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BERLIN (Reuters) - The German military's procurement agency has 1,300 unfilled jobs, accounting for about 20 percent of its entire workforce, a report by the Defence Ministry showed on Wednesday, putting further strains on an already troubled acquisition system.
The gaps affect mainly high-level jobs in the technical and military sectors, which means the situation will remain problematic for the medium- to long-term, necessitating continued use of external consulting firms, the report said.
Lack of qualified personnel affects the processing of complex weapons programmes, many of which have run into delays in recent years in the wake of reforms instituted by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen after she took office in 2013.
"Use of external support services should not be understood as the beginning of a long-term solution, but as an efficient tool to bridge the time until personnel changes can fully take effect," the report said.
Von der Leyen kicked off reforms to improve the transparency and efficacy of the military acquisition system, but critics say the changes have complicated the process and resulted in delays.
The ministry failed to sign contracts for two of the biggest programmes, a new missile defence system and the MKS180 warship, during von der Leyen's first tenure in the job.
The ministry did sign a contract for five new corvettes, but faced criticism for awarding the contract without a competition. Von der Leyen had argued that no competition was needed since the ships were follow-on orders for an existing design.
Separately, a ministry spokesman said at-sea testing of the new F125 frigate built by ThyssenKrupp and privately held Luerssen, would be delayed due to unexpected repairs.
The first new F125 frigate was now expected to enter into service in early 2018 instead of December, the spokesman said.
ThyssenKrupp said delays could happen with any complicated weapons programme, but the ship was still expected to be delivered to the German military next year.
The first of the four new F125 warships, slated to cost 650 million euros each, was initially slated to enter service in 2014.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Andrea Shalal, Editing by William Maclean)