Germany’s armed forces are facing significant personnel problems as the ranks age and the military struggles to win new recruits, according to a damning report presented to parliament on Tuesday 12th March 2024.

Despite Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement in 2022 of major new investments in defence, the military continues to struggle with equipment shortages and infrastructure problems as well, according to Eva Högl, Germany’s commissioner for the armed forces.

“The force continues to age and shrink,” Högl wrote in her 2023 annual report, which was published in Berlin on Tuesday.

Several German military units have large “personnel vacancies,” according to the report.

Högl also notes that the equipment shortages include everything from heavy equipment to spare parts, and that those deficiencies have become worse as Germany has shipped weapons from its stocks to Ukraine.

Scholz announced a €100 billion ($109 billion) special fund to re-equip the military in a speech just after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Scholz called the invasion a turning point (“Zeitenwende”), and promised that Germany would rebuild its military.

But the report argues that actual change has been slow coming. Högl wrote that an “important course has been set in many areas” over the past year, but that Germany’s military has not yet reached its goal.

Some facilities are in terrible shape, Högl said. She called the condition of bases and housing for soldiers in some places “shameful.”

“I receive letters from parents whose children have just started their service – in barracks with dilapidated rooms, mouldy showers and clogged toilets,” she said.

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The commissioner’s job is to help parliament with its oversight duty toward the military, and also to serve as an advocate for soldiers.

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