The Bundeswehr’s Crisis Management for German Nationals Abroad

Like national defence, crisis management for German nationals abroad and homeland security are part of the Bundeswehr’s wide range of tasks. Together with authorities at all levels as well as civil partners, military personnel provide assistance in the event of natural disasters or serious accidents, and protect the infrastructure in Germany.

Soldaten schaufeln Schnee
Bundeswehr/Jonas Weber

What is homeland security?

The Bundeswehr not only protects Germany and German citizens in a state of tension or defence, but also advises civilian agencies and provides forces on request in the event of natural disasters and particularly severe accidents, as well as for major events. All this is included in the concept of homeland security.

What is crisis management for German nationals abroad?

Early identification of threats is an important part of the Bundeswehr’s crisis management for German nationals abroad. For example, the Bundeswehr takes on extensive tasks for the protection and security of German nationals abroad: from preventive advice to German missions abroad to evacuation from critical situations.

Ein an einem Hubschrauber befestigter Wasserbehälter wird in der Luft geöffnet und löscht so einen Brand

Bundeswehr Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters are also used for extinguishing forest fires. Tanks with a capacity of up to 5,000 litres of water are attached to them for this purpose.

Bundeswehr/Johannes Heyn
Soldat hält ein Kind, mehrere Bürger laufen über ein Feld, im Hintergrund ein Hubschrauber am Boden

The Bundeswehr is also employed to evacuate people in the event of natural disasters – such as an impending flood, as shown here.

Bundeswehr/Daniel Decker

What are the Bundeswehr’s crisis management tasks?

Within the framework of homeland security, the Bundeswehr:

  • Provides assistance to civilian forces in the event of serious accidents or natural disasters
  • Monitors and secures German airspace and territorial waters
  • Defends against rockets and missiles heading for Germany
  • Assists in search and rescue operations at the North Sea, the Baltic Sea or on shore

Crisis management for German nationals abroad comprises several different tasks. Examples include:

  • Advising German missions abroad and pointing out threats
  • Collecting information indicating crises
  • Being ready for action and to intervene if Germans abroad are in danger
  • Rescuing German citizens stranded abroad and bringing them back to Germany
  • Resolving hostage situations and abductions outside of Germany. This can include hostage rescue missions

How does the Bundeswehr work?

Crisis management for German nationals abroad and homeland security need reliable partners. Accordingly, if the Bundeswehr provides administrative assistance within Germany upon request, it coordinates closely with federal, state and local authorities, as well as relief organisations. In addition to the personnel of the active duty force, reserve forces are also available for support. The support services are coordinated by the territorial commands, particularly the regional territorial commands and the Bundeswehr Territorial Command.

At the international level, the German armed forces cooperate closely with those of other nations.

Why is the Bundeswehr allowed to take action within Germany?

Mehrere Soldaten im Gespräch, vor Computern sitzend

Protecting the population also involves counterterrorist measures in cyberspace. This means that handling cyberattacks must be practised regularly.

Bundeswehr/Tom Twardy

Military personnel regularly provide assistance within Germany in accordance with Article 35 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. Article 35(1) states that: “All federal and Land authorities shall render legal and administrative assistance to one another”. This means that the Bundeswehr is obliged to support federal, state and local authorities upon request. The Bundeswehr may receive requests for assistance with handling floods, searching for missing persons, or fighting forest fires. In order to ensure that it can provide this support, the Bundeswehr also regularly participates in exercises for security preparedness.

Example: Locked Shields exercise

The Bundeswehr’s crisis management also includes being prepared for defence in the cyber domain. To this end, the Locked Shields NATO  exercise has been conducted since 2010. Up to 20 nations participate in it each year.

The special thing about this exercise: the servicemen and women are confronted with “live fire”. This means that the participants have to fend off cyberattacks in real time. In this way, they gain familiarity with modern IT  and attack methods and learn how to respond to threats.

Example: LÜKEX exercise

Polizistin und Soldat, beide bewaffnet, stehen nebeneinander

The Bundeswehr may provide administrative assistance to the police upon request. To ensure that cooperation runs smoothly in case of emergency, joint exercises are conducted.

Bundeswehr/Minh Vu

In the event of a disaster, it is particularly important that assistance efforts are coordinated so that no measures are carried out twice or forgotten. Evacuating residential areas, accommodating people in need and organising transportation are measures that the Bundeswehr must prepare for within the framework of crisis management. Of course, this also applies to the police, fire brigades and relief organisations.

This interaction is put to the test in the National Crisis Management Exercise (LÜKEX). It has taken place every two years since 2004. During this exercise, crisis management teams from the federal and state levels learn to better coordinate their measures. Different scenarios such as a simulated shortage of electricity and water supplies provide the framework. The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance organises this crisis management exercise. The Bundeswehr participates in it.