In the event of grave accidents or disasters, Bundeswehr assistance can be requested by the responsible crisis management team. The Bundeswehr can support organisations such as the fire brigade or the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THWTechnisches Hilfswerk) by providing material, equipment, and personnel.
The Bundeswehr Renders Assistance in the Event of Disasters in Germany
In the event of disasters or major accidents in Germany, the Bundeswehr provides support to organisations such as the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THWTechnisches Hilfswerk), the fire brigade, the police and public health offices when their capacities are overwhelmed. This applies to both purely technical and personnel support. From flood relief, refugee assistance to combating the COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic and to performing sovereign duties during major disasters, there is a plethora of scenarios in which such employment of the Bundeswehr could be considered a viable option.
In all cases, however, the Bundeswehr is only employed in a supporting capacity to provide additional assistance. The Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command is responsible for coordination within the Bundeswehr. Any Bundeswehr operations of this type are subject to a request for administrative assistance to be submitted by the responsible authority.
Who is my point of contact for Bundeswehr administrative assistance?
The Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command has established a network of reliable points of contact throughout Germany for advice on and requests for Bundeswehr services in the event of a disaster. These POCs are all reservists serving at government region or government district liaison group level and are available for enquiries regarding support options that can be provided by the Bundeswehr.
In the event of a disaster, these reservists are normally the first Bundeswehr personnel to be involved in the respective crisis management teams, where they act as advisers. If assistance is urgently required, all heads of nearby Bundeswehr agencies can decide on the provision of rapid support at the local level.
In addition, the competent experts of the regional territorial commands support their respective Land by coordinating smaller operations which are confined to a limited area. In the case of major administrative assistance operations at the national or even international level, the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command in Berlin will control and coordinate the efforts.
Overview of the regional points of contact in the territorial network
- 16 regional territorial commands or similar entities at the seat of the respective Land government
~ in the case of cross-regional support within the respective Land;
- Liaison groups in all government regions / similar authorities
~ in the case of regional support;
- Liaison groups in all rural and urban districts
~ in the case of local support.
How do I request Bundeswehr support?
The procedure for requesting administrative assistance from the Bundeswehr is straightforward and provides civilian organisations with the support of experienced points of contact in each rural district through the government region and government district liaison groups. As a general rule, informal requests may be submitted to any Bundeswehr agency at any time, but are best submitted to the dedicated, aforementioned liaison groups.
To ensure the speedy and targeted processing of requests, it is recommended that requests
- be submitted in writing or by E-mail, preferably using the appropriate Bundeswehr form,
- include a precise description of the situation and the support requirement arising therefrom, and
- include the clear declaration that the requesting authority is not able to carry out the necessary official action by itself.
Some Länder have their own regulations that govern requests for administrative assistance. These regulations are to be observed.
Background Information on Homeland Security
Homeland security is one of the Bundeswehr’s central tasks as laid down in the Bundeswehr Concept of 20 July 2018. Homeland security, crisis management for German nationals abroad, and subsidiary services in Germany contribute to whole-of-government security provision and to the resilience of state and society.
The cornerstones of Germany’s security policy were realigned in the White Paper on Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr issued on 13 July 2016. Building on the White Paper, the Bundeswehr Concept was subsequently issued. Closely focused on the changed security situation in Germany, Europe and the world, the Bundeswehr Concept describes the tasks of the Bundeswehr and the requirements for the capabilities with which these tasks are to be implemented.
Homeland security is one of the newly defined central tasks. It entails support in situations such as natural disasters, grave accidents and domestic emergencies, the provision of administrative assistance, and contributions to counter terrorism measures in the scope of the constitutional requirements.
Bundeswehr operations in Germany are governed by clear legal rules. For example, routine technical administrative assistance, which is provided for in the case of floods or refugee relief, is an established procedure in accordance with Article 35 of the Basic Law. Where this type of administrative assistance is concerned, the Bundeswehr does not perform any sovereign tasks and provides support in the form of technical equipment or manpower. However, Article 35, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Bundeswehr can perform sovereign tasks, e.g. police tasks. For the Basic Law states: “In order to respond to a grave accident or a natural disaster, a Land may call for the assistance of police forces of other Länder or of personnel and facilities of other administrative authorities, of the Armed Forces, or of the Federal Border Police.”
A grave accident could, for example, range from a major chemical accident to a major terrorist threat situation. And it is precisely in such cases that the employment of servicemen and women in Germany is not limited to the provision of technical assistance. It also includes the performance of police duties, i.e. sovereign tasks, but always under the command and responsibility of the competent civilian organisation.
The Basic Law stipulates that the Bundeswehr can also be employed in the event of a state of defence or tension or when a domestic emergency is declared. In the case of a domestic emergency, the armed forces can also be employed to support police forces in accordance with Article 87a, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law.