German Government-Industry Relationship Sharply Defined

May 2009
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The German Research Establishment for Applied Science, or FGAN—for Forschungsgesellschaft für Angewandte Naturwissenschaften—is a key facility for developing German military information technologies. Located in Wachtberg just outside of Bonn, FGAN works with the military and academia, along with the commercial sector, to generate vital innovations.
But guidelines eliminate ambiguities, open doors to cooperative actions.

Germany is building public-private partnerships and is utilizing nongovernmental organizations to establish good working relationships between industry and the military. Direct links between uniformed forces and the commercial sector are sharply restricted by statute, but all parties are working within the law to improve the quality of services and technologies the military receives from industry.

According to Germany’s constitution, the military establishes its requirements, and the Defense Ministry’s civilian arm provides the means to fulfill them. These means include contracting, so the civilian side works with industry in ways that the uniformed military cannot.

These sharp delineations between government and industry prevent the types of contacts and interactions that are common in other NATO nations. However, the strict definitions also serve to provide guidelines for exchanging information between the two parties. Without any gray areas for contact, military and corporate officials know exactly what is permitted and what is forbidden.

This also opens the door for intermediary organizations to serve as go-betweens. Maj. Gen. Klaus-Peter Treche, GEA (Ret.), who serves as the AFCEA Bonn Chapter president, says that intermediary groups such as his play a valuable role in providing a bridge between industry and their customers in military and civilian government.

“We have to build the bridges,” he says. “Direct contact between the user and the producer is of predominant importance.”

In comparing the United States and Germany, Gen. Treche offers that the relationship between industry and government in the United States is closer and more open. Fewer hurdles exist to bringing the two sectors together, he says.

On the other hand, Germany’s constitution mandates that fulfilling the armed forces’ requirements is the sole responsibility of civilian military authorities. The military cannot talk to industry about these requirements, Gen. Treche explains. Symposia and fora are the best means of establishing proper connectivity between military and industry, which is where nongovernmental organizations come in. Members, whether in industry or academia, can offer solutions or report on work being conducted by others that could serve military needs. Public symposia or fora do not violate the German constitutional separation of uniformed military and industry.

For example, a large May symposium being hosted by AFCEA’s Bonn Chapter features State Secretary Rüdiger Wolf serving as chairman. The May symposium is not new, but State Secretary Wolf’s role as chairman is. This indicates a growing degree of confidence in this type of forum, the general offers.

Gen. Treche offers one example of how the gap between industry and the military can be bridged. When industry has supplied a system to the military, it will invite that branch of the military to demonstrate how the system works for it. In effect, the military is integrated into an industrial team showing how the system performs.

This approach is relatively new, he continues, as it has been employed only over the past four years. Bridging the gap between the military and industry progressively takes time, which is why this approach is a fairly recent phenomenon. As both sides become more comfortable with the relationship, confidence grows and even closer steps can be taken—again, over time.

The government is not afraid to engage in public-private partnerships, which it views as an effective means of marshalling industry innovation. The German military recently committed to a €7.1 billion, 10-year, information technology program. It has commissioned a consortium comprising Siemens Business Services and IBM to modernize and manage nonmilitary information technology in the program, which is known as HERKULES. The effort is modernizing the German armed forces’ data centers, software and applications, PCs, telephony, and voice and data services.

Maj. Gen. Klaus-Peter Treche, GEA (Ret.), is the AFCEA Bonn Chapter president.
The program schedule aims to roll out 140,000 clients within four years of its onset in 2008. It also is building a redundant fiber network to connect the top 50 Bundeswehr sites in Germany. Two competence centers in information technology and communications are sited in Münich and Bonn/Rheinbach.

This project’s architecture addresses the separation between the uniformed military and the civilian defense elements. The two information technology sectors, known as green and white, operate independently; yet they interface in the architecture. A wide area network will link all the elements of the green/military side, and it in turn will be connected to local area networks covering the white/civilian side.

The HERKULES consortium is known as BWI Informationstechnik GmbH (BWI IT), and it is based in Meckenheim, which is near Bonn. Formed in December 2006, BWI is more than a consortium of companies, the general relates. Siemens and IBM own the organization, but the government holds a significant minority ownership—49.9 percent. “This is a typical German solution,” Gen. Treche states. “We have that in other fields as well.”

Where other countries are outsourcing, Germany prefers public-private teaming. Outsourcing requires the government to depend entirely on the contracted companies. But in Germany’s approach, the government is part of the organization, where it can ensure that it receives the solution it needs.

German law also forbids introducing a contractor into a combat environment. But under this public-private partnership, the military contributes 2,400 people. Some of those are soldiers who can take their knowledge into the field. Similarly, some of the civilian armed forces personnel become uniformed military in battle zones such as Afghanistan. All of the Bundeswehr personnel in BWI can be returned to active military duty in the event of a national emergency.

Gen. Treche notes that BWI sets up the network tools and the infrastructure, but the military is the user. One of the tasks for this HERKULES project is to set up an independent information technology company for the German armed forces. When the project is over, BWI will remain the information technology company of the Bundeswehr.

Another key player in the development of German military information technologies is the German Research Establishment for Applied Science (FGAN, for Forschungsgesellschaft für Angewandte Naturwissenschaften), which is located in Wachtberg just outside of Bonn. It works with the military, although it is not the German equivalent of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Its institutes began several decades ago as university workshops, and over time they evolved into the current single FGAN entity in 1999. That entity comprises three command and control institutes: the FHR, which focuses on high-frequency physics and radar; the FKIE, which concentrates on communication, information processing and ergonomics; and the FOM, which studies optronics and pattern recognition.

FGAN’s location near Bonn places it amid the military and academic communities that define the former capital. This opens the door to various cooperative enterprises such as symposia and fora that bring together FGAN, the military and high-technology industry.

Web Resources
BWI IT GmbH (German language):

German Chapters Team to Partner With Government

The AFCEA chapters located in Germany largely are divided into two categories: German and U.S. military. U.S. forces in Germany have four chapters, while German AFCEANs largely are found in two city-oriented chapters—Bonn and Münich.

The Bonn and Münich chapters have a close relationship, says Bonn Chapter President Maj. Gen. Klaus-Peter Treche, GEA (Ret.). The two groups work in concert to address challenges between government and industry.

The Münich Chapter largely comprises corporate and individual members. Its location places it amidst several major German information technology, defense and aerospace companies. It also has a close relationship with the University of the Bundeswehr in Münich.

The Bonn Chapter also has a significant high-technology corporate presence, but it includes both academia and government. It has a strong partnership with the BonnUniversity along with the University of Koblenz.

Since Berlin became the capital of unified Germany, about two-thirds of the personnel in the Ministry of Defense remained in Bonn, with the other third moving to Berlin. The Bonn presence enables the AFCEA chapter there to integrate a high degree of military and civilian decision makers into its symposia. These defense leaders include Army and Air Force command specialists in armament, information technology and command and control, Gen. Treche allows. About 25 miles away lies Koblenz, where the chief information officer of the Bundeswehr is located. This organization, along with the BWI IT consortium, has members on the Bonn Chapter board.

The two chapters strive to bring all of these elements together through symposia and exhibitions. Gen. Treche notes that the Bonn Chapter includes government liaison officers from many of the high-technology companies that constitute the Münich Chapter. Those liaison officers help serve as a bridge between the two chapters. The general adds that the government has promised that its cooperation with AFCEA will remain steady.

Bonn Chapter symposia often are hosted in the Bundeswehr’s FGAN research and development organization near Bonn. Corporate members also have the opportunity to host three symposia each year with the chapter’s support.

While AFCEA in Germany has focused largely on building bridges to the military, it now is branching out into homeland security issues. It is setting up one conference this year under the auspices of the German homeland affairs agency. That one-day event is being held in Cologne.

And, AFCEA in Germany has begun an education support element similar to those in widespread circulation among U.S. AFCEA chapters. This effort has integrated universities in Koblenz and Cologne along with two Bundeswehr universities in Münich and Hamburg. Along with scholarship prizes, students receive three-year complimentary AFCEA memberships to bridge their lives from the university into professional careers.

The sharp delineation between government and industry has many organizations working to bring government agencies together with the commercial sector, the general relates. Many of these groups, however, have an extremely broad focus, whereas AFCEA’s Bonn and Münich chapters serve to target exchanges in the communications-electronics arena.

“AFCEA indeed is the only organization that is focusing on these topics in depth,” Gen. Treche declares. “This puts us in a unique position.”