I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 2 and 5 together.
I apologise for the absence of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Shatter, who is indisposed today and will be indisposed for a short while. He sends his apologies. As Minister of State in the Department of Defence, I am taking questions on his behalf.
The Government is committed to maintaining the capacity and capability of the Defence Forces to undertake the roles assigned by Government within an establishment of 9,500 serving personnel. Against that background, the Minister tasked the Secretary General of the Department and the Chief of Staff to bring forward proposals for a reorganisation of the Defence Forces. Those proposals recommended that the Army component of the Defence Forces be reduced from a three brigade to a two brigade structure. A three brigade structure, which had originally been designed for a force of 11,500, could not be sustained in the context of maintaining numbers at 9,500 without impacting on the capacity of the Defence Forces to deliver the services required by Government. The Minister, having considered the matter in detail, accepted the proposals of the Secretary General and the chief of staff for the reorganisation of the Army into a two brigade structure. A reorganisation of the Air Corps and Naval Service within their reduced strengths as set out in the employment-control framework is also being finalised as part of the reorganisation.
The implementation of the current reorganisation is being overseen by a high level implementation group comprising senior civil and military management of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. The group has been meeting weekly since the announcement of the reorganisation. They are planning the detailed implementation of the reorganisation in a manner which best addresses the future organisational needs and capability requirements of the Defence Forces while facilitating as far as possible the circumstances and expressed preferences of individual members. The representative associations in the Defence Forces, RACO and PDFORRA have been closely engaged in the implementation planning process as part of the Croke Park agreement and have had significant input into the planning of the implementation process.
The reorganisation under way is a major change in the organisation and structure of the Defence Forces. The extent of it should not be underestimated. It will impact on the lives and future careers of serving and future members of the Defence Forces right across the organisation. This reorganisation has been extensively facilitated by the Croke Park agreement and the commitments given by the representative associations under that agreement to co-operate with major reorganisation and change. The current initiatives being brought forward by defence management for the reorganisation of the Defence Forces, taken with the earlier barracks closures, are far-reaching and challenging.
Under the reorganisation, 118 officer promotion posts in the Army across all ranks up to brigadier general are being eliminated while NCO appointments are also being reduced by 225. In addition, units are being relocated throughout the country while other units, such as the brigade headquarters in Athlone, are being disestablished.
In implementing the reorganisation we must be conscious of the personal impact these changes will have on the lives and future careers of individual members of the Defence Forces. To that end and contrary to much media speculation, there is no question of mandatorily requiring all the personnel serving in units changing location to move with their unit. The Minister for Defence would like to allay concerns in that regard.
The implementation plan, which has been designed by the high level implementation group, is designed to limit as far as possible the dislocation of personnel. The reorganisation also generally maintains existing serving staff numbers in all the existing locations. In so far as is practicable, serving members in the Defence Forces whose units are being moved or disbanded will have the opportunity either to move with their unit or to take up new appointments within or close to their existing locations as part of the reassignment process. That said, it is inevitable that some personnel will have to change location or will be mandatorily relocated to fill out the appointments in the new organisation. This is part and parcel of the employment conditions of members of the Defence Forces.
It is not possible at this stage in the process to state how many personnel will be transferred across the Defence Forces on the basis of the current reorganisation. The specific requirements in this regard will only become apparent as the implementation process proceeds and personnel indicate their particular preferences as to whether to move location or take up alternative appointments in their existing locations. Obviously, this also applies to the transfer of the McKee Barracks staff and the choices they make on transfer or taking up alternative appointments in McKee Barracks.
All personnel in the Defence Forces have been extensively briefed on the reorganisation proposals. They will receive further briefings and information on the many options available to them as the implementation stage progresses. As there are extensive vacancies in the organisation, many serving personnel will also benefit by moving to new roles and promotional opportunities to fill vacancies in the organisation. The detailed administrative order setting out the implementation plan, which has been the subject of extensive consultation with the representative associations, has now been finalised and issued to formation commanders and made available to all members of the Defence Forces.
This current radical reorganisation of the Defence Forces depends for its success on two elements. First is the continued proactive engagement and leadership of civil and military management in the Department of Defence in modernising and restructuring the organisation to meet the new security challenges of today. Second is the robust, positive and constructive engagement of the representative associations, on behalf of their members, under the provisions of the Croke Park agreement.