I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 848 together.
The Government is committed to maintaining a strength level of 9,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force (PDF). This comprises 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service personnel, as stated in the 2015 White Paper on Defence. The current strength (Whole Time Equivalent) of the PDF as of the 31st May 2017 (the latest date for which figures are available) is 9,044 comprising of 7,254 Army, 703 Air Corps and 1,087 Naval Service.
The manpower requirement of the Defence Forces is monitored on an ongoing basis in accordance with operational requirements. As there is significant turnover of personnel in the Permanent Defence Force targeted recruitment has been and is currently taking place so as to maintain the agreed strength levels. I am advised by the Military Authorities that the Defence Forces are planning to increase the level of recruitment in 2017 and a number of competitions are currently underway in this regard.
The 2017 Cadet Competition was launched on 22 March 2017. In total there were 3,466 applicants for all 7 competitions which are; Army Cadet, Army Engineer Cadet, Army Equitation Cadet, Air Corps Pilot Cadet, Naval Service Operations Cadet, Naval Service Marine Engineer Cadet and Naval Service Electrical Engineer Cadet. The competition has progressed through the Application stage and Online Unsupervised Psychometric Assessments, to the Assessment Centre stage which involves Group Assessment, Fitness Tests and a Realistic Job Preview. A total of 100 Cadet inductions are planned to take place in September 2017.
General Service Recruitment Campaigns for both the Army and Naval Service were launched on 23 February 2017. The competitions have now progressed and recruitment has commenced. In total there were 5,210 applicants for these competitions, an increase of 13.5% compared with 2016. The competition has now progressed through the Application and Online Psychometric Assessment stages to Fitness Testing and Competency Based Interviews and inductions are planned to take place in September/October 2017. There are plans to launch another Air Corps Trainee Military Aircraft Technician Competition shortly and induct up to 25 Apprentices in Quarter 3/Quarter 4 2017.
With the support of the Chief of Staff, it is intended to continue to recruit new personnel in order to ensure that the Defence Forces retain the capacity to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government, both at home and overseas.