First GIDS Strategy Conference

Think Tank Begins Work

What is strategy? What importance does strategy have in the different fields of politics, society and culture? How does strategy influence decision-making processes? How do we rationalise, operationalise and communicate strategy? What can the Bundeswehr learn from this? The first conference of the German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (GIDS) dealt with exactly these topics. Renowned experts from society, industry, politics, sports, culture, the clergy and the military presented strategic concepts and current key challenges in their fields of expertise and put them up for discussion.

GIDS: Giving Substance to its Purpose

The guests were cordially welcomed by the Commandant of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College, Brigadier General Oliver Kohl. The Bundeswehr Command and Staff College and the Helmut Schmidt Bundeswehr University (HSU) in Hamburg are cooperative partners managing the GIDS.

Colonel Professor Dr. Matthias Rogg (BwCSC) and Professor Dr. Burkhard Meißner (Network for Interdisciplinary Conflict Analyses at the HSU), who jointly lead the GIDS, gave an introduction to the topic of the conference. Colonel Rogg took the opportunity to reiterate the objective of the GIDS. “Our mission as given by the Minister of Defence was clear to us from the start. The purpose of the GIDS is to provide strategic advice. And yet, we needed to give substance to this purpose.” The GIDS fields of research are derived from the White Paper published by the Federal Ministry of Defence. Specifically, the GIDS will be dealing with areas where there is a current need for research and consulting not yet covered by other comparable institutes. But first of all, an honest analysis and discussion of the term “strategy” is required, Colonel Rogg stated.

Logic and Creativity

Professor Meißner specifically focused on the term “strategist”, describing how its meaning has evolved from the Persian Wars to the present. In the ancient world, strategists were expected not only to advise on the conduct of operations but also to do mathematically accurate planning and accounting for the army leadership. Over time, strategists became office holders. “What held true at all times, though, was the fact that strategy is based on logic as well as creativity. Both is expected from strategists”, Meißner said. “Today, strategy is an academic science. It is approached in an interdisciplinary way and has become a part of politics.” The two executive board members then explained that the objective of the conference was to provide ideas for a clearer definition of the rather “enigmatic” notion of strategy. “If you want to give strategic advice, you must be familiar with different strategies.” This was the overarching topic of this conference.

Panel 1: Institutions and Strategy

The first panel discussion dealt with the topic of institutions and strategy. Director Jörn Thießen, head of the Faculty of Political/Strategic Studies and Social Sciences at the BwCSC, hosted a lively discussion in which Vicar General Monsignore Klaus Pfeffer from the Diocese of Essen, Wilfried Schulz, General Director of the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus Theatre, and Professor Dr. Klaus Beckmann, President of the HSU, shared their experiences.

Plurality and Diversity in the Church

“For a long time, no one in the Church thought about strategy”, Monsignore Pfeffer described the situation in his institution. “The existence of the Catholic Church was simply taken for granted. People were born into a Catholic environment and socialised there, too.” Since the late 1960s, however, things have changed. “Today’s churches don’t seem to have understood that the people have achieved a new freedom in their thoughts and decisions. People only decide to follow a certain path if they are convinced that it’s right for them.” According to Monsignore Pfeffer, the Diocese of Essen was not prepared for this development. “In Essen, we are dealing with the strategic question of where we are headed in view of plurality and diversity.”

The Theatre’s Role in Society

An entirely new perspective on the topic of strategy was offered by Wilfried Schulz, who described strategic approaches in the world of theatre. In the course of his professional career, Mr. Schulz has transformed several state theatres and smaller theatres into economically and culturally important institutions. When he assumed the position of General Director of the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus Theatre in 2016, he took over an ensemble without a theatre building – his term of office coincided with the closure of the theatre for several years of renovation work. Mr. Schulz defined the key strategic question he is facing as follows: “How can we help to make visits to the theatre an integral part of life again?” And he elaborated further on this, saying: “Today even chief executives are not embarrassed to say that they haven’t seen a play in 30 years.”  From his point of view, the theatre stage is the place where society’s problems are addressed, because the theatre as an institution has assumed the political task of dealing with the problems of the people. Mr. Schulz believes that our society should once again discuss the question of what our life together could look like: “How do we want to live?” Specifically, he is currently working on a strategy to make the ensemble of the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus Theatre known to an even larger audience. Given the lack of a theatre building, he has started to organize performances at a variety of different locations.

Strategy at Universities

Professor Klaus Beckmann has been dealing with a different kind of strategic questions. Upon taking office, he was faced with the challenge of reorganizing the university’s administrative structures and preparing the university for becoming part of a cluster of excellence within Germany’s university landscape. A university’s vision statement is always the basis for the key strategic task that needs to be accomplished. It focuses on the question: “Who do we want to be?” As far as strategy is concerned, the special challenge is the distribution of limited resources.

Panel 2: Sports, Society and Strategy

The second panel discussion revolved around the topic of strategies in sports. Dr. Michael Vesper, former chairman of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, is the new president of the German Jockey Club. He now faces the strategic challenge of transforming German horse racing once again into a top-level sport. He named three preconditions for success: The type of sport in question must be attractive for a large audience. Stories must be told. And last but not least, the sport must reflect a whole generation’s attitude to life.

Combining Popular and Top-Level Sports

Christoph Holstein, State Councillor for Sports in the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, elaborated on Hamburg’s strategy of becoming an “Active City”. Extensive plans for a further development of Hamburg’s sports portfolio were drawn up in connection with the city’s bid to host the Olympics. When Hamburg withdrew its Olympics bid, the Senate decided to not simply put those plans aside. “We had a sustainable concept. We wanted Hamburg and its citizens to continue to benefit from the investments already made, especially after the Olympics.” A master plan “Active City” was developed and is now being put into practice step by step. It is intended to promote not only top-level sports, but also – and to a larger extent – popular sports. At the same time, it aims at becoming an integral part of Hamburg’s image as a metropolis.

The CEO of Upsolut Sports and deviser of the Cyclassics bicycle race in Hamburg, Christian Toetzke, described the strategic concept behind new ways of organizing and promoting major sporting events. Drawing on his personal experience, he explained how popular and top-level sports can be combined in a successful manner. He illustrated this using the example of a new project to make fitness more popular as a major competitive sporting event. Journalist Hajo Seppelt, an expert on doping in sports, hosted the panel discussion made even more interesting by contributions from the audience, in particular those of German military athlete Lars Wichert. He won gold for Germany in two World Rowing Championships, once in an eight and once in a quad scull.

Panel 3: Sustainability and Strategy

The third panel discussion, hosted by radio presenter Ulrike Heckmann, addressed the question as to how strategies should be set up in order to achieve sustainable effects. Harry Assenmacher, Managing Director of the Forest Finance Service GmbH, a provider of sustainable forest investments, engaged in a discussion with Professor Dr. Klaus Töpfer, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, and with Professor Stefan Bayer, an expert on climate change working at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College.

Peace Policy: A Potential for Armament or Disarmament?

Professor Töpfer and Mr. Assenmacher held similar views. While Professor Töpfer asked for a strategy relating to the aspect of “whether a peace policy focusing on a [fair] distribution of resources [in the world] entails a potential for armament or disarmament”, Mr. Assenmacher emphasised the aspect of “giving families in affected regions the prospect of a better life”. According to him, such a prospect is real, if families have the means to build a house and if fathers can make a living. “Giving people the opportunity to secure their livelihoods by working is the most important contribution to peace and the prospect of a better life”, Mr. Assenmacher said. His personal vision is to participate in a global farming project.

It was Professor Bayer who pointed out the significance of trade-offs. From his point of view, “an economic calculation must include all external costs”. This is of vital importance. For instance, it would be essential to be able to exactly determine the cost resulting from forest losses, as forest areas would not be available anymore because the area that might be used for reforestation is going to be used for other investments.

The Way Ahead for the GIDS

At the end of the conference, Colonel Professor Rogg and Professor Meißner drew succinct conclusions. “Strategic discourse is vital. It must be conducted with imagination, patience and humor.”

Strategy “always has something to do with making choices. Strategy has something to do with mediation. And strategy has something to do with having a precise knowledge of one’s environment”, Meißner said in his concluding statement. The panelists, for their part, had a very clear message for the Bundeswehr: A rational relationship should be established between society and the Bundeswehr. Vice versa, the Bundeswehr should also develop a rational relationship with society. Such rationality, however, has been missing in this process so far, the panelists stated.

Written by: Christoph Weigmann


Tagungsort der Strategietagung:


Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr
Manteuffelstraße 20
22587 Hamburg

Kontaktdaten Tagungsbüro

Tel.:         +49(0)40 8667 6801



08.30 – 09.00

Begrüßung: Brigadegeneral Oliver Kohl, Kommandeur der Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr

Thematische Einführung: Oberst Prof. Dr. Matthias Rogg,  Prof. Dr. Burkhard Meißner

09.00 – 10.15

Panel 1: Institution und Strategie

Generalvikar Monsignore Klaus Pfeffer, Bistum Essen

Wilfried Schulz, Generalintendant des Düsseldorfer Schauspielhauses

Prof. Dr. Klaus Beckmann, Präsident der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität / Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg

Moderation: Jörn Thießen, Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr

10.15 – 11.00


11.00 – 12.30

Panel 2: Sport, Gesellschaft, Strategie

Dr. Michael Vesper, ehem. Vorstandsvorsitzender des Deutschen Olympischen Sportbundes (DOSB);
Präsident des deutschen Galoppsportverbandes

Christoph Holstein, Staatsrat Sport, Hamburg, verantwortlich für die Ausrichtung Hamburgs als „Acitve City“

Christian Toetzke, Upsolut Sports, „Erfinder” der Cyclassics

Beitrag: Lars Wichert, Sportsoldat, Rudern

Moderation: Hajo Seppelt, ARD

12.30 – 13.30


13.30 – 14.45

Panel 3: Strategien der Nachhaltigkeit

Harry Assenmacher, Geschäftsführer ForestFinance Service

Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, ehem. Exekutivdirektor des Umweltprogramms der Vereinten Nationen (UNEP)

Prof. Dr. Stefan Bayer, Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr

Moderation: Ulrike Heckmann, NDR Info

14.45 – 15.00

Schlusswort: Oberst Prof. Dr. Matthias Rogg, Prof. Dr. Burkhard Meißner

Hosts and Speakers

Panel 1

Klaus Pfeffer


Born in Werdohl in the Sauerland region in 1963
1983—1985     Trainee journalist and editorial journalist with a daily newspaper in Werdohl
1985                Theology studies in Bochum and Innsbruck
1992                Ordination to the priesthood
Until 2011        Work in the youth ministry
2011—2012     Head of the pastoral personnel department of the Diocese of Essen
Since 2012        Vicar General to the Bishop of Essen and moderator of the curia

Wilfried Schulz


Born in Berlin in 1952
1981—1986     Dramaturge at the theatre of the city of Heidelberg
1986—1988     Dramaturge at Stuttgart State Theatre
1988—1993     Chief Dramaturge at Basel Theatre
1993—2000     Chief Dramaturge at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Theatre in Hamburg
2000—2009     Artistic Director and Managing Director of the State Theatre of Lower Saxony in Hannover
2009—2016     Artistic Director of the Dresden Staatsschauspiel Theatre
Since 2016        General Director of the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus Theatre

Prof. Dr. rer. Pol. Klaus Beckmann


Born in Solingen in 1965

1991—2002        Research assistant and assistant lecturer with the Chair of Public Finance at the University of Passau,
doctorate and habilitation
2002                   University of Bayreuth, seconded to Andrássy University in Budapest, Hungary as Chair of Public Finance
2003                   Vice Rector of Andrássy University in Budapest, Hungary
2006                   Professor for Public Finance at the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences of the Helmut Schmidt
Bundeswehr University in Hamburg
2009—2013        Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the Helmut Schmidt Bundeswehr University in Hamburg
2013—2018        Chairman of the Center for Continuing Academic Education at the HSU
Since April 2018  President of the Helmut Schmidt Bundeswehr University

Jörn Thießen


Born in Kellinghusen in 1961
1988—1993     Personal Assistant and Deputy Chief of Office to the Minister-President of the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein, Björn Engholm
1994—1997     Head of Press Work of the office of the German Protestant Church Assembly in Hamburg
1997—2002     Personal Assistant to Rudolf Scharping; from 1998, also Head of the Minister’s Office at the Federal Ministry of Defence
2002—2005     Director and Professor, Head of the Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences in Strausberg
2005—2009     Member of the German Bundestag
Since 2010        Head of the Human and Social Sciences Department (now Faculty of Political/Strategic Studies and Social Sciences) at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College in Hamburg

Panel 2

Dr. Michael Vesper


Born in Cologne in 1952
1980                     Founding member of the German Green Party
1982—1983          Spokesman of the executive board of the Green Party in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia
1995—2005          Member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Government and Deputy Minister-President
2005—2006          Vice-President of the Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia
2006—2014          Director-General of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB)
2014—2017          Chairman of the Executive Board of the DOSB
Since March 2018  President of the German Jockey Club (Direktorium für Vollblutzucht und Rennen)

Christoph Holstein


Born in Essen in 1963
1993—1998            Journalist at the newspaper publisher “Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag”
1998—2001            Press Spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior in Hamburg
2001—2004            Press Spokesperson of the SPD state party in Hamburg
2004—2011            Press Spokesperson of the SPD fraction in the state parliament of Hamburg
2011—2015            Head of the Press Office and Spokesperson of the Senate of Hamburg
Since 17 April 2015  State Councillor of the Ministry of the Interior and Sports in Hamburg. In this function, he is in charge of the Hamburg “Active City” Master Plan.

Christian Toetzke


1995—2008     Founder, partner and CEO of the Upsolut Sports Group. During this period he co-developed the “Cyclassics”—a new format of cycling race and established it as Europe’s biggest one-day cycling competition including a pro World Tour race and a race for more than 20,000 hobby cyclists.
2008—2015     CEO of Lagardere Sports Events after the Upsolut Sports Group was taken over by Lagardere. Worldwide development and internationalisation of the event business through tennis and golf events and events for the broad public
2015—2016     Sale and integration of Lagardere Sports Events into the IRONMAN Corporation; Chief Development Officer with the global management board and Managing Director of IRONMAN Germany
Since 2017        CEO and partner at newly founded Upsolut Sports

Hajo Seppelt


Born in Berlin in 1963
German journalist and author
Expert on doping in German and international sports
He works for Germany’s premier public broadcaster Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen (ARD) and for the ARD’s individual broadcasting radio stations and the Deutschlandfunk radio broadcaster.

Lars Wichert

Born in Berlin in 1986
Since 2012        Military athlete; rower with the Bundeswehr Sports Promotion Section Hamburg
2009                World Rowing Championships in Poland—Silver LM4x
2010                World Rowing Championships in New Zealand—Gold LM 4x/Gold LM8+
2011                World Rowing Championships in Slovenia—Bronze LM2-
2016                European Rowing Championships in Germany—Bronze LM4-
2017                World Rowing Cup in Switzerland—Gold LM1x

Panel 3

Harry Assenmacher


Born in St. Hülfe in 1955
Entrepreneur, journalist and environmentalist
He has been developing forest investment products and climate protection products since the 1990s.
1987—1993     Editor-in-Chief of “fairkehr” magazine (magazine for environmental issues, leisure, travelling and traffic); Managing Director of German transport club Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD)
1993—2000     Managing Director of the publishing house Verlagsgesellschaft Natur & Umwelt GmbH of the environmental organisation BUND (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland)
2000                Marketing Director of Securvita Group Hamburg, later on: executive of Securvita Holding AG (consortium for alternative insurances and financial models)
2005                Foundation of ForestFinance Service GmbH (development and operation of sustainable forest investment products) and Managing Director thereof

Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer


Born in Waldenburg, Silesia in 1938
German politician (CDU) and former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
1987—1994     Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
1994                Federal Minister of Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development
Until 1998        Member of the German Bundestag
1998—2006     Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi
From 2007        Professor at the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development at Tongji University in Shanghai
2009—2015     Director of the newly established Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

Foto: Schulzendorff

Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Stefan Bayer


Born in Sindelfingen in 1968
2000                Doctoral degree (Dr. rer. pol.)
1995—2004     Assistant lecturer at the Chair of Economics, particularly financial sciences and environmental policy at Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen
2003                Guest lecturership at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2004                Lecturer of Economics/Ecology at the Social Sciences Department of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College in Hamburg
2006                Interim professor for Financial Sciences at the Helmut Schmidt Bundeswehr University in Hamburg in Hamburg
2007                Habilitation in Economics at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen
Since 2014        Head of the Economy and Strategy Section of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College in Hamburg
Since 2014        Professor of Economics at the Helmut Schmidt Bundeswehr University in Hamburg

Ulrike Heckmann

Grew up in the Ruhr region
Studied Biology in Bochum and Science Journalism in Hannover
Editor and presenter at the broadcasting station Norddeutscher Rundfunk/NDR Info
Topics: current political events, changes in the economy and in society, environmental policy, educational policy, culture and science, ethics, medicine and health

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