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Defense

German auditor criticizes Euro Hawk drone project failings

A German government auditor has criticized the Defense Ministry's level of financial oversight surrounding a failed drone program. The Euro Hawk project was described as having "many weaknesses."

According to auditors, the government spent 668 million euros ($822 million) in developing the Euro Hawk drone program, but it was canceled this year after it was unable to be granted permission to fly in EU airspace.

"We discovered the [financial] controlling had not functioned," auditor Angelika Bauch told a parliamentary committee of inquiry on Wednesday. "There was no proper expert oversight."

"There are many weaknesses in the running of the project," she added, saying program leaders lacked a "culture of responsibility."

The project became a controversial issue for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative government following its cancelation. The opposition has jumped on the issue ahead of Germany's September 22 elections, demanding Defense Minister Thomas De Maiziere resign.

Defense minister stands firm

De Maiziere has argued that he was unaware of the problems surrounding the project and that his subordinates concealed the cost overruns. He has rejected calls to for him to step down, saying he would stay in office to reform the defense ministry.

Bauch told the committee that ministers and senior defense officials had let the project run itself during its 12 years of existence. However, it was the responsibility of a minister to demand information about programs "at regular levels" and not to simply rely on it being offered, Bauch said.

Bauch said that the defense ministry should have considered canceling the project as early as 2009. De Maiziere took office in 2011.

The defense minister is expected to go before the committee next week.

dr/jr (dpa, AFP)