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DoD News Briefing: Wednesday, 1 December 1999 - Hamburg, Germany

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Minister of Defense Scharping
December 01, 1999

Question: Reuters for Minister Scharping: Question number one, do you welcome Mr. Cohen's support for your push for more defense spending on the part of Germany and, number two, would you welcome the United States beginning to build a national missile defense even if it meant trashing the ABM Treaty in the process?

Minister Scharping: On the question of support, I want to say two things. With regard to what I have said here at the Commanders' Conference about the new directions for the Bundeswehr - its military capabilities, its integration into international security policy as well as the reform of its internal structures, the improvement of its efficiency, its productivity and its economic capabilities - has been very closely coordinated with the Chancellor. Therefore, I am quite optimistic, as I have already said, that we can conclude this process during December. In that respect, every support is welcome. After all, the Defense Ministers and the Foreign Ministers in NATO and in the European Union are the most pragmatic visionaries I know. On the second question concerning National Missile Defense, this defense - as Secretary Cohen has described it - is a project that is being pursued with great care. In addition to the very justified security concerns, one must be vigilant - and I know this to be in good hands - that it will not cause any disruption in the disarmament and arms control process. I am certain that this will be achieved because we are, prior to Toronto, at Toronto and even now, in close consultations. That is the basis for my hopeful optimism.

Question: Sir, you have been very precise and very direct in your criticism of the deficiencies of the German army. Can you put a figure to your expectation, to what extent the defense budget should be increased in Germany?

Secretary Cohen: I think I will let Minister Scharping address the requirements of the defense spending since he will be required to go before the Bundestag to defend the increase. What I can do, however, is point to the deficiencies that we witnessed across the Alliance, in the United States as well as other member of the Alliance during Kosovo. Again, I took pains to point out this morning, however briefly, that when it comes to mobility, to secure communications, to logistical sustainment, all of these areas need to be addressed. The development of air-to-air refueling capability on the part of the German Air Force, the development of secure communications; I cannot put a price tag on those items other than to point out that improvements have to be achieved. NATO has committed itself to achieving these improvements. Each country will have to decide how much it can afford to spend for the achievement of these goals and how it will raise the funds. But I would not be in a position to give any recommendation to Minister Scharping on how much is required - only that there is a requirement on the part of all NATO members.

Minister Scharping: Perhaps our foreign guests can better understand what we mean by efficiency and productivity when I give these brief examples. In the course of 1999, we have tightened operations within the Bundeswehr--saving DM 200,000,000 in operations, training and exercises alone -- which we can and will use for investment. Beginning next year, we will continue to build air refueling capabilities for the Bundeswehr and expect to have initial capacities by the end of 2000 or start of 2001. We will review our procurement procedures, because no one can explain why a dual-use fleet of vehicles such as cars and buses still has to be acquired when, in cooperation with industry, this could be more effectively organized through a leasing arrangement than through so-called military procurement. After all, we are driving in this country on well-maintained roads; obviously, vehicles needed for international operations are a different matter. With these few examples, I wish to give you an indication of what we mean by increasing efficiency and productivity. Its purpose is to strengthen the investment capabilities of the Bundeswehr and to create the basis for a rational political discussion. It is obvious that the low point reached in 1994, 1995 has left a set of deficiencies which have to be successively dealt with in a way which supports the jointly agreed-upon Defense Capabilities Initiative and European development to which Germany is committed.

Mr. Harenberg, NDR: Question: Mr. Minister, you have once again pointed out the strong acceptance of the Bundeswehr in the population, even among young people. How do you explain the recruitment difficulties?

Minister Scharping: We have the same recruitment problems as German industry, i.e. in very specialized areas, for example, information technology. We have them where labor markets are better than the average in Germany or in problem regions. That was the reason why I had earlier pointed out that, in the public sector, we have to be competitive with the private sector in terms of career opportunities and that we must improve that level of competitiveness. I want to keep you guessing. By December 20 at the latest, we will have on your desks what decisions we plan to take in that area, i.e. attractive Christmas prospects.

Stefan Robine, Deutsche Welle TV: Mr Scharping, you said only someone who really saves can later make demands. How long can one pursue a policy of saving and when must demanding begin in terms of what you have said?

Minister Scharping: You can be certain that what the Chancellor has said and that what I now say is closely coordinated and that means that we will not say anything now about the budget for the year 2001.

Mr. Hester, North German Radio: Minister Scharping, the Governing Mayor of the city of Hamburg in his opening remarks appealed to you to maintain Bundeswehr capabilities for disaster relief despite the savings requirements. Will you be able to honor this request?

Minister Scharping: Yes. Let me add, the number of friends of the Bundeswehr rises in proportion to the extent that such capabilities and their locations are discussed.

Question: Minister Scharping, you have said that the draft should be maintained but could be made more flexible. What do you mean by that?

Minister Scharping: The Commission and the military leadership of the Bundeswehr are giving thought to the draft requirement on the basis of the proven and still valid principle of maintaining the draft, taking into account international experience which is in part very mixed. I hope that my British friends would not consider me inconsiderate when I say that I do not wish that Germany reaches a similar situation to Great Britain, where they are considering having certain youthful offenders serve out their sentences in the armed forces. I would also not wish to experience what we have seen in France, where the abolishment of conscription and the reduction of the army has led to a 30 per cent increase in cost with no corresponding increase in performance. We should make sure that armed forces in democracies represent the entire spectrum of society - its potential, its values. A negative social selection mechanism for the armed forces in a democracy is totally unacceptable. In this regard, the draft is good in principle and its flexible implementation in accordance with varying assignments is under consideration and will be concluded no later than May next year. We already have this flexible system. We have a basic tour of duty of 10 months and we have the possibility of voluntary extensions to 23 months - an opportunity currently utilized by 25% of those conscripted.

Question: Colin Clark, Defense News for Minister Scharping: Your colleague and friend, Secretary Cohen, has managed to scrape together some fresh funds from Congress to help fund the United States missile defense efforts. You have barely battled your Finance Ministers back to keep your budget where it is today. How are you going to afford the incredibly expensive efforts to build a theater missile defense system within NATO?

Minister Scharping: Well, first of all, a theater missile defense system in NATO is not the priority for the year 2000. I hope that we are able to build up more capacity in a more tactical sense for missile defense. Concerning the budget, I hope you can understand that in the year 1999, the Bundeswehr budget included international engagement at 47.4 Billion German Marks. In 2000, it will be 47.3 Billion Marks. It was a decision with which the Bundeswehr and the Defense Minister can live.

Question: But if you do commit to building up for a theater missile defense system, where are you going to find the money?

Minister Scharping: Please come again to Germany in May/June next year, then I can answer your question.

Question to the Secretary: We talk about the European plans to build up strategic reconnaissance. Couldn't it be a solution to open up the American capabilities more to their closest European allies to allow say, a concentration of German investments on other items?

[Request for clarification.]

The European Union plans to build a strategic reconnaissance, so my question is, wouldn't it be another solution to open up the American capabilities more to the use of their close European allies to allow concentration of the German investments on other items like airlift, etc.?

  • Secretary Cohen: In fact, what the Defense Capabilities Initiative proposes is not that every individual country in NATO duplicate all of the capabilities that we each have, but rather to get a proper rationalization of the assets so that we can work effectively. But it is not acceptable to say, for example, that one country being the United States should have to carry out all of the electronic jamming. It is not acceptable to say that the United States is the country that has to carry out all or most of the precision guided bombing operations. So there has to be a better rationalization and that is the purpose of the DCI, to look to those areas where countries can make contribution in their command and control, communications--that's something that we should all have. So that you don't talk over open lines during a combat mission, thereby alerting the potential enemy.
  • So there is that rationalization that is envisioned within the DCI itself.

Danish Radio: Question for Minister Scharping: What is the ultimate goal of European defense cooperation? When can one say one has achieved it? And a question for Secretary Cohen: You said that the problem is not too much America but too little Europe. When will there be enough Europe in NATO in your opinion?

Minister Scharping: As a German, I am very cautious about describing "final goals" (Endziele) but, let me put it from a European perspective -- for the development of the common European currency, we needed more than ten years. The Europeans ratified the Amsterdam Treaty a year and a half ago and every administration in Germany, particularly this administration, is quite pleased that all the initiatives for the formation of a European security and defense identity, for the integration of the WEU into the European Union, for closer partnership with all European states, for the development of an institutional framework and corresponding military capabilities were put in motion in less than 18 months. That is, by European standards, a surprising and encouraging development. Consequently, I am optimistic that we will be able to reach the goal that we have set for ourselves and that harks back to the time of President Kennedy, namely a strong and equal European pillar within NATO. That also means we must do something within the European Union. We have too much agricultural policy and too little foreign policy.

Mr. Joerres: Question for Minister Scharping: You have already made some cogent remarks about the draft. The Chancellor has personally committed himself to maintaining the draft. Can you imagine an argument from the Commission which would lead to a reevaluation of that position and, consequently, to abolishing the draft?

Minister Scharping: I would under no circumstances interfere with the work of the Commission - also not with preventive comments.

Hamburger Abendblatt: Question for Minister Scharping: You spoke of making the Bundeswehr more fit for Europe; you spoke of divisions of labor within Europe. How can differing strategic interests, such as power projection, be harmonized in the European context especially with regard to the creation of a joint strategic air fleet?

Minister Scharping: The European decisions with regard to a European transportation command are well underway. It is easier to work among the air forces because they have similar procedures, speak the same language, often fly the same planes and have similar training. This produces a strong ability to cooperate, which needs to be introduced into this European structure. Secondly, we can conduct divisions of labor within Europe the way Secretary Cohen has just described it for NATO, i.e. not every country has to possess every capability but each country must make an appropriate contribution to joint capabilities. What is appropriate is determined by each country's interests and goals, its economic possibilities, population size and numerous other factors. Germany cannot proceed on the assumption that it is too small and too poor. No one would believe us.

Question for Secretary Cohen: You have spoken of the technological gap between the Europeans and Americans and that Europeans don't necessarily have to buy everything "made in America," but should simply create capabilities which are compatible with American ones. My question: In order to save money, would the Americans be willing to share technology with Europeans in order to speed up the process of closing this gap? NATO is currently a two-class society: some countries such as Great Britain are technologically better served by the Americans and others less well.

Secretary Cohen: The answer to that is yes. Yes, the United States is prepared to have working arrangements and partnerships with allies. There have always been at least two pre-requisites to the sharing of technology, or having these business partnerships or mergers. And that is the question to make sure that the countries with which we are sharing the technology have adequate export controls and have adequate protection of the technology itself. But we do share a good deal of technology now with our allies and so when we are looking at future types of technologies, those two key elements are very important and that means export controls at standards that we insist would be acceptable as well as internal method of protecting the information itself. But the answer is, of course, we would share with our allies.

Minister Scharping: Perhaps we should develop a few things in Europe which our American friends would find attractive enough to procure in Europe.

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