27 Oct 2011

German Army bases to be closed

12:30 pm on 27 October 2011

Germany is to close 31 of its 328 military bases and reduce the size of another 90 over the next five years.

The cuts are part of a government austerity drive and are the most sweeping in the history of its armed forces.

Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said closing a base named after Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a Wehrmacht officer executed for trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler on 19 July 1944, was especially painful.

Some communities in the northern state of Lower Saxony have staged protests, saying they will become ghost towns without help from the federal government.

Germany has already announced it will slim the defence force to 180,000 personnel from 250,000.

Conscription was also scrapped this year.

At the end of the Cold War there were 495,000 soldiers in the Bundeswehr and 170,000 civilian personnel, and 175,000 soldiers in East Germany's Nationale Volksarmee.

Germany announced last week it would also slash defence orders for Eurofighter jets, Puma tanks and Tiger combat helicopters.

Mr de Maiziere said that decisions to close or maintain a military base were made almost entirely on merit and that only in a limited number of cases would bases be kept open due to local economic conditions.