“Strategic modernization”: major reform for the BND



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Status: 10/26/2021 4:28 p.m.

The BND is to receive a comprehensive structural reform in order to be able to work more effectively. The spies also want to be able to react more quickly to dynamic situations such as the last time the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.

Much has changed at the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in recent years. The headquarters of the foreign intelligence service is no longer remote in the Pullach forest, south of Munich, but in Berlin-Mitte. Close to the government and parliament. The service got more jobs and more money – and a new law. The secret service has recently even been active on Instagram, posting puzzles, photos from lunch from the canteen and historical anecdotes. This is how the spies recruit new blood.

In the future there should be further, extensive changes at the BND. According to research by WDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung” is about to undergo a major structural reform in the authority. The “Strategic Modernization” project has been running since 2019, in the course of which the BND collected suggestions: Where is there room for improvement? Which structures could be designed effectively?

Number of departments more than halved

Now there is a concept of how the BND can be reorganized. External consultants were also brought in. There is talk of “structural adjustment” so that the service can work more effectively in the future and react more quickly to dynamic situations – such as the recent seizure of power by the Taliban in Afghanistan. To this end, the “organizational complexity” is to be reduced, bureaucracy reduced and the tasks and processes for employees designed more effectively.

Instead of the previous eleven departments, there will in future only be five major areas, including procurement, evaluation and IT support. Countries, regions and topics should then continue to be worked on within these areas. According to a strictly functional principle and clear responsibilities. However, procurement and evaluation should work together even more closely and flexibly in order to be able to react more quickly to dynamic situations.

Criticism after the Afghanistan debacle

The last time the BND came under fire in August because the service had not predicted the Taliban’s rapid takeover of power in Afghanistan with sufficient precision. Just a few days before the Islamists marched into the capital Kabul, the BND experts had forecast that this would probably be the case in mid-September at the earliest.

“The timing is rather unusual, but reforms that make structures and working methods clearer and more effective are always good and right,” says the Green politician Konstantin von Notz, who has been a member of the Bundestag’s Parliamentary Control Committee (PKGr) for years Controlled activity of the secret services. “This does not, however, reduce Parliament’s entitlement to design and control.”

“The BND rightly draws conclusions from the deficits that have come to light in recent years,” says Stephan Thomae, FDP member of the Bundestag and also a member of the PKGr. “A streamlining of its structures will do the service good and make it more maneuverable. I hope that conclusions will be drawn from the misjudgments before the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Confusing form of organization

In the BND it is said that up to now some work areas in the service have been organized in a rather confusing manner. For example, the experts in international drug trafficking work in the Terrorism Department. However, drug trafficking in Afghanistan is handled by the experts in the Afghanistan area. In the future, the aim is to reduce duplications and interfaces and clearly identify responsibilities.

The last structural reform of the BND was implemented in 2009. Since then, a lot has happened. The technical investigation of the BND, which was criticized in the course of the NSA affair and was then examined by a parliamentary committee of inquiry in the Bundestag, has been redesigned.

A new BND law also regulates aspects that were unclear. In addition, a new supreme federal authority will begin its work at the end of the year, the Independent Control Council. This body, consisting of judges, is to control the global surveillance measures of the BND more strictly in the future.


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