German Defence Minister: I won’t resign over failed 660m Euro project


thomas_de_maiziereGerman Defence Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, has rebuffed calls for his resignation over his handling of a failed multi-million-euro drone project.

Instead, the minister said he wanted to remain in office to promote more openness in his department.

However, the controversy has been a political embarrassment to Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of September’s general election and could also imperil a NATO drone project.

DeMaiziere, who spoke at a parliamentary committee, laid the blame for the fiasco over the Euro Hawk project at the door of his subordinates.

“I want to help make the changes, but it could take years,” de Maiziere said when asked if he planned to take responsibility for the project, which he pulled the plug on in May.

Members of the opposition have called on de Maiziere to resign after efforts to develop a German version of a U.S. intelligence drone costing hundreds of millions of euros ended in failure.

De Maiziere conceded that mistakes had been made by his officials, adding that it was part of the culture of the Defence Ministry to keep unpleasant issues away from the minister.

“We need to change the mental outlook,” de Maiziere said. “We need to develop something of a culture where errors are acknowledged.”

He told parliament’s Defence Committee that two of his aides – state secretaries Stephane Beemelmans and Ruediger Wolf – knew in February that the project was on the rocks but first informed him about the development on May 10.

An estimated 660 million euros ($860 million) had by then been poured into efforts to modify the Global Hawk surveillance craft with German sensors.

The Euro Hawk version made its maiden flight in 2010, but officials found that they lacked the modifications and documents needed if it was to be declared airworthy by European Aviation Safety Authorities.

Government auditors submitted a 67-page report to the defence committee.

“In the light of the overall audit findings, I reserve the right to take disciplinary action,” de Maiziere said in notes

submitted at the closed session.

Through a spokesman, Merkel once again declared her full confidence in de Maiziere, a former Chief of Staff and Interior Minister who gained the Defence portfolio in 2011.

Merkel is unlikely to want to see a senior minister resign as the election campaign gears up.

In the meantime, opposition parties have seized on the drone project as a waste of a taxpayers’ money and have called on the country to abandon all drone plans.

However, the auditor’s report simply said the Defence Ministry should exercise greater care in purchasing other

drone types.

The army is eager to also buy smaller ground-attack drones armed with missiles, while NATO is counting on German cash contributions to buy a latter version of the Global Hawk, to be flown under direct NATO command.

A German change of heart would imperil that project.

The Global Hawk, which is the size of an executive jet, is flown remotely by operators on the ground.



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