I propose to take Questions Nos. 39, 42 and 53 togther.
The Naval Service continues to fulfil all roles assigned by Government and, on a day-to-day basis, undertakes a broad range of tasks, including fishery protection, security operations, diving operations and other supports. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government recently approved the deployment of Naval Service personnel and assets in support of Operation Sophia. The establishment of the Naval Service is 1,094 and, as of 31 January 2018, the strength of the Naval Service is 1,051. The military authorities have informed me that the Naval Service was administering 17 applications for discharge in January 2018.
The manpower requirement of the Defence Forces is monitored on an ongoing basis in accordance with the operational requirements of each of the three services. The White Paper on defence recognises that continuous recruitment is the lifeblood of the Defence Forces, providing young, motivated and enthusiastic personnel to replenish military formations for operational deployments. In this context, there is significant ongoing recruitment to the Permanent Defence Forces and this is a long-term trend. Recruitment plans have been developed to address vacancies in the establishment and also to replace personnel who have exited the Defence Forces. There is also an ongoing programme of human resources development within defence organisations, part of which is aimed at ensuring that there is an appropriate work-life balance. The Chief of Staff is actively addressing matters to this end and I have initiated a review of the criteria governing contracts for enlisted personnel and a comprehensive skills gap analysis across the Defence Forces.
There have been significant improvements in pay for members of the Defence Forces under the Lansdowne Road agreement, with the focus of increases being on the lower paid. Both PDFORRA and RACO have signed up to the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which provides for further pay increase of between 6.2% and 7.4% over its lifetime. Under my direction, the Department of Defence has previously brought issues relating to recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Force to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission. The commission is further examining these issues in its next tranche of work. A departmental civil-military submission is currently being prepared and I am aware that the representative associations have also been requested to make submissions by the commission. I will continue to work closely with my Government colleagues and civil and military management to ensure that the Defence Forces can continue to deliver the capabilities required to discharge all roles assigned by Government.