Universities, the Bundeswehr and “networked security”

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The debate about the “militarisation of research and teaching” is relatively new in Germany, and happens against the background of the restructuring of the German Bundeswehr from an alleged “defence army” to an “army in deployment”. This restructuring and the extent to which it affects the entire German population, are usually underestimated. While the defence army was, by design, relatively evenly distributed over Germany’s territory, at present, several military bases are being closed or merged, and military capabilities are concentrated at some locations. The rationale for this is no longer presence all over the country, but rather the ability for quick deployment abroad. All in all, the total number of Bundeswehr soldiers and civilian employees of the is to be reduced, but more soldiers than before are tobe made available for deployment abroad. This is only possible through the outsourcing of tasks which are not “core military tasks” (this is the term used in Ministry of Defence strategy papers and press releases) to private companies and civilian institutions. In the past two decades, this process could already be observed in the form of civilian-military cooperation with the private sector: about 75% of maintenance for the German air force is already carried out by private companies, and for maintaining weapon systems of the army the Ministry of Defence and the arms industry jointly formed a special company, the HIL Heeresinstandssetzungslogistik GmbH. Since 2002, the non-armed vehicle fleet of the army is administered by the BwFuhrparkService GmbH, and clothing, since 2003, by LH Bundeswehr Bekleidungsgesellschaft mbH. Additional aspects of basic logistics and telecommunication are currently being privatised. Even the battlefield training centre of the army (Gefechtsübungszentrum Heer – GÜZ), which is central for the final training of German soldiers before deployment abroad, is being managed by a consortium of private companies. Outsourcing to private companies is also being advanced in Afganistan: private companies are increasingly involved in anything from camp security through catering and cleaning, and up to training and repair for operating new weapon systems.

The focus of this “army in deployment”, however, is now less on “combat” as such, and more the permanent “crisis management”. Even if there is at some stage no “real” war, in which Germany is engaged, German soldiers will be deployed in a range of countries, to fight pirates, take on policing, train soldiers, or serve as “advisors” to “protect” and “support” the development of new state institutions, repressive institutions included. All these deployments are multi-lateral, that is in cooperation with changing allies under the leadership of the UN, NATO, or the EU, and with the Bundeswehr sometimes only contributing a small number of soldiers with specialist skills. There is often no organised military opponent, but the deployment is targeted at the entire civilian population. The military components of the deployment mission from different states therefore need to be flexibly complemented by civilian components – advisers, observers, jurists, police officers, personnel involved in humanitarian aid, development cooperation, construction, etc. These “asymmetric conflicts” also mean that the Bundeswehr increasingly uses “weapons”, which are also used by the police within Germany and do not have a genuinely military character, and are being developed within the framework of “civil security research”. Examples are “less lethal agents” such as water canons or batons, but also drones for surveillance. Intelligence becomes increasingly important – subdivided into “signal intelligence” (SigInt) and “human intelligence” (HumInt) – to identify “opponents”, “pirates”, “terrorists”, and “spoilers” among the population. These too are tasks for which civilian organisations, companies, or scientists are increasingly used.

Last but not least, the “army in deployment” also means a shift in its legitimisation strategy. While so far, Bundeswehr deployment abroad of the has usually been justified on humanitarian grounds, among the elites and in strategy papers, “national interests” are now increasingly cited as reasons for military deployment. And as contradictions between the alleged humanitarian purpose and “national interests” become more visible (think, for example, of the fight against pirates at the coast of East Africa), and to maintain public support for increased operations abroad, it is especially important to “include” or sensibilise (future) “multiplicators” or “decision makers” in the discourse on security policy (which orients itself at national interests). Such concepts can be found, among other places, in the “New Concept for the Reserve Forces” (a concept paper published by the Ministry of Defence) and in annual reports by the Bunderswehr Youth Officers unit. The Youth Officers (whose job is to spread information about the military to young audiences)complain in their annual report for 2007 that “the situation regarding the opinion in relation to the Bundeswehr and its role and tasks” in German universities is not satisfactory, and that German universities are “for Youth Officers an area which is difficult to access and a challenge for the future”. The annual report for 2010 already describes a much better situation from the army’s point of view: “A steadily increasing number of universities and technical colleges recognise the advantages of the specialist offers made by Youth Officers”, who are recognised “as lecturers on par with others”: “The opinion of the audience can be judged as satisfactory following Youth Officer events. … The number of participants from universities at Youth Officer events could be increased by 30%.” In addition to students for teaching degrees, this strategy is aimed, among others, at students of cultural anthropology, regional science, Arabic and African studies, future staff of administrations and humanitarian organisations, to create among them an “understanding for the Bundeswehr’s perspective ”. The future elites should not just get accustomed to the fact that the Bundeswehr enforces German interests with arms all over the world, but also agree to this and actively support it. Just recently the Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted the Minister of Defence, Thomas de Maizière, who complained that he could not recognise “a great intellectual contribution of German universities to the question of war and peace”: “De Maizière wishes to see answers to present day questions. For example: Is the military allowed to use drones during battle? Is it allowed to deploy private security companies? How should states react to a cyber attack?” In addition, Michael Brzoska from the Hamburg Institute for Peace and Security Research is quoted as saying: “If there would be a war between Iran and Iraq, Germany would not have a sufficient number of experts who have knowledge of the Iranian leadership”, and it is stunning that this kind of knowledge does not seem to be necessary during times of peace, or while searching for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear conflict.

Alongside these demands, directed more towards the social sciences, German universities are also involved in security research, often in cooperation with armament projects and/or companies. This often involves research on dual-use products (i.e., products that could be used for both military and civilian purposes), such as surveillance drones, sensors, artificial intelligence, and encrypted communication. Such activities are purposefully funded through a European and national programme for security research, and these programmes are designed to especially induce the development of European and interdisciplinary cooperation and to develop technology parks linked to universities, and clusters of universities, public research, private companies and administrations, including also the Bundeswehr and the police. Cutting-edge and fundamental research, structured in such a way, is not explicitly concerned with military use or questions, but happens almost always within a framework, in which arms companies are involved and can benefit. This is especially true also for biology, in particular in relation to artificial intelligence and machine/human interfaces. This is often the starting point of military medical research,so the Ministry of Defence is directly involved in shaping cutting edge research.

Christoph Marischka

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