Military attaché

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Karl-Wilhelm Bollow , German military attaché (left) with Mel Williams, Jr. after signing a document (2010)

A military attaché (collective term for defense attaché, army attaché, air force attaché and naval attaché ) is an officer who is posted to a mission abroad , has diplomatic status and is responsible for military matters.

tasks and activities

Just like other delegates in an embassy, ​​the heads of their respective departments (if any), the military attaché primarily represents the defense minister in the host country. He is also the first advisor to the ambassador on all matters relating to the host country's military and defense policy, the level of development of the armed forces, the armaments industry and issues related to these areas. He carries out analyzes and assessments of the situation, takes part in conferences and visits to the troops and is the contact person for his own armed forces on site.

The boundaries between the perception of diplomatic interests in the host country and unauthorized activity, especially espionage , cannot always be drawn clearly. A few military attachés or their diplomatic staff have always been declared persona non grata (Latin for 'undesirable person') on suspicion of espionage and expelled from the host countries. Intelligence activities by the military attachés are seen as an unfriendly act by the host country, especially when they are officially allies.

At many embassies, the military attachés are responsible for main and secondary accreditation for several countries.



In Germany, a military attaché is referred to as a defense, army, air force, naval or defense technology attaché, depending on his task. In the 19th century military attaches were in some German states military plenipotentiary called.

The military attachés are delegated by the Federal Ministry of Defense to the Foreign Office, which sends them to a German embassy. At German embassies with military attachés, a military attaché staff unit , which is led by the defense attaché , has been set up. This work unit is a department at the five major German embassies ( Washington , London , Paris , Moscow and Beijing ). In addition to the defense attaché, a military attaché staff is assigned at least one non-commissioned officer with portepee as an office manager and usually a foreign language assistant. Military attaché staffs do not exist at all embassies.

German military attachés are also a means of obtaining information . They analyze media publications within their expertise and hold discussions with members of the armed forces of the host country so that they can safely report on the mood in the host country. This activity must be clearly separated from intelligence gathering ( intelligence gathering ). Another task is to advise those interested in work and service in the Bundeswehr. He reports directly to the Federal Ministry of Defense on all matters.

In a joint conference with participants from the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Office for Personnel Management of the Bundeswehr selects the military attachés according to criteria that are geared towards the requirements of a diplomat and representative of Germany abroad. The management level of the Federal Ministry of Defense confirms this selection. The designated military attachés receive 17-week specialist training, the contents of which are closely coordinated with the Federal Foreign Office. Depending on the host country and individual language skills, language training lasting up to two years takes place, usually at the Federal Language Office in Hürth. Military attachés are basically staff officers of the Bundeswehr (a few are paid according to A 14, the majority according to A 15 and A 16). The "large" military attaché staffs at the embassies in Washington, DC , London , Paris , Moscow and Beijing are each led by a brigadier general or flotilla admiral (grade B 6 BBesG ). In addition to the soldiers, there are also up to 17 civilian posts as military technical attachés, which are filled with civil servants (salary group A 13 – A 16, Technical Government Council, Technical Upper Government Council, Technical Government Director or Senior Technical Government Director).

Members of the German Armed Forces who have been transferred abroad (like other civil servants working at embassies) receive, in addition to their domestic salary in accordance with the Federal Salary Act, foreign salary (possibly also foreign child allowance and rent allowance). Post holders with increased representation expenses also receive an expense allowance. In addition, purchasing power compensation (see, inter alia, web link) and travel allowances for family trips home can be granted.

The Federal Ministry of Defense, Department SE I 4, is responsible for the technical supervision of the German military attaché service, matters specific to the Federal Armed Forces are handled by the Armed Forces Office on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Defense . In principle, the members of the military attaché staff are subordinate to both the Federal Foreign Office and thus the ambassador as well as the BMVg. You are also a member of the Federal Foreign Office and the BMVg.

German military attachés are currently accredited in around 130 countries. Almost 200 German soldiers and technical attachés are deployed at 65 embassies. With 71 secondary accreditations, attachés are present in a total of 140 countries.


Direct military diplomatic relations are currently maintained with over 40 countries. Conversely, around 60 foreign military attachés from over 45 countries are accredited in Austria. The attachés are under the command of the Military  Diplomacy Department (MilDipl) of the Directorate for Security Policy  (DionSihPol) directly under the General Staff (GStb), and are subordinate to the Austrian Ministry of Defense as officials . They perform their service at the Austrian embassies (which are subordinate to the Foreign Ministry), increasingly also as roving attaché based in Vienna and business trips for neighboring European countries .


  • Major General a. D. Werner Weisenburger : The military attaché service of the Federal Republic of Germany - more important today than ever before . In: Zu Gleich - magazine of the artillery force and the armed forces joint tactical fire support . No. 2 , 2018, p. 7-10 .
  • Reinhard Bettzuege: The German Military Attaché Service - From the beginnings of the Bundeswehr until today . TUDpress, Dresden 2001, ISBN 978-3-938863-34-3 ( [PDF; accessed on May 26, 2019] dissertation).
  • Robert O. Kirkland: Observing our 'Hermanos de Armas'. US military attachés in Guatemala, Cuba, and Bolivia, 1950–1964 . Routledge, New York et al. a. 2003, ISBN 0-415-94784-7 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Brockhaus' Kleines Konversations-Lexikon, fifth edition, volume 2. Leipzig 1911., p. 186.
  2. ^ Heike Pauli: 50 Years of the Central Conference of the German Military Attachés. In: From Security Policy. Federal Ministry of Defense, April 28, 2011, accessed on December 21, 2013 .
  3. Austria's Armed Forces: Change of doyen in the foreign military attaché corps , Vienna, April 6, 2010