Discussion with students of the Helmut Schmidt University (HSU). Fellows present Memo from the Defense and the Big Picture working groups.
Six officer cadets accompanied by Captain Klasing explained their military opportunities, the path to becoming an officer and the fundamental idea of education of German officers.
An officer cadet has to achieve a degree in any subject offered at the HSU. That can be for example a degree in politics, macroeconomics or international relations. Captain Klasing himself had attained a master’s degree at the HSU and is now a senior administration officer in charge of nearly 100 officer cadets.
The basic reason for mandating a degree in higher education for military officers was stated by the founder of the university, Helmut Schmidt. He wanted German officers, who are confronted daily with complex and tough issues, to have a minimal academic background and education equivalent to a German teacher.
The fellows then presented their memos ‘Big Picture’ and ‘Defense’.
‘Big picture’ was presented by Tim and Ellen. The officers had interesting thoughts regarding the presented ‘new narrative for the 21st century’.
They began explaining how difficult it is today to understand the value of the transatlantic bond between the United States and Germany. Education would be the key to closing this ‘mental barrier’ between the US and Germany. However, headlines such as the NSA-affair and the elected president Donald Trump would be causing more division.
Some of the American fellows were curious, why German military was not as active in foreign countries as the US. The officers elaborated how the German military is considered a ‘parliament army’. It is by law primarily used to defend German territory. To cross the border it needs permission from the Bundestag.
The fellows then wanted to know more details about the procedure of a mission. One cadet told us of his experience in the Mediterranean Sea involving refugees. He explained how soldiers were briefed before and after the operation. There are also a multitude of channels for soldiers to talk about and reflect on their missions. Two of our American fellows who had served in the US military then told us that these German procedures are very similar to the ones in the US.
The last question of the ‘Big Picture’ group was what exactly German officers learn and experience and what the incentive is to becoming an officer. The answer revealed a surprising difference between German and US military. German officers barely engage in combat. Instead, they learn more about leadership at a young age. In general there are a multitude of opportunities to gain experiences in the German military.
After that the ‘Defense’ memo was presented by Carolyn and Caleb.
The first point of the memo that the officers addressed was the 2 % spending target. Germany did not reach the 2 % mark of spending on defense, although they had a huge financial surplus last year. An officer commented that the problem is rooted in the negative public opinion of military due to the difficult German history revolving around World War II. Therefore the ministry of defense is last in line when it comes to dividing the financial surplus amongst German ministries. But German military needs more money. They lack the necessary personnel, weapons, vehicles and gadgets to stabilize the refugee crisis areas. However, it is hard to communicate to the public the necessity of spending more on defense. People in Germany feel safe and believe we live in peaceful times. Hence, the reason for lack of public support lies in the lack of urgency.
Secondly, the officers talked about German measures regarding Russia. They believe the Eastern European border is not prepared for a Russian invasion. NATO will therefore play a decisive role in case an invasion happens. German military already benefits from this agreement since they coordinate and cooperate with other NATO members, for example by sharing ships and sea platforms.
Finally the officers explained how German military is creating a new institution to defend cyberattacks. The so-called ‘Cyber Information Room’ is being established in Munich.