|ADDRESS BY MR. WILLIE O’ DEA, T.D., MINISTER FOR DEFENCE AT THE 12TH ANNUAL DELEGATE CONFERENCE OF THE RESERVE DEFENCE FORCE REPRESENTATIVE ASSOCIATION IN DFTC, CURRAGH CAMP ON SATURDAY 7TH MAY 2005|
Chief of Staff, President of the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association , assembled delegates and fellow guests, I wish to thank you for inviting me to address this your 12th Annual Delegate Conference. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today at one of the main events in your Association’s calendar.
This is the first opportunity I have had since my appointment as Minister for Defence of addressing your Annual Delegate Conference. I welcome the opportunity to do so as we face into an exciting period of change for the Reserve aimed at expanding its contribution to fulfil the requirements of a modern defence capability.
I had the opportunity to meet with members of your National Executive and your General Secretary last week. At that meeting I was briefed on the many positive developments within the organisation and on the good working relationship that exists between the Association, the military authorities and my Department. I know this relationship, which is built on mutual understanding and respect, will strengthen and develop as we progress through a period of change and reorganisation. I have also had an opportunity to read the Association’s most recent National Newsletter which, I must say, is a very professional publication and an ideal instrument to portray a very positive image for the Reserve.
This is the second year that your ADC has been held here in the Defence Forces Training Centre in the Curragh, where your Association’s Headquarters Offices are now located close by in Clarke Barracks. I understand that the move to your new offices has worked out very well, despite some earlier misgivings, and that it’s proved to be an ideal location. I know that you are also appreciative of the help that you have received from the GOC and his staff.
Coming from a city with a strong military tradition, coupled with visits to a number of Defence Force locations since my appointment as Minister for Defence, I have been able to see at first hand the commitment and professionalism of military personnel of which you as a voluntary body are an integral part.
The reform process was set out in the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan, launched last year. The plan will be implemented over the course of the period to end 2009. The plan is the start of a process that will radically change the structure and configuration of the Reserve. I can assure all of you that the process will preserve the traditional strengths of the organisation, including the spirit of voluntary commitment, the maintaining of strong links with local communities and a nation-wide geographical spread.
I know from my many discussions with members of the Reserve that there are issues which are of concern to individual members, with the reorganisation of the Reserve being uppermost in most peoples minds. I can assure members that the changes that will come about from the reorganisation process will have a very positive impact on the organisation as a whole. You will recall the widespread changes implemented within the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in recent years not all of which met with universal approval. However, the benefits within the PDF soon became manifestly clear and the same will apply for the Reserve.
Members may well ask what are the hallmarks of the proposed new Reserve Defence Force? As a voluntary and part-time organisation, the Reserve Defence Force’s most important contribution is to support the Permanent Defence Force in its contingency defence roles in emergency situations. In peace time, the main function of the Defence Forces, both Permanent and Reserve, should be to train and prepare for these contingency roles. The plan is to create a new Reserve. It will have a clearer contingency defence role, an improved and more consistent organisational structure and an enhanced relationship with the PDF together with the integration of RDF sub-units with appropriate PDF units. There will be more and better quality training with improved equipment and resourcing and selective access to overseas peace support missions. This will be underpinned by the retention of the traditional strengths and features of the organisation, especially the spirit of volunteer service and finally overall, a better value for money Reserve defence capability.
An important change recommended by the study of the Reserve is that members of the Reserve Defence Force should be considered for participation in overseas peace support missions subject to suitable qualifications, personal availability and appropriate advance training. As you know, in other countries service by reservists on overseas peace support missions is quite common.
As specified in the Implementation Plan, any such participation is likely to be in specialist areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications & information services and will be dependent on extended pre-deployment training. An amendment to the Defence Act will be required in order that members of the Reserve can serve overseas. The security of civilian employment for the members of the Reserve who may wish to serve overseas will be considered as part of the ongoing implementation process. Issues arising from the proposed legislation and the subsequent training and deployment of reserve personnel will be raised with your Association at the appropriate forum.
While there are no immediate plans for participation by members of the Reserve Defence Force in overseas missions, policies to support the selection of Reserve personnel for overseas duties will be developed over the lifetime of the Reserve Defence Force Implementation Plan.
It is intended that the Reserve Defence Force will be reorganised and restructured in line with the Army component of the Permanent Defence Force three Brigades and a Defence Forces Training Centre.
The Implementation Plan defines the organisational framework of the new Army Reserve and provides for a greater concentration of units within each Army Brigade area. There will be mergers both at battalion and company level as well as between sister technical support units. This will be the key to providing enhanced training facilities and opportunities for each member of the Reserve.
We have already seen some changes on the ground. 1st March this year saw the return of the 9th and 10th Infantry Battalions to the Southern Brigade and 6 Field Artillery Regiment to the Eastern Brigade. I am aware that this change will have a minimal knock on effect on your Association’s constitution and rules and it is expected that this will be remedied later this year.
I understand that the required regulatory changes including the new establishment, change of title, etc., will come into effect this October.
A number of Administrative procedures have been put in place and I understand that the procedural instruction to allow for the selection of four new Lt Colonels is at an advanced stage and is expected to be completed for consultation with the Association in the coming months.
In producing detailed proposals for the restructuring of Reserve units within each Brigade area, the military authorities have taken due cognisance of the existing FCA presence within communities. Consultation and communication have been a priority throughout the development of the Plan and will continue to ensure that the changes now proposed are carried through smoothly and effectively. Reserve units will be kept informed of developments on a regular basis.
Members of the Reserve are also seeing the benefits of the reorganisation process in terms of better clothing and improved equipment.
A new training regime will be introduced to enable the Reserve Defence Force to achieve an enhanced operational capacity. An essential objective of the proposed training profile will be to ensure that most personnel will, in each 12 month period, undertake a total of 14 days paid training. This year the overall training days provision is approximately 114,000. Subject to financial prioritisation within the military budget as a whole, it is planned that this allocation will be increased as the reorganisation process continues. Within this overall limit of 114,000 mandays for 2005 it is proposed to allocate 91,800 days to annual training, 500 days for security duty purposes with Border Units, 500 days for general security duty, 1,175 days allocated to RDFRA for Association business, 3,000 days to the Director, Reserve Forces to allocate for miscellaneous duties and to allocate the balance of 17,025 days to full-time courses of instruction.
There will be continued emphasis on training and I understand the Chief of staff will address this issue in more detail in his address to Conference.
When I met with your delegation last week they raised the question of marking the move from the old FCA/Slua to the new Reserve Defence Force in some formal way. I understand that this is something that many members of the Reserve have raised with them. I have asked my Department and the military authorities to look at this issue and will consider your request in that context.
The past seven years have seen an unprecedented level of investment in Defence Forces training and equipment. The ongoing commitment to investment in infrastructure is evidenced by the expenditure in 2004 of over €177,000 in refurbishment and repairs carried out at various FCÁ and an Slua Muirí posts. This investment programme is continuing in 2005. In addition several major works were undertaken which, while not specifically for the RDF, will improve accommodation and training facilities used by Reserve Forces personnel. These include the upgrade of accommodation in Kilworth Camp, Kickham Barracks, Sarsfield Barracks, McKee Barracks, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Custume Barracks, and Coolmoney Camp. I was most pleased to be able to secure over €33.5 million in this year’s Defence estimates for building work both capital and non- capital.
It is clear that good progress has been made on the reorganisation of the Reserve to date and the Association and members have shown ongoing commitment and dedication to the change process. I have no doubt that you will be more than equal to the challenges that lie ahead.
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address your conference here to-day. I can assure you that the Government fully appreciates the tremendous dedication and loyalty shown by members of the Reserve. As I said earlier, Annual Delegate Conferences are always very important occasions and even more so for your organisation given the voluntary ethos which is the cornerstone of your success.
I would like to wish you every success with your deliberations here to-day and I hope you have an enjoyable and successful conference.
Private Secretary to the
Minister for Defence.
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