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Statement by the Minister for Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., on Defence Budget 2014

In commenting on the Defence Budget allocation for 2014, Minister Shatter acknowledged the significant reforms that have occurred within the Defence Organisation to date and the contribution that this has made to the maintenance of the ongoing level of Defence Forces’ operations both at home and overseas, having regard to resource constraints. Minister Shatter stated:

The Defence Organisation, which encompasses the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, has a proud track record of flexibility and reform. This has been a critical factor in the maintenance of a broad range of capabilities within the reduced resource envelope, and this has ensured that the Defence Forces can continue to deliver the required operational outputs both at home and overseas,.

The Minister highlighted some of the recent and ongoing reforms:

The last 12 months has seen a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces, both Permanent and Reserve. This has consolidated Army Units within a new two Brigade structure and enabled the re-deployment of personnel from administrative and support functions to operational Units. In addition, the Department of Defence is fully engaged in a range of significant ongoing civil service reforms. I would like to convey my thanks to the Secretary General, the Chief of Staff and to all of their personnel, both civil and military, for their continued hard work and commitment.

Financial Overview:

The gross allocation provided to the Defence Sector comprises Defence (Vote 36) and Army Pensions (Vote 35). The allocation in 2014 is some €677m for Defence and €221m for Army Pensions. Together; these add up to €898m.The allocation for Defence (Vote 36) at €677m is €211m (24%) less than the corresponding allocation of €888m in 2008. (The reduction in the period between 2013 and 2014 for Defence (Vote 36) is €3.8m.) This reduction illustrates the huge fiscal adjustments made within the Defence Sector since the onset of the financial crisis.

The Department is currently giving effect to the various measures contained in the Defence Sector Collective Agreement, agreed as part of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013 –2016, “The Haddington Road Agreement”, and for which savings, consequent on these measures of approximately €10m per annum will be achieved.

Some 74% of the Defence Vote provides for pay and allowances, with the remaining 26% providing for standing and operational costs and the procurement of replacement equipment. The arrival of the first of two new Naval Service Offshore Patrol Vessels is anticipated in early 2014, with the second ship to follow a year later. These acquisitions, which will replace older ships, were funded from within the reduced Defence allocation. Other equipment purchases in 2014 will continue to prioritise Defence Forces operational outputs.

White Paper:

The current White Paper on Defence was published in 2000 and there have been significant changes in the defence and security environment in the intervening period. The Government decided to prepare a new White Paper on Defence and this provides an opportunity to consider future challenges and to ensure that Ireland’s defence policy is appropriately updated. In this regard Minister Shatter published a Green Paper on Defence and initiated a public consultation process. It is anticipated that the new White Paper on Defence will be published in 2014. This will provide the policy framework for Defence for the next decade.

Domestic Operations:

Domestically, the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) remain a key component of the State’s security framework and will continue to deliver a broad range of security and other support services on a day-to-day basis, e.g. explosive ordnance disposal, prisoner escorts, cash-in-transit escorts, maritime patrols and fishery protection, air ambulance services etc.

International Operations:

Ireland is currently contributing 570 PDF personnel to 14 different missions throughout the world, with the largest deployment of 361 personnel being to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Ireland’s ongoing contribution and support towards international peace and security efforts is further exemplified by the recent deployment of the 43rd Infantry Group comprising 115 personnel to Syria for service with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights.

PDF Recruitment:

Despite the difficult economic situation we are in, targeted recruitment will continue within the resource envelope allocated to the Department of Defence. This is necessary to ensure that, into the future, the PDF can continue to deliver all operational outputs required by Government both at home and overseas.

The recruitment of the first tranche of 188 recruits from the existing competition panels for General Service Recruits took place on 23 September 2013 with approximately 300 further recruits due to be inducted by mid November 2013.

In addition, targeted recruitment will continue with 20 Aircraft Mechanic Apprentices and 15 Engine Room Artificers to the Naval Service due to be recruited from current competitions.

Job Initiatives: Defence Forces Support to Enterprise Ireland - supported Companies, Training and Research Institutes:

The Defence Forces are currently engaged with many Irish enterprises, some of which are supported by Enterprise Ireland. In addition, the Defence Forces are involved with academia and research institutes in various projects, who benefit from the expertise offered by the Defence Forces.

Through the Irish Marine Energy and Resource Cluster (IMERC), which is a partnership of the Naval Service, University College Cork, Cork Institute of Technology and National Maritime College Ireland, the Naval Service has been involved in various initiatives with Enterprise Ireland. A number of projects in the marine area are currently being developed including: Atlantic Regions Coastal Pollution Response; Deployable Sea Air Rescue Integrated Chain with Unmanned Systems; a surveillance system of systems to monitor illegal migration and combat related crime and goods smuggling; and an Atlantic Power Cluster project.

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