The Government remains committed to returning to the agreed strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500.
In that context there is ongoing recruitment and the Defence Forces recruitment process is subject to continuous monitoring and appraisal to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. In 2017, this resulted in the traditional annual General Service Recruitment Campaign being replaced by two campaigns annually to reduce waiting times on panels for aspiring entrants.
I have acknowledged that there are both recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces which is reflective of the current buoyant economic environment and jobs market.
For that reason, I brought these issues to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission and their recent report contains a broad range of recommendations which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Permanent Defence Force as well as initiatives that can lead to further improvement. These recommendations are currently being progressed through the associated Implementation Plan.
Whilst it is clear that there is and has been a significant amount of work undertaken in this area, I continue to work closely with the Secretary General of my Department and the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to further enhance the responses to the issues facing the Defence Forces at this time.