The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces

Appointed in accordance with Article 45b of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces is a subsidiary body of the German Bundestag who helps it exercise parliamentary oversight over the Bundeswehr. The Parliamentary Commissioner’s responsibilities include keeping watch over the basic rights of military personnel and over adherence to the principles of leadership development and civic education.

Porträt von Eva Högl vor dem Reichstag
imago images/Charles Yunck

Watching over basic rights

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces is elected by the parliament for a term of five years and appointed by the President of the Bundestag. As an advocate for the interests of military personnel, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces has a special place in the parliamentary system because they are neither a member of the German Bundestag nor a civil servant.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces takes action on their own initiative or as directed by either the parliament or the Defence Committee. Primarily, the Parliamentary Commissioner takes action if they receive information suggesting violation of the principles of leadership development and civic education or of basic rights in the Bundeswehr.

Annual report to parliament

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces records their findings about the internal state of the Bundeswehr in a comprehensive report, which they submit to the German Bundestag and the German public once a year. In this report, the Parliamentary Commissioner provides information on their parliamentary civilian oversight of the Bundeswehr.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces draws on many different sources of information. Their primary source is input from soldiers. Regardless of the general right of petition, military personnel have the option of taking their grievances straight to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces without adhering to the chain of command.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces also has an extensive network in parliament, for example in the Defence Committee, and is in contact with all the relevant political and societal institutions. Accordingly, they are in close contact with the Bundeswehr Reservist Association, the German Bundeswehr Association and military clergy.

Visiting the troops at home and abroad

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces is always striving to gain detailed insight into the forces. Each year, the Parliamentary Commissioner visits various locations of all the armed services. These visits to the troops may or may not be announced in advance. The Parliamentary Commissioner makes sure that the visits are balanced among different geographic locations in Germany and abroad, for example in the mission countries. During their visits, the Parliamentary Commissioner receives information not only from military leaders, but also in direct conversations with the soldiers. The Parliamentary Commissioner’s employees also support this work by visiting the troops. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces thoroughly analyses the impressions and insights they gain from their own visits.

First Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces Only Appointed in 1959

After the first conscripts were called up for Bundeswehr service on 1 April 1957, the German Bundestag passed the Act on the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces on 11 April 1957. However, the search for a candidate for the office of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces was to take almost two years. The parliament elected the first Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Helmuth von Grolman, on 19 February 1959. One year later, he presented the first annual report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces.

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