Written Answers. - Defence Forces Strength.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

86 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Defence if it is intended to reduce the overall number of members of the Defence Forces as part of the Government's decision to reduce overall public services numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18772/03]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence his preference in respect of the future strength of the Permanent Defence Forces having regard to further changes in role or responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18833/03]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if an increase or decrease in the strength of the Army is being contemplated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19125/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 108 and 134 together.

In his budget statement on 4 December 2002 the Minister for Finance announced that numbers employed in all sectors of the public service were to be capped at their authorised levels with immediate effect. In addition, the Minister announced that the Government had decided that there will be a reduction of 5,000 in those numbers over the next three years. These announcements were made in the context of containing the growth in the public service pay bill which is being driven by, among other things, the growth in public service numbers.
The Defence Forces have undergone various reviews and significant change in the past 12 years. This process has focused on structural, operational, training and manpower issues. The process culminated in the White Paper on Defence, published in 2000, which lays down a defence management strategy for ten years. One of the main outcomes of the various reviews is that the Defence Forces is significantly different in size and in structure compared to 1990. It has reduced in strength from 13,500 to 10,500 with an option of up to 250 in training. I propose to continue with recruitment to the Defence Forces throughout this year.