Modern technology as hearing protection?: Court of Auditors criticizes billion-dollar deal for soldiers’ headphones

Modern technology as hearing protection?
Court of Auditors criticizes billion-dollar deal for headphones for soldiers

The Bundeswehr should get new headphones. The Ministry of Defense is planning to invest 2.8 billion euros for this. But according to a media report, the Court of Auditors has concerns: For the majority of soldiers, modern technology is still partially useless.

The Federal Audit Office is apparently warning the Bundestag’s budget managers against a major project by the Ministry of Defense. As “Spiegel” reports, the auditors demanded in a classified report that a planned order for up to 203,000 modern hearing protection headphones with a speaking function with a volume of almost 2.8 billion be urgently adjusted because it was uneconomical.

“The Federal Ministry of Defense will purchase expensive functions that remain unused,” the auditors wrote in their 15-page report, according to the news magazine. The background to the Court of Auditors’ research is the provision of all soldiers with modern headphones. The devices are intended to ensure hearing protection, but also offer an integrated speaking function for a permanent radio connection.

According to “Spiegel”, the planning of the project has been going on since 2019. Step by step, all military units should receive the modern headphones, which cost a good 2,000 or 2,600 euros, depending on the technology. The Bundestag still has to approve the deal – the calculation of 2.8 billion euros covers the procurement and use of the devices until 2051.

In the report, however, the Court of Auditors criticized the fact that only a fifth of all soldiers could even use the speaking function, and all the others were not equipped with radios at all. As a result, the auditors said, tens of thousands of soldiers without radios would only use modern headphones for hearing protection. However, this protection is possible with simpler and cheaper models. According to the Court of Auditors, the Defense Ministry’s plan ignores a savings potential of 1.2 billion euros. “Due to limited budget resources,” this is unacceptable.

According to “Spiegel”, the defense department did not give any further reasons in the report “for the necessity of the speech sentence function for every soldier”. Instead, the procurement is “future-oriented and ensures uniform training, even if not all soldiers can use the speech sentence function in the near future.” That’s why we see “a massive gain in ability” that cannot be achieved through hearing protection alone. However, this explanation did not convince the auditors, the news magazine continues.

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