Germany moots army deployment at home: media

The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" says a White Paper is being readied to allow the domestic deployment of the Bundeswehr. But Germany's constitution sets very strict limits for the use of the armed forces within its borders.

The German newspaper reported Tuesday that a white paper titled "Security Police and the Future of the Bundeswehr" has been drafted that envisages allowing a wider deployment of the armed forces than has previously been the case.

The proposed changes would allow the military to be utilized in case of a terrorist attack or other major security threat.

The draft states that "due to the character and dynamics of present and future security threats," a new strategy is required to allow the military to respond both internally and externally.

At present, the German constitution, or Basic Law, only permits the use of the military at home "in cases of national emergency." But there's a growing call for a widening of the military's powers at home in the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks.

As well as taking part in counterterrorism measures, the army could play a bigger role in the refugee crisis by helping to distribute aid, for instance, .

Long-running debate

Several politicians have called for some time for the constitution to be amended to allow such a plan. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partner, the Social Democrat Party of Germany (SPD), remains skeptical.

"The enforcement of state power remains the responsibility of the police," Rainer Arnold, the party's defense committee spokesman, told the "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" newspaper Tuesday.

The party believes that rather than giving additional responsibilities to an overstretched military, it would make more sense to bolster the country's police forces.

The white paper, which will be made available to the Cabinet in June, may also broaden the remit of the Bundeswehr on overseas missions.

A debate has been raging in Germany for several years about the use of the military, which was severely restricted following World War Two. The Bundeswehr was formed in 1955 to develop a completely new military force with a limited scope for the then West Germany.

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In 2015, the government agreed to increase military spending from 1.3 percent to 6.2 percent over the next five years to allow the army to be modernized. The defense ministry is also planning to expand the number of troops.

Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment

Manufacturing fault

The Eurofighter is the German military's most modern fighter jet. As a result of a manufacturing error, the 16-meter-long plane's flight hours have been cut from 3,000 to 1,500. The Defense Ministry says the manufacturing error has no consequences for the Eurofighter's deployment.

Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment

Very advanced … in years

Tornado fighters have been flying for 40 years. Currently, only 38 of Germany's 89 fighters are operational. The Transall C-160 planes suffer from a similar fate: only 25 of the existing 57 transport planes, developed in the 1960s, are combat ready. The Transall's successor Airbus A400M has been delayed for years.

Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment

Defective helicopters

The Bundeswehr's fleet of helicopters is also hard-hit. Only ten of the 31 modern Tiger combat helicopters are operational, and only four of 22 Sea Lynx anti-submarine helicopters are airworthy. The NH90 and CH53 transport copters have similar deficiency rates.

Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment

Not making any tracks

Only 70 of the 189 Boxer transport tanks are currently available for training or operation purposes. In case of an emergency, the Bundeswehr could deploy about half of the 406 Marder armored personnel carriers. The track vehicle was launched in 1971.

Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment

Glitches at sea

In December 2001, the Bundeswehr decided to purchase five K130 corvettes, scheduled to be operational in 2007. Faulty gear drives, air conditioning and software were to blame for a lengthy delay. Even after the warships were launched, only two were immediately operational.

Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment

Consequences for von der Leyen?

The defense equipment issue is the first major crisis Ursula von der Leyen faces since taking over the defense portfolio at the end of 2013. Her predecessors are to blame, however, for cutting costs for spare parts. Von der Leyen refers to a "phase of drastic change" in the airplane sector and "shortages" due to repairs.