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Military

German military commissioner presents yearly report, questions effect of reforms

Germany's parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces has presented his annual report to the Bundestag. The review comes amid the lowest rate of morale among German soldiers since 1989.

Hellmut Königshaus presented the annual report on Germany's armed forces to the Bundestag on Tuesday. Königshaus - the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces - serves as the legal representation of the country's soldiers.

During a press conference in Berlin, Königshaus attributed the rise of complaints among soldiers to recent reforms to the German armed forces, which included a reduction in the number of troops and military facilities.

"It's questionable whether the Bundeswehr is really better equipped for operation, able to be financed for the long-term and more attractive [as an employer]," Königshaus said.

The number of grievances has been growing in the German armed forces, reaching roughly 5,000 complaints filed in 2013, up roughly 20 percent from the previous year.

Cuts highlight structural problems

Königshaus attributed dissatisfaction in the military primarily to the fast pace of policy change.

"There has been no sign of improvement yet," Königshaus said, adding that the military personnel had reported a "structural deficencies" and "management deficencies" in the wake of the reforms.

The department of defense cut personnel in an effort to streamline the military into a smaller professional army. It set the maximum number of employees to 240,000 people, only 180,000 of which are soldiers. It also decided to close 31 facilities by 2017 with a further 90 facilities to be drastically reduced. The defense department's personnel was also reduced from 3,000 to 2,000 employees.

Other cuts were made to key defense projects and equipment, trimming the number of Eurofighter jets, Tiger combat helicopters and NH-90 transport helicopters, in some cases by half.

Women in service

Königshaus also cited problems integrating women in the military, saying that some men continued to express reservations at the female presence in the armed services.

The treatment of women also found its way into the number of grievances. Königshaus expressed concern at the rate of sexual harassment.

According to the annual report, the armed forces registered 64 suspected cases of sexual harassment, up from 50 the year before.

"Those affected often are concerned about filing a complaint about discrimination and cases of sexual harassment for fear of [the consequences]," he added.

Positive signs

Despite the high level of complaints, Königshaus did highlight improvements, including improved management of the remaining troops in Afghanistan and the perception of the new defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen has said she wants to introduce policies that would ease common strains on families. She cited in particular the hardship of transferring soldiers every few years around the country and the lack of flexible childcare as areas she wanted to address first.

Königshaus praised her initiative and said it had been met with approval by the armed services, adding that military personnel expected the government must act quickly to introduce measures as soon as possibly.

kms/mkg (AFP, dpa, epd)

DW.DE