A multifunctional robot dog called "Wolfgang" of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) is pictured in front of German soldiers during the device's presentation as the German Defence Minister visited the German Armed Forces' Digitalisation Unit of Land-Based Operations on July 11, 2022 in Munster, northwestern Germany. (Photo by Axel Heimken / AFP)

Part of the biography of Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner is that he initially refused military service, but then applied for a sideline career as a reserve officer in the Bundeswehr. In the meantime, the FDP boss has risen to become a major in the reserve. So he has practical part-time experience in the military. At the beginning of the week, the minister and major expressed concern about the state of the Bundeswehr and sent a few lines to Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, which caused a sensation as an “incendiary letter”.

The tone of the letter is rather calm. But Lindner unequivocally insists that after the provision of 100 billion euros in the loan-financed special fund for the benefit of the Bundeswehr, the “most efficient use of funds” is secured for the purchase of weapons and equipment.

Obviously, he doesn’t want to be said to have agreed to take on immense new debt – in order to finance procurement gaps and sloppiness. When the decision was made in March to set up the special fund, the finance minister made it clear that the funds should be spent within a few years. Lindner does not want projects to be procrastinated or delayed.

This is exactly what the object is known for, which he does not name in his letter to Scholz and Lambrecht, but means: the Federal Office for Armament, Information Technology and Use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw), also known as the procurement office. The authority based in Koblenz is considered complex, it has ten departments and almost 7,000 positions, many of which are vacant. At the top is Gabriele Korb, a career civil servant who has mostly worked in procurement for the Bundeswehr for 30 years.

Lindner calls for the financial effort to be accompanied by “courageous reforms”. The poor state of the armed forces is “mainly due to structural deficits and inadequate civilian and military management in recent years”.

He gets support from the Greens. The budget politician responsible for the military department, Sebastian Schäfer, told the Tagesspiegel: “The first steps towards reforming the procurement system have been taken. But that’s still not enough.” Further measures are necessary – Schäfer means the “optimization of the procurement structure and the awarding processes”. Especially with a view to the procurements within the framework of the special fund, he expressly calls for “changes in the Koblenz authority”.

The small coalition parties are increasing the pressure on the SPD to envisage more than just small reforms – such as making the direct award of purchases more flexible. Even the procurement acceleration law that has just been passed is not enough for them. It was not Lambrecht who was in charge of its implementation, but the Green Economics Minister Robert Habeck. From the Green-Yellow point of view, the leadership of the Bundeswehr is worthy of criticism because the CDU and SPD have never allowed other parties to come close since 1955. If the chancellery was black, the Union led the defense ministry. If it was red, the SPD did it.

How a reform of the procurement office could look in detail remains unclear for the time being. The authority itself has outlined possible ways. But if the defense minister doesn’t come up with her own ideas soon, she runs the risk of the FDP and the Greens becoming more specific.

The spending program in the special fund is now underway. Its economic plan (part of the federal budget) shows expenditure of 8.4 billion euros for 2023. An additional approximately €52 billion is made available via commitment appropriations – the rest will be added in the coming years. So far, the largest share has been earmarked for the benefit of the Air Force – including the purchase of the US F35 jet, the long-term successor to the Eurofighter (FCAS), the Euro drone, and the procurement of heavy transport helicopters.

In the case of the army, the focus is, among other things, on retrofitting the “Puma” infantry fighting vehicle and the successor to the “Marders”. New frigates and corvettes are being planned for the Navy. Digital is also being upgraded, for example to monitor large rooms with artificial intelligence. The “Infantryman of the Future” program will also be continued – it serves to better equip Panzergrenadiers.