German Bundeswehr army soldiers demonstrate their skills at Kaserne Hochstaufen (mountain infantry military barracks) in Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to add 7,000 military jobs and 4,400 civilians to its armed forces over the next seven years to help tackle demands such as cyber security and the fight against Islamic State, its defence minister said on Tuesday.
Ursula von der Leyen said the move marked the first increase in the size of the German military since the end of the Cold War and was part of a broader campaign that has revamped the way the military buys equipment and prepares its budgets.
"A quarter century of a shrinking military is over. It is time for the German armed forces to grow," she told reporters.
Germany's armed forces totalled 800,000 military and civilian personnel at the time of German unification in 1990, but since have shrunk to a target of 185,000 troops and 56,000 civilians, according to German government officials.
They said the goal now was to get away from the strict ceilings used in the past and move towards a more dynamic annual review of personnel needs.
Officials said a recent comprehensive review had shown that the German military needed 14,300 additional troops to cope with new missions. These include the at-sea rescue of refugees, operations in support of a U.S.-led air strike campaign against Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria, and backing operations against other Islamist militants in Mali.
Of those, 5,000 would be filled through changes in existing personnel, with 7,000 to be added in new posts and the extension of existing contracts.
Current plans would leave about 2,300 of the required military positions vacant, although that estimate could be adjusted next year, officials said.
(Reporting by Berlin Newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)