Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Defence Forces Strength.

Toddy O'Sullivan

Question:

11 Mr. T. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the apparent imbalance within the Defence Forces, as highlighted in the Gleeson Commission report, between the strength of privates, NCOs and officers; and in view of this, if he proposes to increase the number of privates.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

14 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the changes, if any, proposed in the strength of the Defence Forces to include the Army, Navy and FCA; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Austin Deasy

Question:

45 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Defence if he will clarify his recent statement regarding the slimmed down Army; if he will give details of the present numbers in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and the proposed level under the terms of his new strategy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

53 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence if he intends to reduce the establishment level for the Defence Forces; if he will outline the proposed levels for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service; the way in which these compare with the current personnel numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Gerry O'Sullivan

Question:

55 Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the reduction in the establishment figures in the Defence Forces.

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 11, 14, 45, 53 and 55 together.

The total strength of the Permanent Defence Force on 30 September 1990 was 13,233, with 11,396 in the Army, 974 in the Naval Service and 863 in the Air Corps. The establishment for the Permanent Defence Force is 17,978, including 15,475 for the Army, 1,266 for the Naval Service and 1,237 for the Air Corps.

Defence Forces Regulations set out a theoretical strength figure for each unit of the Defence Forces. It is through the aggregation of these figures that the total establishment for the Defence Forces is arrived at. As the unit strengths are not calculated by reference to actual workloads, the establishment total for the Defence Forces is purely a notional figure, bearing no relationship to current manpower requirements.

Given the obvious deficiencies of the present establishment as a basis for planning the structure and organisation of the Defence Forces, I have directed the military authorities to revise it to match actual requirements.

The production of a realistic establishment is a major undertaking and it will be some time before it is completed. I would emphasise that what is involved is the elimination of what has been referred to by the Gleeson Commission as phantom units in a theoretical structure and not a reduction of the operational capacity of the Defence Forces.

Notwithstanding what the Minister has said in his reply, there remains the fact that the Gleeson Commission stated that the strength of privates in the Defence Forces was only 65 per cent of establishment figures compared with 85 per cent for officers. That discrepancy bears comment given that the Gleeson Commission referred to the existence of phantom units. Would the Minister comment on that imbalance between officers and privates?

That is what I have done; I am agreeing with the Deputy. In my reply I have said that, given the obvious deficiencies of the present establishment as a basis for planning the structure and organisation of the Defence Forces, I have directed the military authorities to revise it to match actual requirements. I share the Deputy's view. I am glad that the Gleeson Commission report endorses that view which we both share and that something is now being done about it.

Would the Minister say whether the reduction in the establishment figures constitutes a method of reducing the overall real strength of the Defence Forces?

No, it is a means of doing what the Deputy suggested, removing the imbalance to which the Deputy has just referred and about which he wants me to do something. I am supporting the Deputy.

Whenever the establishment figures are revised will the Minister confirm they will be adhered to so that there will not be circumstances arising in which there will be notional figures of strength of the Defence Forces on the one hand and other figures that do not match up to what is required for proper manning of our Defence Forces generally?

I agree with the Deputy that that is the nub of what we are endeavouring to do. As a matter of urgency I have directed the military authorities to go and do so, to put forward ideas as to how it should take place.

Does the Minister anticipate that the realistic establishment he seeks to ascertain will be greater or lesser than the existing notional figures?