> our title:

Detailed Post-mortem of Germany’s Drone Shambles

> original title:

Campaign Headache: Drone Debacle Could Cost Merkel a Minister

(Source: Spiegel Online; published May 28, 2013)

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziére is under fire after he cancelled a half-billion euro surveillance drone program that he knew was in trouble years ago. The scandal could create problems for Chancellor Merkel's re-election campaign.

Thomas de Maizière is sitting in the first row in the convention hall in Celle, with a collection of officers, lobbyists and a few lawmakers sitting behind him. Maizière, Germany's defense minister, is in the northern German city to talk about the future of the military, the Bundeswehr, but first it's a local politician's turn to speak.

Dirk-Ulrich Mende, the Social Democratic mayor of Celle, has been tasked with delivering the opening remarks at the event, and he uses the opportunity to criticize the approval of German tank exports to countries like Indonesia. He then mentions the trouble-plagued Euro Hawk drone program. Naturally, he says, the "people have an interest in an investigation," especially when €500 million ($647 million) in taxpayer money has already been sunk into the project. As a local politician, Mende adds, it's his duty to help account for any waste of public funds.

De Maizière smiles grimly. What else can he do? He currently finds himself faced with one of the most difficult challenges of his career. Earlier this month, de Maizière cancelled Germany's half-billion euro surveillance drone program due to the mammoth increase in investment the Defense Ministry says would be necessary to meet flight certification requirements in Germany. The drones, as currently designed, do not have adequate collision avoidance technology and would thus not be available for use in Germany. Even worse, the Defense Ministry has known about the problem for years. The minister said this week, however, that he plans to continue Germany's combat drone program.


De Maizière isn't the one who ordered the troubled Euro Hawk drone, a project which now represents the waste of €650 million in German taxpayer money. That was done by Merkel's previous government, a coalition of her conservatives with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). But de Maizière has always made it clear that he sees the drone as an indispensable tool of a new, globally active Bundeswehr.

Now, de Maizière's favorite weapon threatens to claim its first victim: the minister himself. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Spiegel Online website.