The downfall of an assault rifle – and what we can learn from it

There have been plenty of discussions about the German Bundeswehr’s issued assault rifle, the G36. Poor performance at the shooting range, we heard. Soldiers, on the other hand, felt it was a good piece of equipment. Be that as it may, it was phased out after two decades of service. But one interesting discovery did come out of this whole “affair:” it turns out the Ministry of Defense, and the army itself, are still processing information and files like they did back in the days of the German Kaisers.

 

Organizational study discovers problems

This was just what the “organizational study G36,” commissioned by the ministry, discovered. Experts raised the alarm, saying that the ministry specifically needed to optimize the way it handled information management and IT support. Officials completing the investigation found it completely incomprehensible that, in the present day, “information for the upper ranks still had to be created manually.”

 

A ministry without centralized file management

Klaus-Peter Müller is the Chairman of the Supervisory board at Commerzbank, and was commissioned with the investigation as an independent expert. The ministry’s website quoted him as follows: “Our days of counting tanks by hand really should be over.” He also criticized the fact that the Bundeswehr had no centralized file management – and no automatic resubmission. This meant responsibilities could simply “fall through the cracks.”

 

Speed has its price…

This is true – all too true. And it’s one explanation for why it will likely take a couple of years to procure a new assault rifle for the Bundeswehr. The first samples are supposed to arrive in 2019, at the latest – from a manufacturer who is probably yet to be determined. Perhaps using paper brochures or handwritten notes…

 

Reforms overdue

In any case, the ministry would be well-advised to continue the IT modernization process it’s begun. Without a modern IT system, it’s almost impossible to manage a budget of 33 billion euros. The same is true for procurement projects, which need to be not only quick but – take note – transparent. And then there’s internal reporting … IT can help with all of it, if you let it. It’s time to do away with manual document management – forever.