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Germany Must Increase Defense Budget, Cohen Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HAMBURG, Germany, Dec. 1, 1999 – Germany must increase its defense budget, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told military leaders here Dec. 1.

Cohen addressed the biannual meeting of the leaders of the Bundeswehr, or German military. His talk came two days after German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced plans to restructure the army. The meeting theme was "The German Military and Deployments: Balance and Perspective.”

The secretary applauded German initiatives that will help NATO become more agile, easier to sustain and better able to communicate. “However, I must stress that Germany’s strong leadership in enhancing these capabilities demands leadership in another critical area: devoting the resources and making the investments necessary to field a 21st century force,” he said.

Cohen told the military leaders that while funding reunification has been an enormous undertaking for all Germany, it is time to look to defense and the challenges NATO faces. He complimented Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping for speaking out strongly for the critical funding needed to field the Bundeswehr of tomorrow.

NATO has said member nations should spend roughly 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense. Germany spends roughly 1.5 percent; its most recent defense budget is 47.8 billion marks, or about $25.6 billion.

Cohen did not question Germany’s decision to restructure its forces. He said the changes contemplated fit right in with current NATO thinking. He said Germany and NATO have learned the lessons of operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

“We cannot afford the disparity of alliance capabilities we witnessed this spring,” he said. “The disparity of capabilities, if not corrected, could threaten the unity of this alliance.

“A great alliance cannot have only one member -- the United States -- conducting virtually two-thirds of all support sorties and half of all combat missions,” he continued. “A great alliance cannot have only one or a few countries with precision-guided munitions that can operate in all weather. A great alliance cannot have its pilots communicating over unsecure lines open to its adversaries. A great alliance cannot afford extended delays in deploying its forces to potential flash points.”

Cohen said the NATO allies recognize disparities cannot last and, through the Defense Capabilities Initiative, are seeking to correct them. For example, he said, Germany is working to enhance alliance mobility. Germany proposes “cross-pooling” airlift across national boundaries so, for instance, German troops could travel to a European hot spot via Spanish transports and Greece could airlift supplies for Italian soldiers in Kosovo.

“In addition, the commercial sector’s air- and sealift hold great promise if Germany and other allies establish appropriate means to use them … in crisis response operations,” Cohen said.

He urged the Bundeswehr to welcome Scharping’s call for a complete reorganization. “The success of all the reforms and restructuring I have noted so far in turn rest on something else, leaders of imagination and dedication,” Cohen said. The German military is undergoing a national defense review by the Commission on Common Security and the Future of the Bundeswehr, which will report to the government in April.

“The decisions Germany makes in the next few months and years will have a profound and lasting impact on the capabilities, not only of this nation, but of the alliance as a whole,” Cohen said. “Perhaps now more than ever, the alliance looks to German leadership to contribute to the capabilities necessary if we are to continue shaping the peace and security into the next century.”

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Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen at the Bundeswehr Commanders' Conference, Hamburg Congress Center, Hamburg, Germany, Dec. 1, 1999

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