BERLIN Feb 20 Germany's defence minister has
sacked her secretary of state and another official responsible
for defence procurement - part of her pledge for a shake up
after high-profile projects were hit by spiralling costs,
technical hitches and chronic delays.
Ursula von der Leyen, a conservative tipped as a potential
successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, took over the ministry -
one of the top jobs in the German cabinet - last December.
Berlin is seeking to play a more engaged role in global
foreign and security policy under von der Leyen and Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"My experience of the last weeks is that we need a new start
with new personnel, so that all in this ministry can feel the
change," von der Leyen told reporters on Thursday.
"The aim is to arm our soldiers with the best equipment
possible and taxpayers' money must be used more transparently
Von der Leyen sacked Stephane Beemelmans, secretary of state
for procurement, and Detlef Selhausen, head of the procurement
"We expect our defence engineering industry to deliver
reliably - on time and with good quality. In turn they can
expect dependability from the German Armed Forces as a buyer. We
can all improve on this," von der Leyen said.
The defence minister is in charge of a 33 billion-euro
budget, 185,000 soldiers and 70,000 civilian employees. She was
praised by German media at the time of her appointment as a
politician with the toughness needed for a difficult job after a
series of projects ran over budget.
Germany backed away last May from a 1.2 billion euro plan to
buy four more Euro Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance drones,
saying that meeting the standards required to win German as
opposed to United States aviation approval would cost an extra
500 million to 600 million euros.
The German armed forces have one prototype Euro Hawk, which
is based on the Global Hawk unmanned drone that Northrop builds
for the U.S. Air Force. The drones are made by Northrop and
European aerospace company EADS.
This week Germany also cancelled its planned purchase of a
further 37 Eurofighter jets, according to defence sources, after
ordering 143. The jets are made by a consortium of BAE,
EADS and Finmeccanica. The price in 2011
stood at 57 million euros per plane.