Written Answers. - Defence Forces Strength.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

115 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed by the general secretary of PDFORRA that cutbacks in the Defence Forces were reducing the Army's contribution to international security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22977/00]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current and proposed strength of the Defence Forces, land, sea and air; the extent to which changes are required in the context of PfP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23361/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 211 together.

The number of serving personnel in commissioned and other ranks, for each branch of the Permanent Defence Force, as at 30 September 2000, is as set out in the following table.

Officers

Other Ranks

Total

Army

1,045.00

7,927.00

8,972.00

Naval Service

116.00

865.00

981.00

Air Corps

112.00

691.00

803.00

Total

1,273.00

9,483.00

10,756.00

The White Paper on Defence set out an agreed total for the PDF of 10,500, with a provision for an additional 250 young recruits in training. The recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers special studies on the Naval Service and Air Corps set out recommended overall strengths of 1,144 for the Naval Service and 930 for the Air Corps respectively. These will be met from within the overall Permanent Defence Force figure.
The actual restructuring of the PDF to secure conformity with the White Paper envelope strength of 10,500 and also with the recommendations of the management consultants on both the Naval Service and the Air Corps will be achieved by way of very detailed implementation plans for each of the services.
In the past few years, I have been operating a policy of continuous or "rolling" general service recruitment for all branches of the Permanent Defence Force. The annual cadetship competition also continues to draw an excellent field of very talented young people who wish to become commissioned officers.
In so far as the participation of the Permanent Defence Force in international activities is concerned, it should be emphasised that all current and pending international commitments of human resource significance were fully factored into the thorough exercise of review and analysis involved in the development of the White Paper.
The PDF contribution to the range of international operations and taskings is now actually at an all time high. At present Ireland subscribes to the United Nations Standby Arrangements System, UNSAS, under which the State offers to provide up to 850 personnel on overseas service at any given time. This is an expression of policy intent and not a binding commitment.
In the past four years there has been a 25% increase in the numbers of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas. Defence Forces participation in recent UN mandated missions, SFOR – Bosnia and Herzegovina – KFOR – Kosovo – and UNTAET – East Timor – allied to ongoing missions such as UNIFIL, has seen the numbers serving overseas increase. At present there is a total of 951 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas. This is a substantial commitment for a country of our size.
Participation in PfP is on an entirely voluntary and selective basis according to the particular preferences and priorities of each individual participating country within the partnership. No changes in the strength of the Defence Forces will be required or are envisaged as a result of Ireland's participation in PfP.