The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, at 30th April 2019 was 8,828 whole time equivalent personnel.
While I acknowledge there is a gap between these figures and the establishment figure of 9,500, the Government remains dedicated to returning to, and maintaining the establishment strength of the Permanent Defence Force. To achieve this recruitment continued in 2019 with:
- The General Service Recruitment application process which launched on the 12th of March, and 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.
Despite recent highly negative media and political commentary, it must be reiterated 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 and 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.