Berlin (dpa) - German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced a plan to fundamentally reform the military amid a far-right extremism probe that has implicated multiple Bundeswehr officers and raised questions about her leadership. Speaking in front of the parliamentary defence committee in the Bundestag, von der Leyen said that there was a "broad process" underway to reform leadership structures "from the recruit to the general, from the aide to the minister."
She said the reform effort would include rethinking leadership functions, disciplinary measures, the political education of soldiers and the so-called Traditionserlass, a set of rules governing how the Bundeswehr deals with the country's historical military traditions.
The news comes a day after Maximilian T, the third suspect in a right-wing terrorist plot to assassinate a public figure and blame it on a refugee, was arrested in south-western Germany. The detainee is linked to Franco A, an army officer suspected of creating an alias as a Syrian refugee in order to point the blame at a migrant for the attack he allegedly planned to commit.
Von der Leyen, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, has come under fire from across the political spectrum for failing to detect and eradicate systemic right-wing extremism in the army's ranks. Christine Buchholz, who is responsible for defence matters for the opposition Left Party, said that von der Leyen's planned reforms were merely a "smokescreen to distract attention from further uncomfortable investigations."
Agnieszka Brugger of the environmentalist Greens said that though reform efforts were important, it was equally important for "a minister to acknowledge where she made mistakes, where there have been failures." The Social Democrats' defence expert Rainer Arnold said that failing to detect the existence of a far-right terrorist cell was only one of the "grave failures" committed by von der Leyen during her time in office.
The Bundeswehr is currently conducting searches of army barracks across the country in search of Nazi-era memorabilia as part of the probe into far-right sympathizers. This came after the discovery of such memorabilia at at least two Bundeswehr locations, including the Illkirch barracks where Franco A was stationed.