BERLIN — In its biggest military reform in more than 50 years, Germany announced Wednesday its plans to end conscription next summer and trim down from 250,000 troops to a volunteer force of 185,000.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet agreed Wednesday on the plan to save money and better meet post-Cold War threats. The changes are the most significant since the German army, or Bundeswehr, was founded in 1955, after the country was completely disarmed following its defeat in World War II.
"The cabinet made a very far-reaching, even historical decision regarding the suspension of conscription," Defense Minister Karl zu Guttenberg told reporters in Berlin.
The plan envisions shelving national conscription in July and replacing it by a volunteer term of service. In the case of a national defense emergency, an automatic reactivation of conscription would take place.
Both Germany's Lower House and Upper House of Parliament still need to vote on the new rules, but it is widely expected to pass. No date has yet been set for the vote.
Germany's military was set up after World War II to deal with the massive European land battles that were seen as a very real possibility during the Cold War. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the country has been becoming increasingly active in peacekeeping and other missions abroad.