Thursday, 13 June 2019

Questions (21)

Brendan Smith

Question:

21. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of personnel serving in the Permanent Defence Forces; his plans to increase the number of personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24352/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, at 30th April 2019 was 8,828 whole time equivalent personnel.

The Government remains committed to returning to, and maintaining the agreed strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel as set out in the White Paper on Defence (2015).

The Defence Forces has targeted some 800 new entrants in 2019 and in an effort to achieve this:

- The General Service Recruitment application process which launched on the 12th of March, will remain open throughout the year. This has attracted 2,650 applications to date.

- The 2019 Cadetship Competition, which closed in May, attracted 2,141 applications.

- The Aircraft Apprentice Technician competition is expected to launch soon.

- The Naval Service continues to recruit Direct Entry Officers for Bridge Watch-keeping, Marine Engineering and Electrical Engineering roles.

- The Defence Forces continue to recruit qualified doctors for careers in the Medical Corps.

In addition to the traditional recruitment outlined above, a range of alternative recruitment approaches are being developed, aimed at addressing vacancies in specialist areas.

- A scheme has been introduced which permits former Officers with specialist skills to re-enter the Permanent Defence Force and arrangements are in train to provide a similar scheme for former enlisted personnel.

- Currently there is direct entry provision for those with professional qualifications which is utilised for the recruitment of Medical Officers and Engineers.

- A working group has been established to examine the scope for greater use of such direct entry recruitment for certain specialist positions.

While, traditionally, significant inductions take place in the latter part of the year, the military authorities have advised me that, as of 30th April 2019, the following personnel have been inducted into the Permanent Defence Force:

- 126 General Service Recruits

- 3 Direct Entry Specialists comprised of 2 Medical Officers and 1 Naval Service Marine Engineer.

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 both at home and overseas. And despite recent highly negative media and political commentary, it must be highlighted that the Defence Forces offers an interesting, varied and rewarding career. Starting pay for both enlisted personnel and Officers is competitive when viewed against other career choices with similar entry requirements. There are also a range of allowances paid in addition to basic pay.

There is also significant ongoing work aimed at making the Defence Forces an attractive career for those currently serving. There are ongoing promotion opportunities. The Defence Forces offers significant opportunities for personnel to develop skills and earn qualifications throughout their career, while receiving full pay. There are opportunities to gain unique experiences, including on overseas service. There is also ongoing work to enhance work-life balance.

Clearly the Government’s goal is to meet the strength target of 9,500 personnel. There are ongoing challenges in this regard. The independent Public Service Pay Commission have been tasked with examining such recruitment and retention issues. I expect that the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform will bring their report to cabinet in the near future. The Government will consider any recommendations made.