The White Paper on Defence, published in 2015, sets out the Government’s defence policy for the next decade. Any discussion on Defence Forces capability, numbers of personnel and so on needs to be framed in the context of the White Paper on Defence which commits to maintaining the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel, comprising 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service personnel.
The strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 30 September was 9,062 personnel and further inductions have been ongoing since that date. There is significant ongoing recruitment at enlisted and officer level, and it is anticipated that 800 new personnel will have been inducted into the Permanent Defence Force during 2017. This includes general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers. A further recruitment campaign is under way with a closing date of 27 October 2017 and will provide a panel for recruit inductions in 2018.
A range of recruitment methods are being employed, including direct entry competitions for specialist positions, and the scope to further expand direct entry is being considered. I have also directed civil and military management to develop terms and conditions to allow former members of the Defence Forces with sought after skills to return to service. I expect to be in receipt of these shortly.
The fact that further consideration by the Public Service Pay Commission of recruitment and retention issues is provided for under the public service stability agreement 2018-2020 is also a welcome development. We must also not lose sight of the fact that Defence Forces personnel join up of their own free will and I believe great efforts are being made, within that context, to maximise the numbers coming into the Defence Forces.
The actions I have described are actions which are currently being carried out. It is also necessary to plan for the future on a longer-term basis. With this in mind, I have directed that some White Paper projects be brought forward. This work will help in identifying where gaps will occur for particular skill sets and allow for more targeted manpower planning.
I remain committed to maximising recruitment to the Defence Forces and ensuring that, where possible, the terms and conditions of service ensure that the Defence Forces remains an attractive career choice. With the support of the Chief of Staff, and within the resources available, the Government is committed to retaining the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government at home and overseas.