Germany’s draft system reform proposals revealed by media

The defense minister is expected to officially present reforms to the draft system in early June

The German Defense Ministry has prepared several proposals to reform conscription to address a chronic personnel shortage in the Armed Forces, according to a report this week in the Die Welt newspaper. Minister Boris Pistorius is expected to choose one of them and officially present it in early June, the paper said.
Pistorius first raised the issue of reintroducing compulsory military service last month, when unveiling an ambitious military reform plan, aimed at making Germany better prepared for a potential armed conflict.
“We have considered reintroducing compulsory military service,” the minister said at that time, while sharing few details on the plans. Germany abolished mandatory service in 2011.
Last week, the Defense Ministry allegedly presented three options for Pistorius to consider, Die Welt’s weekly edition said, citing the ministry’s internal documents. The first and the “most cautious” one, according to the paper, is aimed at “exploiting all possibilities for voluntary military service.”

Under the first plan, all young people reaching the age of 18 must to be registered with the military and receive promotional and information materials about service with the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr. They can then voluntarily fill out a questionnaire about their psychological and physical state and motivation for military service. Those willing to join the army would then go through consultation and assessment procedures.
The option is described as requiring only minor legal changes, while being “significant in terms of time, personnel and finances,” but potentially inadequate to meeting army recruitment needs, which amount to between “30,000 and 40,000” personnel a year, according to Die Welt.
The second option would make registering and filling out the form mandatory for all German males aged 18 or older. Women would also be contacted by the military but on a voluntary basis. The German military would then select the required number of conscripts in accordance with their needs and the recruits’ fitness requirements.
The model is “assessed by the ministry as suitable from a personnel planning perspective in order to close the current deficits in meeting needs,” Die Welt said, citing the ministry papers.

“Reactivation of compulsory military service is a strong political signal to our partners in Europe, and systemic rivals and in the alliance,” the document also reportedly says. Such changes could be introduced through a simple change in the law, without the need to alter the constitution, the media outlet added.
The third option would introduce a “gender-neutral” conscription model and make registration with the military and potential draft compulsory for both men and women. Later, “the introduction of a general compulsory service could be discussed” on the basis of this model, the military documents suggest. Additionally, alternative service with the medical services or fire departments would be introduced. Ministry officials described this model as “the most promising option in terms of meeting the needs” of the military.
It would still require a “comprehensive change in the legal basis to create compulsory military service and enlistment,” according to the documents. The reform authors reportedly acknowledge that introducing such changes would be “not easy” because of the “clear skepticism” among the younger generation in particular.
Only one party – the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – is currently supporting the reform plans, according to Die Welt. The governing three-party coalition and Chancellor Olaf Scholz are not keen on the idea, the paper added. Scholz himself said in November 2023 that it was “not a good idea to reverse all of this.”