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The Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence
Topical Issues Debate
Re-Organisation of the Defence Forces
Dáil Éireann 18th July 2012

To ask the Minister for Defence to discuss the re-organisation of the Defence Forces, announced yesterday.
- DEPUTY SEÁN Ó FEARGHAÍL
REPLY

I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the re-organisation of the Permanent Defence Force.

In December 2011, I announced a revised ceiling of 9,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and a re-organisation of the Defence Forces encompassing a move from a three Brigade structure to a two Brigade structure. The Cabinet agreed to stabilise the PDF at 9,500 and recognised that a three Brigade structure was no longer viable. This re-organisation is driven by the immediate realities of retaining operational effectiveness within a strength ceiling of 9,500 at a time when financial resources are limited.

I tasked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General to bring forward proposals on the re-organisation for my consideration. I have accepted their recommendations and yesterday, I was pleased to announce the details of the re-organisation. I am satisfied that this re-organisation will ensure that the PDF retain the capacity to fulfil the roles assigned to the greatest extent possible within the strength ceiling of 9,500 and the significantly reduced resource envelope resulting from the fiscal difficulties of the State. This was confirmed in the report that I received from the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General.

I am continually surprised by the misinformation that has been promulgated regarding this re-organisation. There are a number of issues regarding that I would like to take this opportunity to clarify.

This re-organisation does not result in job losses. This re-organisation will ensure that the Units within the Permanent Defence Force are configured appropriately and reflect attainable strength levels. As part of this process the re-organisation entails the amalgamation of under-strength Units into full strength Units. Clearly this does not equate to job losses, it ensures that actual jobs are reflected in organizational structures. Continued reference to notional jobs associated with outdated and revoked strength levels, is misleading and disingenuous.

Contrary to recent assertions, my decision to initiate a re-organisation was made following a detailed assessment of the Defence and Security environment and consideration of associated Defence Forces capability requirements. This was conducted both as part of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) and during the preparation of the Department of Defence and Defence Forces’ Strategy Statement. Both of these documents have been published and are available for viewing.

A Green Paper on Defence is currently being prepared. When published at the end of 2012, this Green Paper will inform broad discussion about Ireland’s Defence policy. This will culminate in the publication of a new White Paper on Defence at the end of 2013. This White Paper will set out Defence policy and encompass a longer time frame than that of the Strategy Statement. It will inform long term capability requirements for implementation over an extended timeframe, typically ten or more years. The re-organisation is driven by the immediate realities of maintaining required operational capabilities, within a significantly reduced resource envelope.

There will be no further barrack closures as part of this re-organisation nor within the lifetime of this Government.

Having clarified those issues, it is important to highlight the positive impact that the re-organisation will make in ensuring the continued delivery of Defence Forces operational capabilities and outputs, both at home and overseas. This implementation of this re-organisation will ensure that the Defence Forces remain fit for purpose and continue to deliver value for money. This re-organisation is an excellent example of the public sector reform agenda in action. It proactively addresses the challenge of ensuring the continued delivery of operational capabilities and outputs within the current resource constraints.

The Defence Forces have a proud track record in implementing significant changes of this nature, whilst minimizing the impact on personnel to the greatest extent possible. I am aware that ultimately, it will be the men and women of the Defence Forces who will deliver this reform.
Discussions with the representative associations are ongoing and I look forward to their engagement on the implementation of the re-organisation.


END


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