I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 51 together.
The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is comprised of the First Line Reserve, the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve. The Government appreciates the service of the members of the Reserve Defence Force and recognises the important role that the three elements of the RDF play in contributing to Ireland's defence capability. The White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the RDF and it is currently on a development path arising from the recommendations of the White Paper.
As of 31st January 2019 the strength of the Reserve is as follows:
First Line Reserve: 288 personnel
Army Reserve: 1761 personnel
Naval Service Reserve: 138 personnel
A key ongoing challenge for the RDF is to recruit and retain personnel. I am very much aware that there continues to be a shortfall between the current strength figures and those of the establishment, which provides for 4,069 personnel and recruitment is ongoing. A total of 129 new recruits were inducted to the RDF in 2018. The Defence Forces will run two recruitment campaigns for the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve this year, one in March and a second in October. Supports being provided to maximise recruitment to the Reserve include the use of social media and outreach activities by RDF members. PDF recruit exit interviews now contain information on applying for membership of the RDF.
Under the current phase of implementation of White Paper actions, two White Paper projects have been identified which are important precursors to the establishment of a Specialist Reserve. A gap analysis of skills sets in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) will identify potential roles for Reserve members who possess specialist skills. Options to develop the First Line Reserve are also currently being examined.
In 2018, the Chief of Staff assigned the responsibility of Director of Reserve Defence Force to the Director of Combat Support & ISTAR. In this context, plans for 2019 provide guidance, across all units and formations with RDF assets, in developing their capabilities. This is in line with the single force concept and the role of the Reserve as described in the White Paper on Defence. The focus will be to harness RDF skills and talent, maximising its development on the basis of mutual engagement with the PDF. Specific project areas will focus on training, regulation, recruitment, retention and promotions and will be supported through RDF and PDF reciprocal training, mentoring and education.
Engagement continues with the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association (RDFRA) on key issues of import to them. My officials are scheduled to meet RDFRA in the coming weeks. RDFRA have been identified as key stakeholders in the RDF relevant White Paper projects and their views will be sought on appropriate matters as the need arises as projects mature and progress. To that end, RDFRA have been invited to attend a White Paper briefing with my officials on the 11th March 2019. Practical supports to RDFRA consist of quarterly payments by my Department per annum and an annual telephone allowance. A total of 750 Reserve Mandays are also made available specifically to RDFRA to allow its members conduct association business.
I would like to assure the Deputy and RDFRA that I remain committed to the ongoing development of the RDF within the framework set out in the White Paper and having regard to resource availability. It is my intention to ensure that the momentum on its development is maintained throughout 2019 and the coming years.