Bundeswehr blocks itself – for 107,000 padlocks


The Bundeswehr needs locks. Lots of locks. In terms of size, they are mostly padlocks, such as those available in any hardware store. So these could supposedly be easy to obtain, but when the Bundeswehr buys locks, it becomes a bureaucratic monster procedure.

The procurement authority of the armed forces in Koblenz (BAAINBw) is currently collecting offers in a call for tenders until July 21st. The documents for this include 25 documents and rules with a total of 200 pages. These are by no means ultra-secure special locks.

In terms of dimensions, they are more like padlocks for normal locking tasks, such as for the clothes locker in the barracks. On request it is said that both standard locks and padlocks for special tasks are sought.

A look at the tender documents (2022/S 112-314812) shows that almost everything is regulated. On two pages, for example, it is explained that Russian companies are not allowed to deliver because of the Ukraine sanctions. Then follow instructions on various details, pricing and packaging in different climate zones, in fixed and ventilated buildings or outdoors.

There are regulations from labeling to transport, paved or unpaved roads, stock numbers and much more. Every detail, such as the “locking difference per key profile” is prescribed. An example: “The locking cylinder must have at least two keyway profile lines that at least touch or even better overlap on the center line of the keyway.” A salt spray test for corrosion resistance is required for quality assurance.

We are not looking for super locks. The smallest are two centimeters wide, with a 3.5 millimeter temple diameter. Many others are three, four or five to a maximum of six centimeters wide. So mostly locks with dimensions like those in love hang on bridge railings, with their names engraved on them. The advertisement refers to padlocks from the companies Abus and Burg-Wächter as an example. Examples of new or used Bundeswehr padlocks from previous tenders can be found on sales platforms.

A supply framework agreement is planned for three years with the option of a one-year extension. On request, the forecast total amount is estimated at 107,399 locks. In addition to the armed forces, other authorities can also retrieve padlocks. 95 “needs” are listed, from the federal highway company to the federal police, the Federal Cartel Office and customs offices to foundations.

For those familiar with Bundeswehr tenders, the padlock project is an example of the excessive bureaucracy at the Bundeswehr Procurement Office. In 2019, for example, the authority, which had 11,826 employees at the end of April, even specified the ring tone and spoke thickness in a tender for bicycles. Insiders speak of 1,900 pages of extra requests from the German side, which were originally intended for the purchase of heavy-duty helicopters in the USA.

According to Bundeswehr experts, the regulations and special requests lead to delays and cost increases in procurement. Around 11,700 procurement contracts passed through the authority’s tables last year.

Against the background of the Russian war of aggression in the Ukraine, there should now also be a turning point in the purchasing of the Bundeswehr. Just one week after the Russian troops marched in, a “Task Force Optimizing Procurement System” was set up so that shopping lists can be processed more quickly in future.

The lower limit for free purchases without an official award procedure has been increased from 1,000 to 5,000 euros. In urgent cases, orders can be placed without an invitation to tender. In addition, a separate law called the Federal Armed Forces Procurement Acceleration Act (BwBBG) is planned, which will expire at the end of 2025.

At a public hearing in early July, reference was made to the many options for faster shopping. This also includes legal restrictions for companies that do not get a chance. However, the industry association BDSV warns that the use of faster solutions that are available on the market should not lead to purchases abroad.

At the hearing, Matthias Wachter from the Federation of German Industries (BDI) advocated raising the EUR 25 million threshold. So far, procurement measures of this volume have had to be approved by the budget committee – which was the case 46 times last year. The threshold was introduced in the 1980s as a 50 million DM template and has not been increased since then.

With a higher threshold, many procurement projects could be processed more quickly. In addition, tenders could be changed in such a way that the properties and capabilities of products are described, but the technical implementation is left to the suppliers, according to the industry association. A tender for padlocks would then probably not have to be so extensive.

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