Bundeswehr: Laptops without Intranet Access – Criticism by the Court of Auditors

Wednesday, 06.11.2019
07:58 clock

The Federal Court of Auditors has described a million-euro package to digitize the Bundeswehr as largely ineffective. In a confidential report dated October 25, the examiners write that the Ministry of Defense has "neither conceptually derived nor documented" its plan for the purchase of tens of thousands of new laptops for around 173 million euros. In addition, internal maladministration would mean that even after acquiring the computers hardly any more soldiers would be able to work than before. The 21-page report is available to SPIEGEL.


The Court of Auditors' criticism refers to a so-called 25-million submission by the Ministry, which should be discussed by the Budget Committee of the Bundestag on Wednesday. Among other things, the plan to buy 61,000 new laptops for the Bundeswehr and thus increase the number of mobile computers to 110,000 is included in the comprehensive package for financing the state-owned IT service provider BWI. This was necessary "for the realization of a gradual transition to a mobile IT equipment", until 2023 finally all soldiers should be able to work mobile.

In fact, only a fifth of soldiers can work mobile

The auditors took a closer look at the project initiated by former Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and discovered significant planning errors. So they found out that in spite of the laptop offensive hardly more soldiers can work in the coming years than before. The reason for this is the limited access to the secure intranet of the Bundeswehr, through which soldiers can, for example, retrieve mails or gain access to classified planning documents or specific project groups.

  The numbers researched by the examiners are clear. For example, the Bundeswehr intends to increase the number of mobile devices that can log into the protected intranet via a "remote access service" in the coming years to a total of 60,000. Nevertheless, according to the audit office, of the then 110,000 mobile computers, only a maximum of 12,000 computers could access the intranet at the same time. The fact that only one-fifth of the soldiers can actually work mobile, according to the examiners, was "insufficiently taken into account" by the ministry in its cyber plans.

If it goes by the examiners, the success of the campaign by the misplanning is acutely endangered. Literally, the auditors write that the Bundeswehr is limited by access to the intranet into a kind of IT-scarcity economy, since one must "coordinate the intranet access" consuming. The verdict of the experts: "Even if the ministry with its approach actually wants to increase the attractiveness of the Bundeswehr employer, the shortage economy can have the opposite effect."

"Completely without concept"

  The response from the ministry illustrates the house's antiquated view of the digital world. Thus, the resort justified its plans by pointing out that the soldiers could almost always access the protected Intranet of the troops within the Bundeswehr barracks. For mobile work at home, it is also possible to "work offline with previously stored data." The Court of Auditors soberly writes that this approach of the Wehrressort "does not meet the demand for a modern and efficient mobile IT equipment".


The criticism of the laptop purchase is not the only complaint. The ministry is aiming to increase the number of mobile workplaces to 240,000 by 2023. The Court of Auditors notes that the ministry has not stated "why it considers such a transition to mobile IT equipment necessary and how it intends to shape it". The plans are purely "strategic considerations". Therefore, according to the examiners, there is a risk that "the ministry will provide the actual need for a temporary and uneconomic supply".

  In the Committee on Budgets, the confidential audit report has already caused considerable unrest. At the insistence of the SPD, the topic was spontaneously removed from the agenda for this week, according to SPIEGEL information, as the householders still see considerable need for clarification on the submission. The Greens also received harsh criticism. Housekeeper Tobias Lindner said: "The Bundeswehr is apparently completely devoid of concept when it comes to modernizing the IT equipment of the troops."

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