Dhe Bundeswehr is to become the strongest European armed force with the best equipment. Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised that. Big words about a force that the army inspector said was “naked” when Russia invaded Ukraine. And that’s not all: In order for the desolate situation to change, it is precisely now that an authority is needed that is considered lame and impractical. Her name is “BAAINBw” – a typical Bundeswehr abbreviation that nobody understands. We therefore simply call it “the armaments office”. When this authority is mentioned, almost everyone who has anything to do with the Bundeswehr rolls their eyes. Former military commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels called it a “bureaucracy labyrinth”.
But sometimes an authority is routinely badmouthed and not even noticed that something is changing. Maybe that applies to the infamous “BAAINBw” as well. We visited it for two days last week. It wasn’t easy: it took various offices and ministry departments more than six months to approve the appointment. It’s easier to get into the Special Forces Command than the German armaments authority in Koblenz.
The office supplies the Bundeswehr with “efficient and safe defense technology” and buys what the troops need. At least in theory. Because in truth, there has been a lack of many things for years, which was also due to the cumbersome procurement system. War is now raging in Europe, and the question is how the office can succeed, initially with investments of 100 billion, in giving the Bundeswehr the clout it needs for deterrence and in an emergency. Where the Rhine and Moselle flow together deep in the west, more than six thousand people are working to equip the troops with things ranging from ten-cent disposable syringes to frigates costing almost a billion euros. However, more than a thousand other positions are vacant. For a long time, the armaments office was rather unattractive as an employer.
Even from the outside, the office is of impressive size
That is changing, they say. The civil authority is to enable the Bundeswehr to defend the country again. “We are confident that we can successfully master this with our competent and motivated employees,” said the Vice President of the Office in May at a hearing in the Bundestag.
Even from the outside, the office is of an impressive size. A nearly 160 meter long building is located directly on the Rhine, once built for the Prussian state government. Kaiser Wilhelm himself is said to have given it the appearance of a mighty castle. Since the Federal German Defense Administration had moved in after the war, more and more branch offices have been added. Department “K”, for example, is housed in the Rauental district on the Moselle. It is led by Brigadier General Juergen Schmidt, a logistics and procurement professional who started his career in resupply.