Germany announces new military service policy

Germany announces new military service policy

The German government has outlined its new plan to increase voluntary military service and mandatory Bundeswehr participation, should it be deemed necessary.

Document outlines new German military service model

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius (SDP) has outlined the country’s new plan to increase voluntary military service.

A document outlining the policy explains that while Germany will not reintroduce conscription - which was scrapped in 2011 - the country will adopt “a new model that primarily relies on voluntary participation, but also includes mandatory elements if necessary”. 

Under the new model, young men in Germany would be sent a questionnaire about their health and willingness to serve in the German army (Bundeswehr). The Bundeswehr would then select new recruits based on their answers. Women would also be sent the questionnaire, but would not be obliged to fill it out. "The new model includes basic military service of six months with an option for additional voluntary military service of up to an additional 17 months," the document outlined.

So far, it is unclear whether the new rules will only apply to people with a German passport, permanent residence or temporary residence in Germany. In January 2024, Pistorius said that he would be open to recruiting non-German citizens into the army to avail shortages, and the idea was similarly backed by FDP and CDU politicians.

Why is the Bundeswehr looking for recruits?

Since conscription was scrapped in 2011, the German government has made several efforts to enlist Bundeswehr volunteers, including the Freiwilliger Wehrdienst im Heimatschutz or “voluntary military service in homeland security” programme launched in 2021.

But numbers have been dwindling nonetheless, with Bundeswehr ranks shrinking to 181.500 soldiers in 2023, considerably fewer than the 460.000 soldiers that Germany must have at the ready according to NATO defence targets.

While military service was scrapped in many European countries between the 1960s and early 2000s, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of Ukraine in 2022 have prompted many governments to rethink military policy.

A first for a historically pacifist party, the German Greens said on June 12 that it will also take part in discussions to reintroduce conscription. “The security situation in Europe has changed fundamentally," party leader Omid Nouripour told the dpa. Under his new plan, Pistorius hopes that Germany will have a ready and operational Bundeswehr by the end of the 2020s.

Thumb image credit: Mircea Moira /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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