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Defence | Implementing the recent proposed reforms to the Defence Forces

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the extent to which reforms proposed in the recent report of the Defence Forces are being put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The Commission on the Defence Forces was established on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government, and its report was published on the 9th of February 2022.  The Commission has undertaken a significant body of work, encompassing wide-ranging terms of reference.  It recommends significant changes for the Defence Forces and Defence provision in Ireland. It covers high-level Defence Forces structures, defence capabilities, organisation, culture and human resources, the Reserve Defence Force and funding.

Given the significant recommendations contained in the Report, detailed consideration of these recommendations was undertaken over a period of 5 months by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. Following this engagement, a High Level Action Plan (HLAP) and a Memo for Government were brought to Government and approved on July 12th 2022.

This involved the approval of a move to ‘Level of Ambition 2’ (LOA2), as set out in the capability framework devised by the Commission on the Defence Forces. This will result in the Defence budget rising from €1.1 billion to €1.5 billion, in 2022 prices, by 2028, the largest increase in Defence funding in the history of the State. This will allow for the required substantial transformation and investment in recruitment and equipment that were identified by the Commission.  The Budget for 2023 included an increase of €67m over the 2022 budget for Defence.  This demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to support the transformation of the Defence Forces into a modern, agile military force, capable of responding to increasingly complex security threats.

The High Level Action Plan set out a total of 38 early actions to be completed within 6 months of the Government decision. Substantial progress has been made on the early actions, with most currently at an advanced stage and due to be completed shortly. I will be reporting in detail on these actions later today with full details of the progress for all of the early actions, in a comprehensive published document.

The move to LOA2 will require an additional 2,000 personnel, including both civil and military, over and above the current establishment of 9,500.  Work has commenced on this with the ‘BE MORE’ recruitment campaign.

Retention measures being implemented include service commitment schemes in the Air Corps and in the Naval Service and the sea going naval personnel tax credit.

Pay has improved as a result of increases arising from the Public Service Pay Commission report, from recent pay agreements, and the early implementation of some of the recommendations of Commission on the Defence Forces (CoDF). The implementation of two of these recommendations, namely personnel of Private 3 Star/Able Seaman rank being paid the full rate of Military Service Allowance (MSA) applicable to the rank; and the removal of the requirement for that cohort to ‘mark time’ for the first three years at that rank, have had a substantial impact on starting pay rates in the Defence Forces, and compare very well to starting pay rates across the public service.

The High Level Action Plan set out initial implementation and oversight structures. An independently chaired Implementation Oversight Group has been established to monitor the implementation of the recommendations approved by Government, and met for the first time on the 3rd of October. Ms. Julie Sinnamon has been appointed as the independent chair of the Implementation Oversight Group. There have been four meetings of the Group to date, most recently on the 27th of February. A High-Level Steering Board has been established, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, to oversee the implementation. The High Level Steering Board met for the first time on the 1st of March. A civil/military Implementation Management Office (IMO) has been established to support the implementation of the overall transformation programme required to implement recommendations from the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces.

Government noted that, in light of the Commission’s report, there is an urgent need for HR and cultural transformation in the Defence Forces and this will be prioritised. The High Level Action Plan identified the recruitment, through an open process, for the new senior-level civilian positions of Head of Transformation and Head of Strategic HR for the Defence Forces as early actions required to progress this transformation. Recruitment is currently underway for these two key appointments, which were advertised in Q4 2022.

It is important to acknowledge that a key factor in ensuring that the required progress is achieved will be effective and timely stakeholder engagement.  The Defence Forces Representative Associations have been part of that stakeholder engagement and will continue to be fully consulted on all matters that fall within the scope of Representation. Engagement with relevant Government Departments also remains ongoing.

A key early action, and key output from the opening phase of the Transformation Programme, the development of a detailed implementation plan, is at an advanced stage and is expected to be published in Q2 of 2023. This plan will clearly set out the work needed to fully realise the transformation of the Defence Forces and defence provision in Ireland. It is a priority for me that this plan is both ambitious and credible if we are to realise the necessary transformation of the Defence Forces.  It is important that the development of this plan is completed expediently but more important that we get it right.

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