The primary purpose for the procurement of defensive equipment by the Department of Defence is to enhance the capability of the Irish Defence Forces and to afford the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops on domestic operations and overseas peace support operations. The White Paper on Defence identified, as key operational priorities, the replacement of major equipment platforms across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service and the initiation of infrastructural development programmes. The Department is currently engaged in work on a new equipment development plan covering the next five years.
At EU level, there is a range of initiatives in the area of capability development that are in place or are currently being discussed. These include Ireland’s participation in the European Defence Agency, EDA. Ireland has participated in the European Defence Agency since it was established in 2004. The primary reason for Ireland’s participation in the European Defence Agency is to support the development of Defence Forces capabilities for peacekeeping and international crisis management operations.
Ireland also participates in a collaborative database which is managed by the EDA. This database provides a platform for engaging with other member states on a number of fronts, including collaborative or joint procurement.
Plans are under way in the EU for the development of the Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO. It is envisaged under this structure that member states would collaborate in the development and acquisition of essential capabilities for Common Security and Defence Policy, CSDP, operations in the area of international crisis management. Any participation by Ireland in PESCO will be entirely voluntary, as provided in the Lisbon treaty protocols, and will be subject to the approval of Dáil Éireann in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006.
The Co-ordinated Annual Review on Defence, CARD, initiative aims to create greater transparency among member states in sharing information on future defence policy, capability development, budgets and investment. It is expected that such transparency will support greater collaboration among member states on investment in capabilities.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The initiative recognises that Defence policy, including defence spending, is entirely a national competence. Any information sharing will be conducted on a strictly voluntary basis.
In regard to the European Defence Action Plan, EDAP, the action plan was adopted by the College of Commissioners in November 2016. The aim of the plan is to explore how EU policies and instruments can ensure that the EU’s industrial and skills base will be able to deliver the required defence capabilities in view of current and future security challenges. There are proposals in the plan to increase transparency in relation to defence procurement to make it more open and transparent.
A key objective of the aforementioned EU initiatives is to increase collaboration in the development and acquisition of capabilities.