Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (406, 407, 408)

Robert Troy

Question:

406. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence his views on the reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Forces/Reserve Artillery Regiment in Mullingar, County Westmeath,in view of the fact that at present his Department is renting a disused factory as a reserve military post whilst Columb Barracks, County Westmeath, continues to lie idle. [11574/13]

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Robert Troy

Question:

407. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence the reasons behind the decision for the Reserve Artillery Regiment in Mullingar, County Westmeath, ceasing to operate from 1 April 2013 and instead becoming a Reserve Infantry Company. [11575/13]

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Robert Troy

Question:

408. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence if he will reconsider the policy of moving Reserve Artillery Regiments to new locations in view of the high costs associated with the retraining of reserve units around the State. [11576/13]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 406 to 408, inclusive, together.

The Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force (RDF), which was published in November 2012, made a broad range of recommendations aimed at ensuring the continued viability of the RDF into the future. I accepted these recommendations and subsequent proposals for a major re-organisation of the RDF, which were brought forward by the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General. The new organisational structures will see Defence Forces Units having both Permanent and Reserve elements, which differs from the current approach. These new structures are scheduled to come into effect from the end of March 2013.

In order to achieve the required levels of interoperability, Reserve Combat Support elements (including Artillery) and Combat Service Support elements will be co-located with their Permanent Defence Force (PDF) counterparts in PDF installations. This will ensure access to equipment, expertise and facilitate appropriate training. In 2 Brigade, Reserve Artillery elements will be co-located with their PDF counterparts in Custume Barracks, Athlone. In 1 Brigade, Reserve Artillery elements will be co-located with their PDF counterparts in Collins Barracks, Cork. Members of the Reserve who are currently serving in existing Reserve Artillery Units may apply for a position in these locations or they may opt to apply for a position in an alternative Unit.

Reserve Infantry Units will be located in PDF installations and in sixteen other locations throughout the State. Mullingar was selected as one of these sixteen locations. Members of the Reserve who are currently serving in the Reserve Artillery Unit in Mullingar may opt to apply for a position in the new Infantry Rifle Company. Every effort will be made to facilitate members of the Reserve with their preferred choice.

Training will be provided to underpin and facilitate the re-organisation. This will be met from within the existing Reserve training budget. The implementation of the recommendations of the VFM Review, including new organisational structures, will reduce direct expenditure on the Reserve by approximately €11 million in 2013.

The consolidation of the Defence Forces Units into a smaller number of locations was a key objective in the defence modernisation programme and was recommended in many reports. The closure of Columb Barracks in Mullingar in March 2012 was a part of that programme and has realised direct cash savings in utilities, maintenance and security duty allowances, of approximately €400,000 per annum. The premises occupied by the Reserve in Mullingar are currently leased at a cost of €30,750 per annum and this is more cost-effective than maintaining Columb barracks as the training centre for the Reserve in that location. I remain committed to ensuring that we have a sustainable and fit for purpose Reserve Defence Force. I am satisfied that the changes that are being introduced will assist in achieving this goal.