profound influence on French thinking during the early 1990s and was, in fact, the catalyst for the transition to an all-volunteer force.

French planners have banked on their assessment that a professional force, having a higher quality than the old, could send more soldiers (in both relative and absolute terms) on intervention missions, despite an overall reduction in force size. The guideline goal that French planners have in mind for the ground forces ( including the Foreign Legion and troops specialized for amphibious landings) is a capability:
to send about 50,000 soldiers (including their mobile support elements) to the site of a major conflict in Europe on condition that this occurs in co-operation with the Western Alliance, lasts less than a year, and does not require substantial relief (rotation of personnel),
or alternatively,
to send up to 30,000 to a region outside Europe (for about a year, without rotation) and to possibly send in addition another 5,000 soldiers (a strong brigade-size package, with relief arrangements) to yet another crisis spot.

How feasible these goals are depends on several factors: First, what portion of the French Army is deployable and what portion is “nondeployable” (having headquarters or support tasks at home)? Second, how many soldiers will France routinely station overseas in addition to the missions outlined above?

An Army of 136,000 personnel might easily carry a task load requiring that 15,000 be stationed overseas and another 5,000 be deployed regularly to one crisis spot or another. The crunch comes when we consider the requirement for an additional, year-long deployment of 30,000 troops. This task (in addition to the others) might be supportable within the planned personnel numbers, but only on the assumption that such major deployments occur infrequently certainly not more often than once every five years. More than that and the quality and morale of the armed forces would begin to seriously erode. The ability to send 50,000 to contend with a major conflict in Europe clearly would require some redeployment of troops stationed overseas and would require that the military go through a “refractory” period afterwards, during which new major deployments could not occur.

Under current planning the Air Force is expected to be capable of projecting up to 100 aircraft (including tankers) at any given time. This seems a feasible goal. Navy power projection plans, however, are more problematic.

The Navy’s principal package for power projection is said to be its carrier group accompanied by other elements, according to the situation. But given that France will possess only one carrier for sure and two at the most, it will not be able to have one available for immediate deployment at all times. Carrier crews need both basic and routine training time with their ships, and the ships themselves need regular repair and overhaul periods. The US Navy rule-of-thumb is that five carriers are needed to keep one routinely “on station” (that is, deployed in its area of operation) at all times. Of course, in emergencies (such as the Gulf War), the US Navy has been able to operationally deploy almost 50 percent of its carrier fleet. Creative rotation procedures – rotating crews instead of ships, for instance – might improve on this ratio. But the fact remains: very high rates of deployment could not be maintained on a routine basis without degrading the fleet. What this means for France is that even with two carriers, there would be times when the French Navy could not get even one of them to where it is needed in less than two months or longer.

2.4 Inherent dilemmas

2.4.1 Political and strategic issues

The main features of French defense restructuring and reorientation raise a variety of questions. We have already addressed some of the issues regarding the match between missions, structures, and assets. Others having to do with cost dynamics and resource constraints are addressed in the next section. A final set involves issues of national strategy and political process. And these go to the heart of the defense reform’s fundamental rationale:
In the context of a post-Cold War world, France’s possession and continuing modernization of a powerful nuclear arsenal is principally a status issue. Its efforts in this area may marginally affect France’s objective “ranking” among the other top, nuclear states but probably without any tangible benefit to France. With regard to how nuclear weapons actually affect the intercourse among states, the relevant dividing line will be between those who possess these means and those who do not. And by this measure France’s status was assured long-ago. So why invest so heavily now in nuclear enhancements? Why draw so much attention to this field of competition? For France, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction should be a greater concern than its relative ranking among the big nuclear powers. But the most significant impact of France’s activism in the nuclear field will be to stimulate “have not” powers to join the club. French policy may help to give this area of strategic competition a new lease on life.
France’s pursuit of substantially improved power projection capabilities is central to its program of restructuring and modernization. Yet the missions this capability is meant to serve and the contingencies it is meant to address remain ill-defined. This failure of clarity provides insufficient guidance to planners because decisions about structure and modernization must follow those about missions and goals. More seriously, the failure to specify contingencies, missions, and goals inhibits public debate and the formation of a political consensus concerning the “where,” “why”, and “how” of intervention. These are precisely the questions France needs to answer if it is to shape and use its power wisely.
The French military reform concept gives a greater role to the Gendarmerie in guarding the domestic peace. Implicit in this is a further “para-militarization” of domestic law enforcement and other emergency operations. In a world of scarce resources, this move also means that less can be invested in non-military forms of conflict prevention and resolution. Such steps should not be taken lightly. But in this case they seem driven less by concrete necessity than by a vague vision of impending dangers. A better approach would, first, specify the character and magnitude of the domestic security problems facing the French Republic and, second, openly assess which of the variety of available policy tools might best address them.

2.4.2 Fiscal constraints and cost dynamics

French military planners assert that for 1999 France allocated FF 86 billion to force modernization — that is, research and development, trials, equipment procurement, and infrastructure improvement. This equates to 45 percent of the total 1999 military budget of FF 190 billion, making the French forces the envy of many others. In Germany, by comparison, modernization received only DM 11.5 billion in 1999 (equivalent to FF 38.5 billion) or 25 percent of the German military budget. But a closer look at the French case shows it to be somewhat less enviable than it first appears.

The “loi de programmation” of 1996 set the resources to be committed to modernization at a steady FF 86 billion for the year 1997 – 2002. This target figure could not be reached in 1998, however, because the beginning of the recruitment of additional volunteers caused unexpectedly high personnel costs. In 1999 the French also faced larger than expected personnel and operating costs. They were able to hit their target for modernization spending in 1999 only by exceeding the originally planned level of total spending (FF 185 billion) by FF 5 billion.

The plan for the year 2000 envisages only FF 82.9 billion for modernization (while remaining slightly above the guidelines for total military spending, without pensions). Given the uncertainties of personnel recruitment and the development of the overall French budget, there may be serious problems ahead for procurement planners.

Even if it is possible to stabilize the resources dedicated to modernization at FF 86 billion (in current terms), this still implies a reduction of at least 1.5 percent per annum in real terms (assuming a plausible GDP deflator) or even more (on grounds that military inflation is higher than the average rate). By itself, this gradual retraction of the budget in real terms need not imply a budget shortfall after all, the French are implementing force structure cuts which might reduce modernization requirements accordingly. A closer look is needed, but the preliminary evidence is not encouraging.

In recent years several of the French military’s major procurement programs, suffering from enormous cost-overruns, have had to be considerably stretched-out or even postponed. Examples are the Leclerc tank — currently costing $ 7 million per system and, thus, the most expensive ground combat vehicle of all time – the Tiger attack helicopter ($ 45 million per system), the Rafale multi-role aircraft, and the planned second nuclear-powered carrier. These facts cast French procurement planning in an entirely different light: even given a (possibly unsustainable) 45 percent share of the defense budget, France’s modernization plans seem unattainable.

2.4.3 Comparing French and German modernization efforts

Comparisons between the French dedication to modernization and the German case also require a second look. Although the French officially devote 45 percent of their defense spending to modernization while the Germans devote only 25 percent, this comparison obscures more than it reveals. Contained in the French military budget (under “V équipement etc.”) there are categories of spending that in Germany would be considered a part of operations and maintenance. In 1999 these categories encompassed FF 18 billion of the French budget. Also relevant is the fact that France is a nuclear power, while Germany is not. In its 1999 budget France allotted FF 16.6 billion (or 19 percent of its modernization fund) to nuclear-related programs. Finally, there are the costs associated with the Gendarmerie, for which there is no equivalent in the FRG military. This section of the French military claimed FF 2 billion for new equipment in 1999.

Looking only at conventional force modernization for France’s regular military, we find that the country’s actual expenditure in 1999 was FF 50 billion. This compares to Germany’s current DM 11.5 billion (or FF 38.5 billion) dedicated to similar purposes. In sum, using German standards, France has less money available for military investments than appears at first glance — but still considerably more than Germany. And this is occurring at a time when the French forces (not counting the Gendarmerie) are aiming to shrink in size below the present German level. However, a final mitigating factor concerns the different compositions of the French and German military establishments: the services that have the greatest demand for advanced technology, the Air Force and the Navy, are relatively larger in France than in Germany. And they are increasing their weight.

2.5 Outlook

Several features of France’s defense reform efforts contribute to the impression that the country’s ambitions may outpace its resources. Various structural adjustments that should realize savings are underway, but these seem to be more than outweighed by costly new initiatives.
France is quite substantially reducing its military manpower. However, a large part of the associated savings are being absorbed by the transition to an all-volunteer force and by the higher routine costs of such a force.
The French Republic is in the process of a partial military disengagement from francophone Africa. As a consequence, fewer French troops are likely to be stationed abroad. The costs of related operations, especially for transport, may go down. It is likely, however, that any savings will be outweighed by expenditures for French power projection in Europe, around the Mediterranean basin, and in the Middle East. A greater involvement in the Middle East might be especially challenging, but this is where the French increasingly think their most important extra-territorial interests lie.
France is giving more weight to the Gendarmerie in the overall array of France’s national uniformed forces and this could imply a decrease in average spending per uniformed person. After all, the Gendarmerie is a force of comparatively low technological “intensity”, even though there have been attempts to upgrade it through an injection of more sophisticated equipment (especially advanced sensor gear). Potential savings associated with the greater reliance on the Gendarmerie will likely be offset, however, by changes in the balance among the branches of the regular military. The Navy and especially the Air Force, both technologically intensive services, are gaining ground vis-á-vis the Army.
France remains committed to the maintenance and continuous modernization of a relatively strong nuclear deterrent, employing not dozens but hundreds of warheads, and with both air- and sea-based elements. This alone would tax the resources of any mid-sized military power. And France’s reliance on an indigenous technology base results in an additional, quite substantial burden on the nation’s long-term fiscal planning.

Seen against this background a closer Franco-British co-operation in matters of security policy makes sense.

Many observers have interpreted the Franco-British summit at St. Malo, Brittany (December 4, 1998) as a (half-successful) attempt by the French government to pull the British “closer to Europe” and into support for the evolving concept of a “continental defense pillar”. Another interpretation of a renewed Franco-British “entente cordiale” is that its aim is an intensification of bilateral relations. The future could see an evolving security partnership between Britain and France as these two countries that are suffering serious resources constraints attempt to shoulder their burdens together. In concrete terms, this might include some division of labor in the field of defense management and an improved co-operation between their respective arms industries. It could also imply a closer cooperation in the routine operation of some elements of their armed services: one possibility would be the joint building and operation of an aircraft carrier. This approach would not displace broader alliance cooperation but, instead, provide these two countries with greater leverage within it. Thus, they might preserve their privileged position vis-á-vis their partners in Europe and, especially, vis-á-vis Germany.

3. The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (together with France) stands out among the European NATO countries due to its status as a nuclear power and its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. These two qualities, which are (still) interlinked, give Britain a privileged position in the international arena. As a former colonial power, Britain also shares with France a long tradition of intervention on a global scale. Although neither is more than a shadow of its former self, each has remained relatively active in distant regions. France maintains an ongoing, quasi-colonial involvement in West and Central Africa which, well into the 1990s, included many interventions at the micro level. Great Britain’s recent involvement with its former colonies has been less intimate. But it has a more recent experience than does France with relatively substantial power projection.

Britain, unlike France, is a full member of the North-Atlantic Alliance, playing an active role in the political as well as the military structures of NATO. At the same time, however, Britain has claimed the right to act outside the political framework of the Alliance whenever and wherever this appears to be required by national interest. Moreover, Britain has aspired to a special role vis-á-vis the other European NATO countries by declaring herself a “special partner” of the United States of America.

In a variety of ways, therefore, the United Kingdom might hope to distinguish itself from the pack of second-tier advanced powers. The question remains: Can the U.K., with a 1998 GDP of $1.25 trillion – only two-thirds that of Germany and barely one-seventh that of the USA – adequately meet the requirements stemming from the multi-faceted roles and commitments it proposes to undertake?

3.1 Basic trends

3.1.1 Defense spending

In 1985, a recent peak year for global defense spending, the United Kingdom spent $ 45.5 billion on defense.13 By 1996 British defense expenditures had dropped to $ 35.3 billion, rising only slightly the next year to $35.7 billion. Thus, between 1985 and 1997, the military expenditures of the United Kingdom fell by more than one-fifth (22 percent).

Translating these numbers into relative terms: In 1985 Britain’s spending on defense claimed 5.2 percent of the country’s GDP. The official figures for 1996 and 1997 are: 3.0 and 2.8 percent respectively. In NATO Europe the average value of defense expenditures in relation to the GDP was 3.1 percent in 1985. The figure for 1997: 2.2 percent.

The proportion of GDP that Britain has devoted to defense over the years has remained substantially above the NATO Europe average. Since 1985, however, the gap between Britain and its European allies has narrowed significantly, showing the relative extent of Britain’s reaction to the Cold War’s end. In 1985 it had spent 68 percent more than the average for European NATO; in 1987, it exceeded this average expenditure by 27 percent.

Contributing to the sharp reduction of the defense sector’s share in GDP after the Cold War’s end was a broad recognition that other critical national priorities had gone wanting during the 1980s. Economists critical of Thatcher’s management had convincingly demonstrated that Britain’s limping behind the other northern-tier NATO countries was the result of an underdeveloped national infrastructure which, in turn, was related to overspending on defense (Chalmers 1985). Chalmers and others have argued that the relative scarcity of funds for non-military research, the modernization of telecommunications, and the maintenance of the rail and road networks resulted in reduced economic growth, prolonged recessions, and a somewhat lower per-capita income than countries that have spent relatively less on defense, such as West Germany.

Currently, the total defense expenditure of the United Kingdom amounts to £ 22.24 billion (1998/1999).14 From this baseline the government presently plans no real term increases:

1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02
22.24 * 22.3 * 22.83 * 22.99 *
22.24 ** 21.75 ** 21.73 ** 21.35 **
* Cash, £ billion
** Real terms, £ billion, 1998/99 UK prices (official GDP deflator) 

Thus, in real terms, the overall British defense budget would decrease by 4 percent from 1998/9 to 2001/2.

Assuming that Britain does not suffer a major recession, the defense budget can be considered safe from further reductions until 2001/02 – the deadline for the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Beyond that, the MoD’s Long Term Costings (LTC) procedure provides a basis for planning. The LTC looks ten years ahead, seeking to reconcile defense plans with expected resources. It has taken account of the 4 percent reduction in real spending through 2001/02; for the six subsequent years, however, it assumes that the budget will remain constant in real terms (2001/02 price level). Whether this is realistic is debatable. If these official projections are correct, we can expect a further significant decrease in the defense/GDP ratio.

3.1.2 Personnel: levels and composition

In 1998 the British forces had an active strength of 211,000 uniformed personnel. This number comprised 15,125 women and over 4,000 “locally enlisted” personnel (the British Army still recruits Ghurkas). Since the armed forces of the United Kingdom tend to introduce conscription only in times of major wars, all recruitment is based on the principle of voluntariness. The pool of trained reserves amounts to nearly 320,000. This means that even without conscription the British forces have managed to generate a considerable capacity for mobilization and personnel replacement.

The bulk of the reserves are directly integrated with the regular forces of the Army and consist of “formed units” as well as personnel for individual replacement. During recent contingencies – particularly the British commitment in the Balkans – reservists (mainly specialists) have been called up to join the ranks. By the end of 1998, 2,500 reservists had served successfully in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In addition to the regular forces there is a Territorial Army (TA). This is a low-readiness home defense force of “weekend warriors” with its own formations that are not directly integrated with the regular forces, although cooperation is close.

The uniformed section of the forces is complemented by a comprehensive support structure which in 1998 comprised 119,000 civilian personnel. Official planning foresees the overall number of active personnel (service and civilian combined) remaining relatively steady over the next three years. The reserve pool is to shrink by nearly 17,000 (mainly due to a reduction of the TA from 57,000 to 40,000).

In 1985, by contrast, the British armed forces totaled 327,000 active personnel (including 16,400 women and nearly 10,000 soldiers enlisted outside Britain). The pool of trained reserves comprised about 294,000 persons. Until 1990, the first year after the Berlin Wall had fallen, these numbers remained relatively stable (with some reductions in the active component and some increases in the reserves). After that, however, post-Cold War retrenchment set in. The end result was that between 1985 and 1998 the number of active military personnel dropped by more than a third (35 percent). During the same period the reserves grew by somewhat less than one tenth. Even after the presently envisaged reduction of the Territorial Army the absolute number of reservists (regular and TA) will be slightly higher than in 1985.

There seems to be an understanding that, in an age of increasingly frequent military interventions, substantial power projection requires a solid foundation in ground forces. However, resource constraints have kept the complement of British regular troops relatively small. Thus, the reserves are important in helping to make foreign commitments sustainable. In light of increased demand, all reservists are to undergo intensified refresher courses. And the creation of an “Army Mobilisation Centre” is meant to ensure that the TA will be more quickly and flexibly deployable and able to operate in closer co-operation with regular units.

3.2 Adapting to a new environment

3.2.1 Risks, interests and military tasks

During the Cold War most of Britain’s military effort was determined by the “threat from the East”. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the British government (then in conservative hands) appeared to adjust quickly to the putative new realities of a “disorderly” conflict-prone world. This adjustment was indicated by the fact that the United Kingdom contributed the second strongest military contingent to the 1990-1991 Gulf War effort against Iraq.

The principal British contribution to the Gulf War was a strong component of Tornados (heavy fighter bombers), a large part of their navy, and a beefed-up armored division (taken from NATO’s central front in Northern Germany). Moving the respectably heavy British ground force to Saudi Arabia took time and was accomplished by use of contracted private ship transport. This did not bother the British, however. They had not intended to appear in the theater during the early phase of stabilization (which they left to other, more lightly equipped allied units). Apparently their interest was to participate mainly in the phase of counterattack and reconquest — and for this their deployment was timely enough.

Although cognizant of the need to adapt to the post-Cold War environment, the British leadership was slow in developing a systematic analysis of the new situation and in offering comprehensive guidance for the restructuring of its armed forces. Indeed, this double task was left to the New Labour government, which took the reigns of government in 1997. Under its watch a Strategic Defense Review (SDR) was conducted from spring 1997 through summer 1998

According to the SDR there is no longer a direct threat to Western Europe or the United Kingdom, and “we face no significant military threat to any of our Overseas Territories”. There are (or there may evolve) conflicts in and outside Europe, however, that could directly or indirectly affect British interests: specifically by stimulating terrorism, destabilizing partner countries, promoting floods of refugees, or blocking international commerce. Prescribing a more proactive posture for Britain than during the Cold war, the SDR suggests that in an increasingly interdependent world “we must be prepared to go to the crisis, rather than have the crisis come to us”. In this context, the Balkans, Mediterranean, and Persian Gulf are mentioned as current or potential crisis zones requiring special British attention.

This general assessment of the security situation led the SDR authors to formulate the guiding slogan “Making the World a Safer Place”. Under this rubric, the SDR defines six basic tasks for the British forces that could eventually imply the use of arms:
Peacetime Security — meaning support of civil authorities against, for instance, terrorism and organized crime at home and abroad;
Security of the Overseas Territories — requiring that British forces be able to respond independently to emerging security problems (including those related to international crime);
Peace Support and Humanitarian Operations — exemplified by IFOR/SFOR-type commitments and the deployment to the Kosovo;
Regional Conflict Outside NATO — requiring preparedness for early deterrent deployments and major combat operations in regions such as the Gulf, North Africa, and the Near East;
NATO Regional Conflict — implying the military protection of individual NATO partners that have come under limited threat; and,
Strategic attack on NATO — an unlikely event that, nonetheless, requires the maintenance of a credible nuclear deterrent and the retention of military capabilities that could serve as a force reconstitution base, should the need arise.

In addition to these tasks the SDR also proposes several of a more political nature, such as “defense diplomacy” and symbolic support for Britain’s “wider interests”.

Compared with the military tasks formulated by Germany, a country economically much stronger than Britain, the list of defense tasks consented in Britain covers a wider spectrum of concerns and appears to be much more demanding. Although there is no explicitly “global” orientation, the protection of the Falklands requires a military presence in the South Atlantic, and the definition of North Africa, the Near East and the Gulf as regions of interest implies the further development of a “long arm” (in terms of weapons’ ranges, transport capability, and logistics).

3.2.2 International integration and national profile

In 1985 there were about 69,000 British military personnel stationed in Germany — 58,000 army and 10,000 air force. This force (which could be expanded quickly by two-thirds in case of war with the Warsaw Pact) constituted approximately 21 percent of Britain’s total active strength. About 55,000 of the ground force soldiers belonged to the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR); the 3,000 others to the “Berlin brigade”. The BAOR had been given the task of defending one corps sector in northern Germany, which as an integral part of NATO’s “layer- cake system” had a German and a Belgian corps as neighbors.

In 1990 the pattern of commitment to NATO’s central front (including the numbers involved) was still basically unchanged from the 1980s. New developments were the dissolution of the Berlin brigade and the creation of a UK Mobile Force (UKMF) assigned to the Danish-German corps on the Jutland Peninsula.15 Two years later these troops were re-allocated as part of Britain’s contribution to NATO’s general intervention pool.

The picture for 1998 indicates very significant changes, some of which had begun to materialize already in the early nineties. The UK forces stationed in Germany have been reduced to 28,000 military personnel — 23,500 army and 4,500 air force16 – representing only 13 percent of Britain’s current active strength of 211,000. The BAOR has ceased to exist and there is no longer a British corps sector.

Britain’s main contribution to NATO’s military structure now consists of her participation in the Allied Commander Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). The ARRC commands 8 divisions with combat elements from most NATO countries. To this corps the United Kingdom assigned two large formations (1 armored division stationed in Germany and 1 mechanized division – comprising the former UKMF – in England), plus relatively strong corps troops. NATO decided that the ARRC would always be commanded by a British 4-star general: not only because Britain’s contribution to the ARRC is the largest relatively, but also because her military continues to have the image of being well-experienced in expeditionary campaigns. (American influence may have been pivotal in NATO’s coming to this decision.)

Britain’s role in the new NATO is a prestigious one. As already noted, however, Britain also reserves the right to employ the formations it has assigned to NATO for other purposes — outside NATO’s framework, dictated by perceived national interest, and probably alongside the United States. This accords with the SDR’s proactive and “activist” stance. As the Labour Defense Secretary put it: “We want to give a lead, we want to be a force for good”.

3.3 Plans and orientations

3.3.1 Force structure: changes and goals

In 1998 the British Army comprised 114,000 active soldiers — 54 percent of the nation’s total active defense force of 211,000. The respective figures for the RAF and the Royal Navy (RN) were: 52,500 (25 percent) and 44,500 (21 percent). (The Strategic Forces are part of the RN and their personnel amount to about 1 percent of the total.)

Back in 1985 the distribution of personnel among the services was somewhat different. The British Army was relatively smaller (claiming 50 percent of the total) and the RAF relatively larger (with 28 percent). The Royal Navy had about the same share as today — 22 percent.

Despite much talk in the Alliance about the ascendancy of airpower and the key importance in combat of air- (or sea-) delivered “stand-off” weapons, British planners obviously have concluded that the prospect of increased peacemaking and peacekeeping operations, which are people-intensive, require that their ground forces not fall below a certain minimum. But the Army’s increased share of total personnel should not obscure the fact that its personnel strength dropped from163,000 in 1985 to 114,000 in 1998. Any decline much below this level might render the service’s new era “task list” infeasible by even optimistic standards.

The trend toward increasing the personnel share allotted to the ground forces is planned to continue. The British Army has been instructed to recruit 3,300 more troops (particularly for specialized areas such as signals, engineers, medical and logistic support). As the overall number of personnel employed by the MoD is assumed to remain steady, there will be complementary reductions elsewhere (especially in the Navy and among civilian staff).

The three services of the British forces do not appear to be firmly entrenched vis-á-vis each other. One indication of this is that the relative proportion of the services has been changing over time. Another indication is the MoD’s greater interest and emphasis on “jointness” as a potential means of increasing the overall cost-effectiveness of the forces especially with regard to “power projection” tasks.

The SDR envisages the creation by 2001 of a Joint Rapid Reaction Forces command infrastructure, equipped with powerful means of telecommunication and data processing, and able to optimally integrate the most capable and versatile units from all services. In addition, two Joint Force Logistic Component Headquarters will be set up and there will be an overall interservice integration of logistics. The British also plan to establish a Joint Helicopter Command, bringing together all battlefield helicopters with the exception of those based on warships or used for search and rescue. And, finally, there is a plan to jointly operate the Army’s and the RAF’s air defense (SAM) formations.

The SDR also envisages some important changes at the level of the individual services, which a review of their present and planned structures makes clear:17

British Army
Present structure

1 armored division: with 3 armored brigades (allocated to the ARRC);
1 mechanized division: with 2 mechanized brigades (1 heavy with tracked carriers, 1 light with wheeled carriers) and 1 airborne brigade (allocated to the ARRC);
1 independent airmobile brigade (strategic reserve); and
3 independent infantry brigades (relatively small, motorized), partly deployed to Northern Ireland.

Thus the active Army presently comprises 10 brigades altogether. The size of these brigades vary between 2,000 and over 3,500 soldiers.

On mobilization the Territorial Army could additionally form 36 battalions 1 armored reconnaissance, 4 light recce, and 31 infantry — as well as other units.

Major changes

1 mechanized brigade is to be created (by reassigning, restructuring, and strengthening elements of the existing airborne brigade, which will be dissolved).
1 new type of “air maneuver” brigade is to be developed.18
2 of the 8 existing armored regiments (battalion-sized) are to be reassigned to armored recce and NBC tasks respectively. And,
The 6 remaining tank regiments are to be enlarged to become 58-tank units (formerly they had 38) — however, only 30 tanks per unit will be kept in the front line day- to- day.19

The envisaged reduction in TA numbers (from 57,000 down to 40,000) will certainly result in fewer combat formations available on mobilization. But the number of individually qualified specialists is due to go up. Thus, the quality of the TA can be expected to increase.

All in all the British Army continues to emphasize mechanization and mobility. It is meant to be a multi-purpose force with (counter) offensive capabilities at the operational level, but also with commando and counter-terror elements. The relative proportion of the British Army’s light elements appears to be reduced in the new plan. This is indicated by the transformation of the airborne to a mechanized brigade and by the TA’s planned loss in manpower. The remaining light formations are supposed to gain in quality, however. This is indicated not only by the upgrading of the TA, but also – and particularly – by the creation of the air-maneuver formation (based on the former airmobile brigade).

Royal Air Force
Present composition

4 heavy fighter-bomber squadrons (with Tornado: 2 for ground, 2 for maritime attack);
5 light fighter-bomber squadrons (2 with Jaguar, 3 with Harrier V/STOL);
6 fighter squadrons (with Tornado F-3);
4 recce squadrons (2 with Tornado, 1 with Canberra, 1 with Jaguar);
4 maritime patrol/ELINT squadrons with Nimrod;
2 Airborne Early Warning squadrons (with Sentry);
3 tanker squadrons (2 with VC-10, 1 with Tristar);
4 transport squadrons (with Hercules); and
6 SAM squadrons (with Rapier).

Major changes

In the short term, two squadrons (36 combat aircraft) are to be cut from the force, while four large C 17 transport planes will be added. Historically, there has been in the RAF a dominance of ground attack over air defense elements. This is not likely to change with the planned procurement of the Eurofighter. Despite its image as a fighter, the Eurofighter can and will be employed in a ground attack role.

Royal Navy

Present composition

4 strategic submarines (nuclear powered with 16 Trident missiles each);
12 attack submarines (5,000 ts, nuclear powered, some with anti-ship guided missiles, 1 with cruise missiles);
3 small (17,000 ts) carriers for V/STOL aircraft ( 7 – 8 Sea Harriers each);
35 other principal combatants: 12 destroyers and 23 frigates (all with missiles and helicopters; displacements between 3,500 and 4,300 ts);
18 vessels for mine countermeasures;
7 amphibious craft (medium-sized); and
Royal Marines: 1 amphibious brigade (oversized, jointly manned and operated with the Army).

Major changes

There will be a reduction in the number of submarine-based nuclear warheads from 96 to 48 per vessels;
The attack submarine fleet is due to be cut from 12 to 10 vessels;
2 new, large aircraft carriers are planned to replace the 3 smaller carriers after 2012;20
The frigate and destroyer force is to be reduced from 35 to 32; and
The force of mine countermeasure vessels is to increase from 18 to 22.

In its structure and plans the Navy has tried to combine capacities for power projection, oceanic control, and littoral warfare. The standard vessels for oceanic control are likely to be versatile frigates (4,000 – 5,000 ts). There are no plans to build more destroyers.

3.3.2 Equipment: current status and intended procurement

The British forces already possess a satellite communications capability and their modern fleet of airborne platforms for reconnaissance and electronic warfare is quite impressive: 7 Sentry (AWACS), 25 Nimrod (maritime patrol), and 28 Nimrod (ECM). At the theater-related level, the airborne ground surveillance system (ASTOR) has reached an advanced stage of procurement planning.

The main holdings of weapon systems and respective plans for the three services in 1998 were as follows:

Army equipment and procurement
500 main battle tanks (mainly Challenger 1) — to be replaced by 386 Challenger 2 (60+ tons weight class);
575 armored infantry fighting vehicles (Warrior, up to 36 tons);
armored carriers:21 693 AFV-432, 526 Spartan, 657 Saxon;
armored reconnaissance: 315 Scimitar, 136 Sabre, 11 Fuchs;
179 AS-90 self-propelled artillery systems (155 mm, 40 tons);
63 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System); and
269 utility/combat helicopters (154 SA-341, 115 Lynx) — to be partly replaced by about 67 Apache with Longbow radar and hellfire missiles.

The Army’s modernization plan appears to be relatively cautious. The procurement of the American Apache helicopters (plus weaponry) is certainly a “big deal”. But it was decided long before the SDR. This applies also to the Challenger 2 program.

Concerning its ground-mobile fighting platforms, the British Army does not measure up to the highest technological standards. It is internationally shared expert opinion that Challenger 2 and AS-90 are inferior to the German Leo 2 and the armored howitzer 2000 respectively. And the Saxon, a wheeled armored personnel carrier, has been compared by a renowned British military expert, the late General Richard E. Simpkin, to the vehicles of the German Reichswehr of the 1920s.

Air Force equipment and procurement
In 1998 this service had 248 Tornado aircraft, of which about 100 were equipped for defensive air patrolling. There are also 54 Jaguar, 69 Harrier, and 54 armed Hawk trainers, plus the surveillance and transport platforms mentioned above. The aircraft to be phased out soon are probably 23 Jaguars and 13 air-defense Tornado.

Since there are about 232 Eurofighters to be procured, and no plans to increase the number of flying squadrons, it is likely that the Eurofighter fleet will replace not only Jaguar and Tornado air-defense aircraft, but also some Tornado fighter bombers.

In a long-term perspective there is a commitment to participate in the American Joint Strike Fighter program. In the meantime the RAF plans to procure a range of new missiles for the Tornado and the Eurofighter, such as the Meteor (Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air) as a replacement for AMRAAM, more AMRAAM as an interim measure, the Brimstone advanced anti-armor missile, and the Storm Shadow stand-off air to surface long-range cruise missile for attack on strategic point targets.

All in all the force modernization scheme of the RAF is very demanding.

Navy equipment and procurement

Two new attack submarines are to be built as a replacement for old ones and more of the attack submarine fleet shall be made capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles. Four more minehunters are to be bought, and the amphibious brigade is going to be beefed up (which – among other things – means that four more roll-on roll-off ships will have to be put into service). The latter two measures are to a large extent compensated for by the decision to phase out and not replace 3 units of the destroyer/frigate fleet. In overview, it looks as if the Royal Navy is accumulating resources and support for its grand ambition: to rejoin in 2012 the league of nations possessing “real” aircraft carriers.

3.3.3 Frame of reference

Britain is still a nuclear power and intends to maintain this privileged status. Moreover, it believes it can do this at limited costs. 22 Since the end of the cold war the British forces have managed to phase out all nuclear devices except for strategic missiles on nuclear submarines. At first glance the remaining force of 4 subs (Vanguard class) with 64 Trident (D 5) missiles and reduced numbers of warheads (48 for the one vessel on patrol at any given time and fewer than 200 altogether) resembles a last resort, minimum-deterrent configuration. And the SDR uses language to support this notion. Nonetheless, the Trident (D 5) is sufficiently accurate to be used for limited nuclear warfighting at the sub-strategic level.

As nuclear weapons appear to be the status guarantors of the past, there is now much more interest in capacities for conventional power projection. Power projection is the status bringer of the present and the future — even more so when development along this path takes a high-tech turn. The following SDR passage borrows heavily from the credo of RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) disciples:

‘Force multipliers’ will be crucial to retaining a technological edge over potential adversaries … Central to this is the ability to gather information about an opponent and use it to maximum effect. In military terms, the first aspect is our intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability (ISTAR) … There will be an increasing premium on ‘stand-off’ precision missiles which can be launched at targets from long range.
Nonetheless, the SDR does not view long-range precision strike and “information war” capabilities as the essence of power projection. Rather, such capabilities serve simply to establish a favorable context for the insertion of troops. In this respect the SDR outlines rather concrete intervention scenarios and guidance for force deployment:

In addition to providing whatever military support is required to continuing commitments such as Northern Ireland, we should be able to:

Respond to a major international crisis which might require a military effort and combat operations of a similar scale and duration as the Gulf War when we deployed an armoured division, 26 major warships and over 80 combat aircraft, or
Undertake a more extended overseas deployment on a lesser scale (as over the last few years in Bosnia) while retaining the ability to mount a second substantial deployment – which might involve a combat brigade and appropriate naval and air forces … We would not, however, expect both deployments to involve warfighting or to maintain them simultaneously for longer than six months.”

Relevant to this goal, the British commitment to Bosnia-Herzegovina and, now, Kosovo involves well over two brigades. From the present vantage point (September 1999), it seems likely that the U.K. will experience substantial difficulties sustaining this force in the field.

3.4 Inherent dilemmas
3.4.1 Strategy and planning
The British plans for the future of their armed forces suffer from three striking inconsistencies:
Although the SDR employs the language and touts the goals of a “Revolution in Military Affairs”, some of its force structure and procurement choices run counter to the logic of the RMA discourse. Central to the RMA vision of the future is the view that traditional weapon platforms and large force concentrations will become increasingly vulnerable as smart weaponry spreads. Thus, there is a need to move systematically to a more dispersed and networked array of capabilities. As the authors of a Centre for Defense Studies critique of the SDR see it, “This sits poorly with the proposed concentration of UK forces into a small number of high value assets such as aircraft carriers and transport ships loaded with tanks”.
The British understanding of the requirements for respectable power projection seems to have led to a gradual expansion of the British Army at the expense especially of the RAF’s active personnel share. But this has not been matched by adequate procurement policies for the Army. The problem is not simply a lack of funding. Also important is the insistence on “buying British” which in some cases has resulted in sub-optimal choices. This problem, however, may be politically immune to solution. If so, vital elements of the British Army (for example: mechanized infantry) may have to live with technological obsolescence.
Finally, a central declared goal of present British defense policy is to contribute proactively to “making the world a safer place”. The British forces could facilitate their pursuit of this goal by concentrating less than planned on the development of strike capabilities, which are suited best for escalation. A more stabilizing (and less expensive) method of crisis management would emphasize the defensive protection and control of territories under threat. Moving fast to stem tension in a crisis zone before it escalates is more important, effective, and stabilizing than the option of striking hard and deep from “over the horizon” after atrocities have begun to mount. This points to the tension between the British forces’ RMA aspirations and their commitment to conducting stability operations as needed. Resolving this tension in favor of force structure and procurement choices suited to stability operations might also help resolve the forces’ impending budget crunch.

3.4.2 Fiscal constraints and cost dynamics

The Trident program cost the U.K £ 12.5 billion at 1997/98 prices. Ninety-one percent of this total had been spent by February 1998. As this program winds down, spending on the Eurofighter will rise dramatically over the next three years. The first of these aircraft is planned to enter service by the end of 2001. The total estimated cost of Britain’s share of this four-nation project is £ 14.2 billion (1997/98 prices), with peak spending during the years 2002 – 2004. The SDR has also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the £ 3 billion Apache program, the purchase of 386 Challenger 2 tanks at a cost of £ 2.5 billion, and the purchase of 2 new attack submarines for £ 2 billion.

The total expenditure on (major) equipment is planned to rise from about £ 6 billion to £ 6.3 billion in 2001/02: an increase of 5 percent in real terms. As a result, non-procurement spending will have to fall by around 7 percent in real terms to meet the planned 4 percent reduction in the overall budget.

Planned reductions especially in the front line of Navy and Air Force will certainly make a major contribution to the required savings in operating costs. Very important in this respect will be the further success of the MoD’s Efficiency Programme, which sets targets for increases in efficiency, defined in terms of reducing the resources needed to produce any given defense output. Building on respective experiences since 1988, the SDR assumes minimum annual efficiency gains of 3 percent of the total defense budget until 2001/02 and probably beyond. Additional measures to reduce operating costs are also on the agenda. In this regard, the SDR’s emphasis on “jointness” has pivotal importance. It aims to realize new efficiencies by prompting the services to combine their operations and organizations in those many fields where they overlap.

The potential savings in operations and maintenance expenditures might be absorbed, however, by increases in the personnel account. Although the total numbers of active personnel (service and civilian) is to remain fairly steady through 2001/02, personnel costs may rise nonetheless. Past experience in Britain shows service pay rising at a rate 2 percent higher than price inflation (comparable with the average increase of national earnings.) Should this trend continue, it might absorb whatever savings are achieved through new efficiency measures. Within the context of a shrinking defense budget (4 percent in real terms until 2001/02), this would leave the British defense establishment with two adaptive options (or some combination thereof): stretch out procurement programs or reduce the number of personnel.

The procurement programs may not afford much flexibility, however. This is partly because the attenuation of these programs would incur cost overruns. Thus, attention turns to cuts in the personnel account. One renowned British defense economist, Malcolm Chalmers, foresees a worst-case scenario in which the SDR’s personnel planning is seriously derailed. According to Chalmers’ analysis, the MoD might have to cut the number of personnel (uniformed and civilian combined) by over 10 percent between now and 2001/02.

And after 2002, matters may get worse. According to the SDR, the bulk of the announced procurement is to occur after 2001/02. Hence, even if Britain’s defense spending can be stabilized from 2001/02 onwards — a rather optimistic prospect — a further reduction in personnel strength might be unavoidable. Looking forward to the year 2008, Chalmers projects a total personnel strength of 255,000 (service and civilian personnel combined), which is only 77 percent as many personnel as employed today.

3.5 Outlook

The SDR conducted by New Labour turned out to be a modernist version of conservative defense policy rationales. This convergence of labor and conservative opinion is not conducive to a broad debate on the general direction of military planning. Hence, the debates ahead will have less to do with orientation, more with feasibility. Within this confine, the United Kingdom has a choice between two options of how to further develop its defense policy:

One possibility would be to stabilize or even to increase the relative GDP share of the defense sector. Only this would make it possible to credibly pursue the power and status aspirations manifest in the SDR. However, Britain already spends relatively more of its GDP on defense than do states of comparable size and wealth. Spending more would result in an even more serious comparative disadvantages vis-á-vis most other EU countries – further hampering the development of Britain’s socio-economic infrastructure.

The other option is to concentrate on military capabilities that promise relatively high gains in national profile and international status. These capabilities would be developed alone or in close co-operation with a favorite, prestigious partner – such as the U.S. or France.23 Other military activities would receive reduced funding and would increasingly be allotted within a division of labor to Britain’s less privileged partners in Europe. The long-term consequences of such a development could be interesting – and probably quite a surprise to a British nationalist. Great Britain’s defenses might in the end be more closely integrated with their continental counterparts than ever before or they might become “colonized” by the forces of Great Britain’s former colony, the U.S.A.

Access to a better set of choices than this will have to await a more daring approach to security policy than Britain’s defense planners have managed so far.

4. Germany

The military forces of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) have been considered since their founding in 1955 to be the “alliance army” par excellence. It is particularly interesting, therefore, to examine the effect that changes in NATO have had on the evolution of the post-Cold War German forces. Also relevant is the effect on German policy of reunification and the associated renewal of national identity, a phenomenon that has analogs throughout central and eastern Europe.

In developing new military orientations and structures, the German leadership has had to struggle with the acute resource constraints of the defense sector — constraints more serious than in most other NATO countries. At a time when public support for defense expenditures has dropped sharply (due to the end of the East-West confrontation), two factors have placed a particularly heavy burden on Germany’s public budgets:
The post-unification task of rebuilding the infrastructure in the new Länder (states), which has required an annual transfer to the new states of $ 70 billion or more; and,
The cost dynamics of Germany’s comprehensive welfare system, which together with a marked increase in unemployment has placed a substantial demand on the nation’s fiscal resources.

For these reasons, reporting on Germany’s defense implies a study of “how to plan in a context of relative scarcity”.

4.1 Basic trends
4.1.1 Defense spending
In 1985 the FRG spent $ 50.2 billion on defense, which was near its average for the 1980s.24 By 1997 German defense expenditures had dropped to $ 33.4 billion — a decline of one-third from the 1985 level. Interpreting these figures in terms of the portion of GDP spent on defense signifies an even more dramatic development: Whereas defense expenditure claimed 3.2 percent of GDP in 1985, defense’s portion dropped to 1.6 percent in 1997 — a reduction by half.

In NATO Europe the average value of defense expenditures in relation to GDP was 3.1 percent in 1985. The figure for 1997 was 2.2 percent, indicating that in the European part of the Atlantic Alliance the average decline in defense expenditures 29 percent has been far less pronounced than in the case of Germany. Some German leaders balk at this comparison — 50 percent versus 29 — pointing out that the NATO Europe figure includes countries whose security-policy context and military make-up are substantially different than those of the majority of NATO countries in Europe.25 Indeed, if one excludes France and the UK (because they are nuclear powers) as well as Greece and Turkey (because they are locked in a military competition with each other), the average value of NATO Europe defense expenditure per GDP is only 1.75 percent (1997), which mitigates the apparent discrepancy between Germany’s defense effort and the NATO average.

In 1998, total defense expenditures in Germany amounted to DM 58.2 billion.26 For 1999 a spending level of DM 58.5 billion has been envisaged. These two figures imply shares of GDP somewhat over and below 1.55 percent. Defense spending in a narrower sense (without related pensions) amounted to DM 46.7 billion in 1998. After several revisions, official figures for the subsequent years are now (in billion DM, current terms):

1999 2000 2001 2002
47.0 (+ 0.6 %) 45.3 (- 3.7 %) 44.8 (- 1.2 %) 44.5 (- 0.7 %) 

At the time of writing (September 1999) these government figures have not yet passed Parliament. However, the prospective reduction in military spending is a feature of the tough, comprehensive, austerity program now in process. Influential experts claim that, given Germany’s special fiscal burdens, there is no viable alternative to such measures. Thus, future parliamentary action will likely affect only the subsidiary aspects of the program, not its core features.27

Assuming a modest GDP deflator of 1.5 percent per annum, we come to the conclusion that the DM 44.5 billion budget envisaged for the year 2002 is equivalent to only DM 42.5 billion at 1999 prices. This means that between 1999 and 2002 there will be, in real terms, a decrease in defense spending (narrowly defined) of nearly 10 percent. And this implies a further fall of the overall defense/GDP ratio, assuming that total defense expenditures closely correlate with the defense budget in its narrow definition.

4.1.2 Personnel: levels and composition

In 1998 the Federal German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) had an active strength of 333,500 uniformed personnel. This number comprised 137,500 conscripts (or 41 percent of the total), 193,500 volunteers with limited contracts (2 – 15 years) or lifetime commitments, and also 2,500 active reserve training posts. About 90,000 reservists per year undergo refresher training (courses of 1 or 2 weeks duration). The bulk of the conscripts serve 10 months. Only relatively few (probably one in ten) have chosen the option of extending their period of service (12 – 23 months). The pool of trained reserves (men to age 45, officers/NCOs to 60) amounts to 315,000.

Current planning aims for numbers which are not significantly different: an active total of somewhat over 320,000, consisting of 130,000 conscripts (40 percent of the total), about 190,000 longer-term volunteers and 1,500 reserve training posts.

In 1985 the Bundeswehr had 478,000 regular soldiers, a number relatively stable until the end of the Cold War. This active strength comprised 228,500 conscripts (serving 15 months), which was 48 percent of the total, 243,500 longer-term volunteers, and 6,000 reserve duty positions. The pool of trained reserves had a strength of 770,000. Thus, between 1985 and 1998, Germany’s active military strength declined by 144,500 soldiers or 30 percent. Moreover, the conscripts’ service terms were reduced, first to 12 months and then to 10, which some analysts and leaders claim has had a negative effect on their training. However, parallel to the shortening of conscript training time, the proportion of conscripts in the forces went down by 7 percentage points or 15 percent.

Also between 1985 and 1998 the reserves were reduced by 455,000 or over 40 percent. This leaves a still sizeable reserve force of 315,000 but it has become less important in the overall array than during the time of the Central European confrontation. In the unlikely case of a major crisis in Central Europe the German forces could still grow up to a total size of over 600,000 soldiers. The integration of the reservists would beef up the forces’ (and especially the Army’s) command and logistical infrastructure. However, most of the reservists are intended to fill the Army’s skeletonized units or serve as group-wise replacements (“Feldersatz”) in combat units. Recently, policy-makers have been considering the option of “inviting” reservists (specialists) to join crisis reaction missions abroad.

Turning to the status of the civilian personnel working in the Bundeswehr’s administration: During the 1980s the size of this complement averaged around 170,000 people. The current figure is somewhat over 130,000. Further limited decreases (probably down to 125,000) are considered possible. This means that, according to current planning, the overall number of personnel (uniformed and civilian combined) is likely to decline slightly over the next three years.

4.2 Adapting to a new environment
4.2.1 Risks, interests and military tasks

Soon after the Cold War ended the German military-political establishment reassessed the country’s international environment, producing a formulation in which the traditional notion of threat had disappeared. The main conclusions of this early, official reassessment were that:
Germany is no longer a frontline state, but surrounded by allies and friends,
Germany now finds herself outside the reach of an opponent capable of strategic offensive operations,
yet at the same time faces a growing danger of regional conflicts in and outside Europe that relate to the security of Germany.

In the military press, especially, there has been an effort to broaden the spectrum of risks under consideration. For example, there have been allusions to potential dangers stemming from international terrorism, piracy, organized crime, and “unfriendly acts” by suppliers of raw materials and other essential goods to the nation’s economy. Based on these risks originating in a “wider notion of security” new tasks have been deduced for the armed forces tasks that, to some extent, could be regarded as secondary or as overlapping with missions typical of modern paramilitary police organizations. A far-reaching extension of military tasks into the domestic sphere has not become the official line of the German MoD, however. Instead, a clear-cut division of labor with paramilitary police (such as the federal border guards) and the state police forces has been maintained. The only secondary task of the Bundeswehr that found increased support and acceptance is to provide assistance to other agencies in the case of natural disasters.

The current official roster of basic tasks for the armed forces sees the Bundeswehr:

Protecting the Federal Republic and its citizens from political blackmail and external danger,
Promoting military stability and the integration of Europe,
Defending the Federal Republic and her allies,
Serving the goals of global peace and international security in accordance with the United Nations charter, and
Helping to save lives in cases of natural disasters and other emergencies as well as supporting humanitarian actions.

Clearly, the emphasis is on employing the armed forces not only for purposes of military defense (if necessary), but also for war avoidance and international stability tasks. Altruistic rationales predominate and security objectives are stated with no direct reference to the pursuit of national interest.

Explicitly talking about “national interest” or “power aspirations” has been a taboo in Germany since the Second World War. West German elites have found their country’s interests best served by seeking close alliance integration and by avoiding a too independent profile in matters of foreign policy. The idea of self-limitation lives on, but it is being increasingly combined with the notion of having to share international responsibility. There is a broad consensus that, given the experiences of the past, it is in Germany’s long-term interest to preserve its reputation as a “trustworthy partner” but one who at the same time takes an active interest in the security problems of neighboring regions.

4.2.2 International integration and national profile

Since the end of the East-West confrontation the pattern of Germany’s alliance integration has undergone substantial changes. At first glance, it looks as if the Bundeswehr’s international integration has been intensified. A closer look, however, reveals that Germany’s scope for maneuver in the field of military policy has widened considerably.

During the Cold War, the Bundeswehr, with all its three services, was the only Western force fully integrated into NATO’s structures: under alliance command even in peacetime. The ground force corps of the Bundeswehr formed elements of NATO’s famous “layer cake” structure: in other words, they were tightly jammed between the other allies’ corps sectors (and this required very close operational co-operation).

The layer-cake system was abandoned soon after 1990 and much more flexible patterns of alliance integration grew up. Compared to the cold-war years, considerably fewer forces of Germany’s partner countries are now stationed on the Federal Republic’s territory, although they routinely visit for joint exercises

Today, out of a total of seven German ground-mobile divisions, six are integrated with allied corps structures. German troops form five joint corps with Danish and Polish, Dutch, American (2 corps), and French/Spanish/Belgian forces — this latter being the “Eurocorps”, an emerging WEU formation. The sixth corps with German involvement is the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) NATO’s main intervention tool. The remaining German ground-mobile division, which is so far “non-aligned”, awaits partners in the Czech Republic or even Hungary. In addition to the six German divisions geared toward multinational integration there is also one airmobile division under national command.

A comparative analysis of these newly developed corps shows that, wherever Germany co- operates with smaller neighbors, the command and support structures are controlled and mainly operated by the Bundeswehr. The co-operation with the Americans is different, however. In this case, the components of the respective corps remain separate entities. Thus, their command and support structures allow an easy return to pre-integration procedures.28

These integration arrangements suggest two things: first, there is some mistrust between the Americans and Germans. Second, there is a German inclination to exert military (or even military-political) influence over smaller countries. In this context it is noteworthy that Germany pioneered the eastward extension of NATO territory. The Bundeswehr’s political and military leadership made themselves advocates of a substantial enlargement well before the Clinton administration followed suit in the fall of 1994 (for mainly domestic policy concerns).

It is not just through the skillful utilization of the evolving alliance structures that the German military establishment attempts to achieve a more influential posture. It also conceives measures to directly enhance Germany’s national standing. The MoD is in the process of setting up a national command and control structure as well as a command support structure (with a brigade of heavy-lift/utility helicopters and a telecommunications brigade). The main purpose of these arrangements is to direct all German operations outside national territory. This basically army- centered scheme can be flexibly enlarged to accommodate combined operations with the Air Force and Navy.

To prevent misunderstanding: Germany does not plan for the eventuality of unilateral military intervention. On the contrary, the consensus opinion within Germany is that the nation would always need partners as a prerequisite to assuming “international responsibility” — although it might prefer junior partners. In this light, the aim of the new command structure is to optimize the German effort (particularly in the case of power projection) and to ensure that Germany’s voice is heard in an international concert of intervention forces. Germany remains aware of its limitations but, within these constraints, its military establishment seeks relatively greater influence and independence.

4.3 Plans and orientations

4.3.1 Force structure: changes and goals

In 1998 the Bundeswehr’s ground forces comprised 230,600 active soldiers — 69 percent of the military personnel total of 333,500. The respective figures for the Luftwaffe and the Navy were 76,200 (23 percent) and 26,700 (8 percent). In the mid-eighties, the inter-service ratios were about the same. At present, significant changes in the relative weight of the three services are not envisaged. With respect to numbers of soldiers, even in an overall shrinking force, the individual services have each managed to maintain their traditional shares.

The tendency of each service to jealously protect its own special, traditional interests is also reflected in the fact that the German forces do not put much emphasis on “jointness”. There are only two initiatives in this area and neither one really trespasses on traditional service preserves: first, an evolving national command structure for power projection (which is army-centered, but interfaced with air and maritime command elements) and, second, a related project for the development of an all-Bundeswehr system of satellite communication. Other options for change are obvious, but lie fallow. For instance, there are no plans for a joint helicopter command, although the Army and Luftwaffe each operate relatively large numbers of rotocraft of similar make with separate logistics.29 And, there are no plans for a unified fleet of heavy fighter bombers (homogeneously consisting of Tornados in strike or recce roles). The Luftwaffe and Navy instead prefer to operate their machines separately.

In 1994 plans for the current re-structuring process of the Bundeswehr were issued. This process has been supposed to last until 2000/2001 and is now (September 1999) near-complete:


The Army divides up into crisis reaction (CRF) and main defense forces (MDF).

The crisis reaction forces, which are fully active, consist of:

2 mechanized brigades,
1 airmobile brigade,
1 light mechanized (Jäger) brigade,
1 air mechanized brigade (in the process of formation),
1/2 brigade light mechanized (the German component of the Franco-German brigade) and,
1 special forces command (size: 1/2 brigade).

The main defense forces comprise:

4 brigades to replace crisis reaction elements (largely active), comprising
2 mechanized brigades,
1 mountain brigade (light infantry, partly mechanized),
1 airmobile brigade;
8 mechanized brigades (partly skeletonized); and
4 mechanized brigades (with extra staffing and equipment to double on mobilization).

The crisis reaction forces get more modern equipment than the main defense forces. For example, the main battle tanks of the CRF brigades are all Leopard 2s in their most advanced version, whereas the MDF still have Leo 2s without upgrade or Leopard 1s. Brigade sizes vary between 3,500 and 5,000 soldiers. (Divisions can comprise between 2 and 4 brigades.)

CRF and MDF combined have 20 mechanized brigades with main battle tanks. Twelve of these command two tank battalions each (with 53 machines per battalion) and one or two battalions of armored grenadiers, mostly with heavy Armored Infantry Fighting vehicles (AIFs – Marder). Eight mechanized brigades each have one armored battalion and two battalions of armored grenadiers. The light mechanized/Jäger formations typically ride on wheeled armored transport vehicles (Fuchs). The airmobile brigades comprise parachute elements as well “mini-tank” (Wiesel) units to be carried by heavy-lift helicopters. And the evolving air mechanized brigade will have two regiments of attack helicopters (48 machines each) and one regiment of utility helicopters.

In sum: when fully mobilized, the German Army would have the equivalent of 26 combat brigades. Although the Army has been developing light and highly agile force elements (through transformation of one mechanized into a Jäger formation and the creation of an air mechanized brigade), the overall posture continues to be dominated by heavy mechanized contingents.


The Luftwaffe comprises:

4 fighter-bomber wings (with 8 squadrons Tornado),30
4 fighter wings (with 7 squadrons F-4F and 1 squadron MiG-29),
1 recce wing (with 2 squadrons Tornado),
1 ECR wing (with 2 squadrons Tornado),
SAM: 6 mixed wings (each with 6 squadrons Patriot, 6 squadrons Hawk, 14 squadrons Roland), and
Transport: 3 wings (4 squadrons C-160, 4 squadrons UH-1D, plus a variety of passenger aircraft for special missions).

Because of their generally high-degree of readiness, most of the Luftwaffe’s combat elements are considered crisis-reaction capable. Nevertheless, some components are specifically earmarked for such missions – namely:31

3 squadron-equivalents attack,
2 squadron-equivalents air defense,
1 squadron-equivalent recce,
2 mixed SAM formations (other SAM formations have a lower degree of readiness), and
all three transport wings.

Note that, as far as the flying combat components are concerned, there is a certain emphasis on the (counter) offensive!


Even more explicit than the Luftwaffe, the Navy states that all its fighting units are, in principle, crisis-reaction capable. Therefore, the distinction between crisis reaction and main forces is supposed to not apply. Nonetheless, planners assume that no more than 40 percent of Germany’s naval and naval air forces could be used for power projection at any given time.

The Navy’s order of battle is:

14 submarines (500 ts), mainly for coastal warfare;
14 principal surface combatants — two US Charles F. Adams class destroyers and 12 large frigates (3,800 to 4,500 ts); all are armed with missiles and the frigates carry British Lynx helicopters;
30 fast missile craft;
36 vessels for mine countermeasures;
1 wing with Tornado (2 squadrons: one strike/recce, one squadron training); and
1 wing for ASW/SIGINT/SAR/pollution control/transport (with Breguet Atlantic, Do-228, and Lynx).

All three services together are said to be able to form a crisis reaction force of 53,600 soldiers – including 37,000 from the Army, 12,300 from Luftwaffe, and 4,300 from the Navy. These numbers refer to combat, combat support elements, and the immediate command and control structure only. It has been estimated that generating such a force for power projection requires a personnel basis of 70,000 to 80,000 soldiers at home.

4.3.2 Equipment: current status and intended procurement

The main ingredients of the Bundeswehr’s mechanized ground forces are over 1,800 Leopard 2 and about 900 Leopard 1 main battle tanks, over 2,000 armored infantry fighting vehicles (Marder), and about 1,300 wheeled armored vehicles for reconnaissance and swift operational transport (Luchs, Fuchs).
The Leopard 2 MBT is in the same weight class as the American Abrams tank (60 tons). Both have German-designed 120 mm guns.
The Marder weighs 35 tons – nearly 50 percent more than its U.S. counterpart, the Bradley.
The Luchs is an 8-wheeled reconnaissance vehicle (of 20 tons weight) for use over relatively long (operational) ranges. And,
The Fuchs, a 6-wheeled APC (in its upgraded versions also with up to 20 tons weight), is of comparable operational mobility.

The artillery branch has in addition to approximately 300 pieces of field artillery: 573 American- built M 109 (self-propelled howitzers in an upgraded version) and 154 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems). It is also noteworthy that there are over 200 light anti-armor helicopters (the relatively stealthy BO-105) equipped with 6 HOT missiles each and over 100 heavy-load CH-53 G helicopters each carrying two 3.5 ton light tanks — the Wiesel. Germany possesses 343 Wiesels, which employ either TOW anti-armor missiles or a 20 mm-machine cannon.

The Luftwaffe sports 276 Tornados: its offensive mainstay. It also has about 150 Phantoms and 23 MiG-29, both in an air-defense role. The backbone of its transport fleet are 84 C-160s (16 tons load over non-strategic distances).

The Navy shows blue water aspirations which, so far, have been indicated by the shrinking of the coastal submarine fleet (from 25 boats to 14) and the intended stabilization in numbers of the principal surface combatants accompanied by a growth in their size, sea-worthiness and combat potential.32

All in all the Bundeswehr presents itself as a modern force, equipped for a multitude of missions (offensive as well as defensive) with light mobile, but also considerably heavy fighting platforms. Generally speaking, the technological level of its main weapon systems is (still) above the NATO average. With reference to ground forces, this is particularly easy to demonstrate: 8 European countries are currently operating (or planning to procure) the Leopard 2, which proved superior to the Abrams in quite a few contests. At comparable mobility, the Marder gives better protection to its crew than Bradley and Warrior give to their complements respectively. And, the Bundeswehr is the only force in NATO that has fielded an air-transportable minitank for crisis reaction troops.

There is grave concern, however, that the Bundeswehr’s reconnaissance and communications capabilities are not up to the tasks of global – or even continental – power projection. This is why all three services seek to modernize their own command, control and communication systems. In addition a modern interservice satellite communication capacity is to be developed. But there are no plans to acquire a Sentry-type airborne reconnaissance capability; the Bundeswehr is quite content relying on NATO’s pool. And there is no provision for an operational ground surveillance system (such as the American J-STARS or the British ASTOR system) which could be particularly helpful in out-of-area contingencies.

Torn between their status-related fixation on complex main weapon systems and the need to divert more resources to the acquisition of modern, theater-oriented (operational) surveillance systems, the Bundeswehr’s planners have, so far, tended to the former. This runs counter to their often-stated desire to provide the German military with more information sources of their own: information that would make them more influential partners in the context of international co- operation.

The Army’s current horizon for long-term planning is 2011. The major platforms and weapon systems that it hopes to procure between now and then include:

a limited number (202) of armored vehicles for tactical reconnaissance (“Luchs” is operational level);
185 armored howitzers (155 mm) — the heaviest (55 tons) and most advanced piece in the world;
80 Tiger (combat helicopters, lighter than AH-64) and 83 NH-90 (medium utility) helicopters to support the implementation of air mechanization plans;
1,100 heavy wheeled armored carriers (27 tons); and,
an unknown number of the successor to the Marder (AIFV).

After 2011 the Army expects to procure more: 130 Tigers, 1,900 armored transporters, and quite a few other items.

Turning to the Luftwaffe: among other items, it is keen to procure before 2011:

NH 90 medium utility helicopters;
140 Eurofighters (replacing – with far greater combat power – the current fleet of Phantoms);
modern weapons for the Eurofighter and Tornado (such as short-range air-to-air, beyond visual range, and Taurus stand-off missiles for high-precision ground attack);
17 Medium Air Defense Systems (MEADS), an item not likely to materialize since the United States may renege on its agreement to cooperate in production of this system; and
23 FTA (Future Transport Aircraft), conceptually a small version of the C-17 (with propjets) for strategic missions.

After 2011 the Luftwaffe hopes to add another 40 Eurofighters and 60 FTA.

Finally, the Navy hopes to procure before 2011:

3 large frigates (F 124), each with two ASW helicopters and missiles;
4 submarines (long range, with advanced fuel-cell technology for extensive diving);
5 corvettes (1,500 ts) with oceangoing capabilities — as a first step toward replacing the smaller missile craft;
10 MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) to replace most of the existing fleet of 18 Breguet Atlantic; and
2 large vessels for underway replenishment.

To this the Navy presently hopes to add 8 frigates (F 125), 4 oceangoing submarines, and 10 corvettes after 2011.

Before the imposition of austerity measures the Bundeswehr intended to spend on these and other major items (such as weaponry and advanced ammunition) nearly DM 69 billion (price level of 1998) between 1999 and 2011. The Navy had been allotted a 20 percent share of the total; the Luftwaffe, 46 percent (the Eurofighter program alone costing over DM 20 billion); and the Army, 34 percent. Of course, these shares of the DM 69 billion pot apply only to major items of procurement.

The Army, especially, buys a lot of other material on a routine basis (such as trucks and personnel equipment), which may increase this service’s share of the total procurement pie. Even taking this into account, however, it is not likely that the Army’s final share will match the nearly 50 percent it typically received before the 1990s when the Luftwaffe’s share was 30 percent (or a little more) and the Navy’s 20 percent. So, Army commanders may have an axe to grind.

4.3.3 Frame of reference

The German armed forces have attempted to strike a balance between two different orientations. On the one hand, they have been committed to the development of forces for quick-reaction missions including out-of-area missions, especially. On the other hand, they believe that Germany still needs a relatively large military machine with considerable growth (mobilization) potential. To be more precise: Befitting the notion of Germany as a land power, Bundeswehr planners look to maintain the largest and most capable conventional ground forces in Europe.

The former orientation comports with notions of Germany’s post-unification political emancipation and its assumption of a fuller (if not entirely equal) role in wider European and even global affairs. In this context, it is noteworthy that Germany’s contribution to international crisis reaction contingents (be it the Eurocorps or the ARRC) is not confined to light elements with high strategic mobility. The Bundeswehr also has earmarked heavy armored formations for purposes of crisis intervention. This indicates that Germany’s military leaders wish to have a relatively broad spectrum of options: not only the possibility of rapid reaction to stabilize a crisis situation, but also the capability to launch a firm counterblow to punish an aggressor or to retake conquered territory. Influence can only be exerted, it is believed, if one is able to participate in all (or most) types of operations undertaken by a supranational authority.

As already indicated, the latter orientation has to do with viewing Germany as a strong European power in a central geostrategic location, requiring and deserving an adequate reflection of its status. This is not the whole story, however. There are at least two additional concerns of the military establishment that lead it to desire relatively large and strong forces:

Only a large organization with numerous subsystems could – with respect to corps-level integration – reach out its sinews in all directions and exert influence on Germany’s smaller neighbors.
Russia’s military strength may someday recuperate. In that case a sizeable counterweight would be needed. In other words, more than today, Germany would have to be the protector of the former Warsaw Pact countries admitted to NATO.

Such (rather clandestine) power aspirations suffer from the fact that Germany’s defense budget has been reduced and that it is likely to shrink further (at least in the mid-term). The two basic thrusts of German force development — “continental power” and “crisis reaction” — cannot be fully sustained at the same time. For this reason, during recent years a greater than proportionate share of the budget’s capital investment has gone to the crisis reaction forces, as their build-up appeared to demand first priority. This logic may continue to hold sway for the immediate future, preserving the privileged place of crisis reaction investments.

It was in this context that an expert discourse on “information warfare” and the so-called “revolution in military affairs” began to develop in Germany. As in other countries, critics of the military establishment have demanded a relative increase of investment in intelligence-gathering and data-processing equipment, and also in high-precision, long-range strike weapons. This, they contend, would make crisis reaction forces more effective. The military establishment agreed that the Bundeswehr should get more force multipliers (modern reconnaissance and communications equipment). But, by and large, the procurement pattern continues to be dominated by investments in complex platforms.

This reluctance to really shift the emphasis in the direction of what the Soviet military once called “reconnaissance-strike complexes” may involve something more than simple bureaucratic inertia favoring traditional procurement patterns. There is also current a belief that “one cannot automate crisis reaction”. In this view, the key to effective crisis stabilization resides in people and human interactions, not the employment of cutting-edge information and strike technologies. So, a focus on stabilization missions and on the more basic requirements of power projection may weigh against an American-style fascination with revolutionary technologies.

Despite the priority that German planners have given to power projection and crisis stabilization, there have been to date no official German statements clearly delineating the kinds of scenarios for which the Bundeswehr is developing crisis-reaction forces. The only available guidance indicates a need to be able to commit “up to one Army division” to a crisis reaction mission over an extended period of time. But how large a division? In separate theaters? For how long exactly? What type of conflicts and missions? All this remains a mystery.

4.4 Inherent dilemmas

4.4.1 Fiscal constraints and cost dynamics

In 1999 the investment (force modernization) section of the budget claimed 25 percent of total defense expenditures (excluding pension costs etc.). This turns out to be a down-ward revision from earlier plans. Originally, the investment proportion for 1999 had been set at 25.8 percent, and it seemed feasible to expand this share to 28.8 percent by the year 2002. This was intended as a cautious move toward the magic mark of 30 percent, which has been regarded a minimum requirement to achieve long-term force modernization.

The Federal Government’s austerity program derailed the original plan, however. As a consequence, the prospects for force modernization are now bleak. The Bundeswehr leadership still sticks to a relatively high personnel ceiling despite the fact that the defense budget is shrinking. Therefore an increasing share of the budget will have to be used to cover personnel costs.

Expenditures for operations and maintenance could also rise due to the expanded international commitments of the Bundeswehr. Sustaining crisis reaction and peacekeeping forces in Bosnia- Herzegovina and in Kosovo — 10,000 soldiers overall — could well cost DM 2 billion per annum. For this special purpose, however, the German defense minister will get money from general funds within the federal budget. At least for the mid-term, out-of-area missions will have to be only partly supported by the defense budget proper. This relieves some of the pressure on the defense budget, but only at the expense of creating pressure elsewhere, which will surely impinge on the defense budget eventually.

In this light, and assuming that no substantial reforms are carried out, there is a considerable likelihood that after four or five years the forces will be able to spend only 21-22 percent of their budget on modernization, with 23-24 percent going to operations and maintenance, and 55-56 percent to the personnel section. If this becomes the case, a rapid process of technological degradation can be expected. And this would have negative effects on operations and maintenance insofar as old equipment tends to break down more often than new.

Furthermore, because complex weapon systems in the process of development and procurement usually tend to suffer cost growth above the average inflation rate, more and more procurement programs would have to be stretched out. Overdue systems would be delivered later and later, if not canceled outright. In an overall budget with negative growth, and an investment share with no hope for significant expansion, there would be no resources to cushion the effects of cost overruns.

4.4.2 Ends-and-means problems

The Bundeswehr is caught in a multiple dilemma. Its military plans and instruments are not fully in line with its goals and the mismatch is growing worse. Three basic problems are evident:
First, if the German defense budget remains under serious resource constraints, and if privileged procurement for the crisis reaction forces continues, the very cohesion of the Bundeswehr will be threatened. A bifurcated military might emerge with core elite troops on the one side and heterogeneously structured main forces on the other. These latter would have varying degrees of readiness and technological obsolescence — clearly no fun for those who would have to serve there. Such a development runs counter to the concept of an integrated Bundeswehr capable of both meeting flexible crisis response and serving as a solid rock in the middle of Europe.
Second, as we have seen, the Bundeswehr’s expedition forces do not consist solely of relatively light elements for rapid crisis stabilization over longer distances. One half of the Army formations and the majority of the Luftwaffe contingents earmarked for crisis reaction are well suited for strike missions and (counter) offensive operations. Earmarking and sending such a force could serve the purpose of national status-seeking, but may not always be an appropriate response to a complex contingencies. Offense-capable forces could be perceived as provocative by one (or more) of the parties involved, thus undermining the prospects of non-violent conflict solution.
Finally, if the Bundeswehr can miraculously overcome its resource constraints and beef-up its main forces almost as substantially as it has tried to improve its crisis reaction forces, security problems of a higher order are likely to emerge. Not only the size of Germany’s force, but also its composition — which reflects the domination of heavy, offense-capable elements — could then be perceived as unnecessarily powerful in an environment of much smaller and less capable neighboring forces. Suspicion about German predominance might grow not only in the East, but also in the West. A policy that feeds such fears would run counter to one of the main tenants of German defense policy: to generate trust and military stability.

4.5 Outlook

Germany still lacks a comprehensive, well-integrated official vision or blueprint mapping the way to the future for the armed forces. Instead, there are only a few pieces of the puzzle: a somewhat tentative list of equipment to be procured between now and 2011, budget projections through 2002, and the force structure scheme of 1994, which is to be fully implemented by 2000/2001. And, as noted above, these are contradictory in some respects, vague in others. However, the so-called Red-Green-coalition, which took over Federal Government in the fall of 1998, decided to set up an expert commission with the task of exploring options for the further development of the Bundeswehr. Its report can be expected before summer 2000.

As a consensus has taken form around the proposition that the German armed forces cannot hope for substantial (real-term) budget increases, there seems to be no alternative to reducing active strength in order to break the current modernization deadlock. Three variants of such a policy are being ventilated in expert circles:
(i) Transition to an all-volunteer force

Proponents see an all-volunteer force as a dedicated, high-tech intervention instrument nearly reaching US standards. But adoption of the all-volunteer path would require a reduction of active strength to about 170,000 (plus limited mobilization potential). A volunteer military any larger than this would not be able to cover the relatively hefty bills for operations and procurement required by a high-technology force geared to intervention missions. Such a force would not constitute a “pillar of solidity” in Central Europe, nor would it lend itself easily to integration with most neighboring armies. But it could lead to the sociopolitical isolation of the military as a professional caste (which has been particularly problematic in Germany’s past).

(ii) Limited reduction of active strength (conscription maintained)

The Bundeswehr could be reduced to 250,000 – 260,000 soldiers (with a still considerable mobilization potential). Since this size would include “inexpensive” conscripts, the savings should be sufficient for a general, thorough modernization program (which would include high-tech items only on a selective basis, not as an obsession). Conscription could be socially stabilized at this reduced force level, making almost everyone serve who is fit and not a conscientious objector, by raising the fitness standards, by slightly increasing the proportion of conscripts in the forces, and by reducing the terms of service from 10 to 9 months. The resulting force would still be large enough to integrate itself with most of the neighbors and form a solid block in the middle of Europe. It would also be intervention- capable, but less dependent on strike elements and more on formations dedicated to control and protection missions. Such a military would also possess less provocative potential, especially if restructured in a more defensive manner.

(iii) Voluntary elite plus conscript militia

This option remains vague. Its proponents are not worried about the prospect of producing a two-tier force with inherent problems of cohesion. They would like to preserve the draft system (a holy cow in Germany) mainly for symbolic reasons. They view the conscript element as an inexpensive way to provide for basic home protection only. Most of the available resources would go to the crack intervention element, consisting of precious volunteers. However, the current and foreseeable security environment makes a homeguard (militia) for Germany look useless. Useless, but not necessarily “cheap” – after all, it would still require training, equipment, and an infrastructural foundation. Thus, this scheme would not likely generate enough savings to underwrite the requirements of the sizeable all-volunteer component equipped with cutting-edge equipment.


1. In some ways the differences over “out of area” operations is reminiscent of the debate during the 1980s over the US-inspired “Follow-on Forces Attack” concept and the American Air-Land Battle doctrine, which prescribed improvement of operational counter-offensive capabilities. On balance, European governments were never as enamored as the United States with these concepts, due both to concerns about crisis stability and fears that offensively-inclined plans would leave Western Europe more vulnerable to invasion, not less.

2. A closer comparison might be between the cost of the German military and the US air force-army team (including a pro-rated share of “defense-wide spending”). Even discounting the cost of American nuclear capabilities and the unrecovered costs of stationing US troops abroad, the United States still spends about seventy percent more per active-duty soldier than does Germany. This difference is largely attributable to US personnel costs, technological solutions, and power projection capabilities.

3. In 1997 the French GDP was only two thirds of the German and France had only 58.9 million inhabitants (or 73 percent of Germany’s 81.1 million).

4. This and the figures for 1996 and 1997 are at 1997 US prices. Expenditures for paramilitary forces and the pensions of all personnel on the payroll of the Ministry of Defense are included.

5.Author’s calculation.

6.With respect to current and future defense spending, figures are in Francs Francais (FF). Pensions are excluded.

7.Figures in cash terms (Francs courant).

8.The term “wider notion of security” has gained considerable currency since the Cold War’s end. It originally signified a move beyond militarized and competitive concepts of security. More recently, it has been almost wholly adapted to nationalist and other partisan agendas, as evident in Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” paradigm. When attached to partisan projects – whether national, sub-national, or transnational – the “wider notion of security” is more accurately understood as a “renewed and wider notion of competition”.

9. From a “realist” perspective this would not seem to be an exceptional policy for a nation-state. But French political culture allows (and may require) more frank declarations of realpolitik than is common elsewhere. More than this, France is notably allergic to institutional subsumption, having had (in a Gaullist view) a less-than-satisfactory experience of cooperation during the Second World War.

10. The Eurocorps is a military instrument of the WEU for intervention purposes. It could be the nucleus of an EU army. With contributions also from Germany, Spain, and Belgium it currently numbers about 50,000 soldiers. Along with Germany, France pioneered this scheme.

11. The British Army has 54 percent of the overall complement. In absolute terms this is below the figure planned in France (were the total size of the forces will be still larger). Therefore British expeditionary forces will be more dependent on reserves.

12. The two strategic submarines of older vintage were replaced during the end of the 1990s. The other two will be replaced in the years 2004 and 2008.

13. This and the figures for 1996/97 are at 1997 US prices. In 1985 the published defense budget in Britain included all pensions paid to service and civilian personnel of the armed forces (plus payments for NATO’s central infrastructure), thus meeting the criteria of NATO statistics. In 1993/94 there was a change, however. Ever since, the official budget comprises only the annual pension charges for actively serving personnel (uniformed and non-uniformed). The respective sum has been about £ 1 billion lower annually than the actual payment of pensions. Taking this phenomenon into account, the GDP share of defense expenditures was 2.9 percent in 1997.

14. With respect to current and future British defense spending figures are in Pounds Sterling.

15. The UKMF was based on a mechanized brigade to be reinforced in the event of a crisis by up to 5,000 soldiers from the regular reserves and the TA.

16. RAF to be removed from Germany in a few years.

17. The UK forces do not make a distinction between crisis-reaction and other troops. The whole structure is geared for expeditionary purposes. In an emergency, even TA elements could be used abroad. Of course, normally, only those formations with a distinctly high-degree of readiness would be deployed. This criterion fits most naval and air units as well as up to 6 active brigades (5 Army brigades and 1 amphibious Army/Navy brigade, which are considered “deployable”, though not all at once).

18. This development is to be based on the existing air-mobile brigade which, so far, has possessed only two regiments of armed utility helicopters. The new formation, whose exact structure is still under consideration, will probably comprise: 3 small-sized attack helicopter regiments and 2 airborne infantry battalions plus artillery and engineers. The brigade will have a battalion-level parachute capability.

19. Thirty tanks per (battalion-size) regiment are supposed to be kept “active”, ready for routine use. The other 28 machines would form an immediately available material reserve and could be activated in case of an emergency.

20. The new carriers could have displacements of 40,000 ts or more and will probably host 40 aircraft each. Among the candidates for the carrier-based aircraft is the American Joint Strike Fighter (CTOL/STOL).

21. There have been plans to replace, over a period of 20 years, more than half of these vehicles (and scrap the rest) by a heavy, wheeled armored carrier to be jointly developed with Germany. The project seems to be ill-fated, however.

22. A recent estimate suggests that Britain’s remaining nuclear forces would demand about 5 percent per annum of total defense spending, mainly for operations and maintenance. Currently there are no major nuclear modernization programs.

23. There have been rumors that Britain and France may jointly build and operate one aircraft carrier. The combined fleet would then consist of three such vessels. (Official plans are still for 2 carriers for each country.)

24. This, and the figures for 1996/97, are at 1997 US prices. Included are the pensions of uniformed and non-uniformed military personnel as well as other spending relevant to external security – such as contributing to NATO’s civil budget and the support for foreign troops stationed on FRG territory.

25. Interview with V. Kröning MP (Member of the Bundestag’s budget committee), Bonn, Jan. 29, 1999.

26. With respect to current and future German defense spending figures are in Deutschmark.

27. Interview with V. Kröning MP, Berlin, Sept. 5, 1999.

28. Interview with E. Schmidt-Eenboom (independent defense analyst), June 12, 1996 (Munich).

29. In 1998 the Army had 174 American built UH-1Ds and the Luftwaffe 99.

30. Typical squadron size: 15 – 18 Such earmarking could, for instance, mean that respective formations get new weaponry first.

31. Such earmarking could, for instance, mean that respective formations get new weaponry first.

32. 8 frigates (class 122), built in the 1980s, have a displacement of 3,800 ts, 4 frigates (class 123) of more recent vintage are at 4,500 ts, and the next generation (class 124) is going to have 5,000 ts or more.


Bundesministerium der Finanzen, Bundeshaushalt 2000 und Finanzplan 1999 bis 2003, II A 1 – H 1120 – 2000 – 29/99, Bonn, July 1999.

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Bundesministerium der Verteidigung: Erläuterungen und Vergleiche zum Regierungsentwurf des Verteidigungshaushalts 1999, Bonn: MoD, February 8, 1999.

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Centre for Defense Studies (ed.): The Strategic Defense Review: How Strategic? How Much of a Review? (London Defense Studies Nr. 46) London: Brassey’s, July 1998.

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Chalmers, M.: The Comprehensive Spending Review and the Strategic Defense Review (Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford: Conference Paper) November 1998.

Codner, M.: Aircraft Carriers: The Next Generation? ISIS Briefing (1998) Nr. 70.

Défense: la levée en masse a vécu, La Libération, January 27, 1999.

International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 1985/86, 1990/91, 1998/99; London: Brassey’s 1985, 1990, 1998.

La défense en chiffres 1999, armées d’aujourd’hui, Paris 1998

Lather, D.: Das neue Heer. Die Gliederung, Soldat und Technik, 3/1996: 167 – 172.

Les armées vont créer, d’ici a 2002, un corps de 100000 reservistes, Le Monde, January 28, 1999.

Ministère de la Défense, Livre Blanc sur le Défense, Paris 1994.

Ministère de la Défense, Project de budget de la Défense pour 1999, Paris 1998.

Ministry of Defense: Strategic Defense Review: Modern Forces for the Modern World, London: Ministry of Defense, July 1998.

Untersheher, Lutz, “Europe’s Armed Forces at the Millennium: A Case Study of Change in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany,” Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #11, November 1999.

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