The well-known American defense magazine Defense News has abruptly withdrawn an opinion article about Dutch submarines. Reason were questions about the author Günther Hoffman and his alleged status as a former naval officer and advisor for the Dutch Ministry of Defense. This mysterious man, unknown to the world, plays a very special role in the rock-hard submarine lobby.
AMSTERDAM --- In an opinion piece entitled “Dutch sub program in bed with the Swedes” (cache), the author makes short work of a number of shipbuilders targeting a multi-billion dollar order for the new Dutch submarine fleet to replace the current Walrus class.
The author suggests that this contract could be won by Dutch builder Damen Shipyards in collaboration with the Swedish Kockums. These shipbuilders are, according to Hoffman, unsuited to replace the Dutch Walrus class due to a “lack of technological knowledge,” while German competitor TKMS, also in the race, would be a complete disaster, “as they sold three submarines to bankrupt Greece but didn’t bother delivering them.”
Such statements and overt attacks on international shipbuilders are striking and unprecedented for a former naval officer and adviser of the Dutch Ministry of Defense. And such harsh statements about competing parties by a naval officer (who is unknown in the naval world) raised the eyebrows. Equally striking was the fact that a third competitor - the French Naval - was spared a critical reading.
In search of this Günther Hoffman, De Groene quickly ended up on a dead end: besides a presenter of the ZDF hit parade, a tax advisor from Oosterhout and a German colonel in the Ardennes offensive, there was no digital footprint of Mr. Hoffman.
Both the Navy and the Ministry of Defense looked at the workforce, the employee system and the e-mail system at the request of De Groene, but they could not find Günther Hoffman “nor anything similar.” The Navy also indicated that it is “not customary” to hire part-time civil servants for advice at this stage.
Inquiries at Defense News and a request to get in touch with Mr. Hoffman resulted in the withdrawal of the article: “we now believe the commentary author is a fraud.”
It seems that a ghost author has been deployed in the lobbying around the Dutch billions order. Currently, the minister is busy drawing up the so-called B-Brief, which marks the end of the research phase, and in which Secretary of State Visser will announce which competitors have been short-listed.
During this - ongoing - research phase, the shipbuilders have had to supply information to the ministry several times about their shipyards and submarines.
By Kim van Keken and Dieuwertje Kuijpers
More to come soon in De Groene Amsterdammer about the wonderful world of submarine lobbying, and the heated battle over the multi-billion dollar contract.