The German Cabinet has approved a draft bill of measures aimed at making the military one of the country’s best employers. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen hopes to attract and retain young people and specialists with better pay and family-friendly working hours.
For the first time, the military would be permitted to pay bonuses to service members of 20 percent of base salary over four years. An aircraft mechanic, for example, would receive an extra €440 (US $550) a month, or a one-time premium of €21,100. Von der Leyen said the bonuses would help attract the kind of highly skilled specialists — particularly in the IT sector — that the armed forces desperately needs.
The bill is the latest component in von der Leyen’s wide-reaching program aimed at improving the overall image of the German military, which has suffered following years of underinvestment and months of negative headlines highlighting problems in defense equipment and procurement.
Von der Leyen also called for the publication of a new white paper outlining the German government’s security and defense priorities. The paper could be produced in the current legislative period until 2016, she said.
The current white paper on national security and the future of the Bundeswehr dates from 2006. The minister said that a new paper would address the debate that began at the Munich Security Conference at the start of the year about Germany’s role in international politics. It would also clarify how Germany should respond to new defense challenges such as the Ukraine crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State group.
“Good personnel is just as important as good equipment,” von der Leyen said during a press conference held this week to introduce the bill.
Differentials paid to staff with especially dangerous or difficult jobs would also increase by up to 40 percent, benefiting some 22,000 soldiers and 500 civilian employees.
For the first time in its history, the Bundeswehr would have a mandated 41-hour working week for basic operations staff in Germany. In addition, the bill would do away with restrictions on applications for part-time work. Currently, only employees with children under 18 or who need leave to take care of a family member have been permitted to work part time.