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Value for Money (VFM) Review of the Reserve Defence Force
Statement by Mr. Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Defence to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality
24th April 2013
I welcome this opportunity to appear before this Committee to discuss the Value for Money (VFM) Review of the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) and to outline the progress to date in implementing the response to its findings and recommendations.
As you are aware, the VFM Review of the RDF formally commenced in February 2010 and was conducted during a period of significant uncertainty and change. The previous Government’s National Recovery Plan (NRP) and the current Government’s Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) were both key priorities over the course of the intervening period. These priorities drew analytical resources away from the VFM Review. In advance of Government decisions relating to the CRE, any recommendations from the VFM review regarding the Reserve could have been superseded by changes in the available resource envelope. In this context, the Review timeframe was unavoidably extended.
The CRE and the associated re-organisation of the PDF within a two Brigade structure, defined for the Steering Committee the level of resourcing available for the Reserve. This included the number of PDF personnel that would be available to support the Reserve on a full time basis. This allowed the Steering Committee to frame appropriate recommendations for the Reserve that were financially viable and sustainable within the prevailing resource envelope, and that dovetailed with the broader re-organisation of the Defence Forces.
The VFM Report was finalised by the Steering Committee and submitted to me in early October 2012. It was subsequently laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published on the Department of Defence website in November 2012. The Report sets out a systematic and detailed analysis of the Reserve Defence Force.
The Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan previously set out an ambitious programme of reform for the Reserve, which included a major re-organisation in 2005. The VFM Review found that the strength and associated training targets set out in that plan were not achieved over the intervening period. This raised concerns about the capacity of the Reserve. Whilst I have no doubt that differing people will hold different views as to why the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan did not achieve its desired objectives, there can be no doubt that it did not.
I am a firm believer in revisiting plans that have not yielded the desired results. Simply maintaining the status quo with the Reserve and continuing on in the hope of improvement at some point in the future was not a realistic option. The Value for Money Review clearly set out the key issues that must be addressed. Whilst there are many detailed findings within the Review, I will outline a brief summary of the key findings and recommendations:
The cost of maintaining the Reserve, including the costs of PDF support Staff, ranged from €34 million in 2006 to €23.4 million in 2011, having peaked at just under €36 million in 2008. The majority of these costs (on average 82%) were comprised of PDF support staff costs and the cost of paid training and gratuities for members of the Reserve.
The effective strength of the Army Reserve (AR) and Naval Service Reserve (NSR) at end 2011 was less than half of the organisational design strength of 9,692 personnel. The number of full time PDF staff in place supporting these RDF structures was inefficient having regard to the actual strength level of the Reserve. The option of recruiting to the establishment level was not realistic given the level of resourcing available for paid training and having regard to previous recruitment trends. In this context, the Steering Committee concluded that the existing organisational structure was inefficient and unsustainable. In addition, the re-organisation of the PDF within a strength ceiling of 9,500 personnel required the number of full-time Army PDF support staff for the Army Reserve to be capped at 48 personnel (24 for each of the two new Brigades). There are a further 9 PDF support staff for the Naval Service Reserve, giving a total of 57 full-time PDF support personnel.
An examination of the number of Reservists that undertook both paid and unpaid training highlighted that over the period of the review only approximately 60% of Reservists undertook any paid training. Research also identified that those Reservists not undertaking paid training, did not compensate for this with additional unpaid training. In 2011, the number of Reservists that met prescribed levels of paid and unpaid training for payment of a gratuity numbered 2,010 (excluding recruits) of a reported effective strength of 4,554 personnel. There is a critical link between the uptake of training and the capacity of the Reserve. In this context, the Steering Committee had concerns about the capacity of the organisation to fulfil its role.
The Steering Committee noted that the PDF could fulfil all ongoing operational requirements and that there were no operational gaps that required the ongoing deployment of the Reserve, at home or overseas. In this context, they concluded there was no requirement to amend the roles of the Reserve beyond the contingent role currently provided for. However, it was recommended that there was scope to achieve greater utility from the Reserve through their usage in a voluntary unpaid capacity for unarmed Aid to the Civil Authority and other specified tasks.
The Steering Committee considered a range of options for the Reserve, including “do-nothing” or “abolish” options. They concluded that it remained prudent that the State should have additional military resources available to provide additional support to the PDF, if required. This additional capacity could assist in dealing with a broad range of contingencies. However, in light of concerns regarding the capacity of the Reserve, there were caveats. The Steering Committee only recommended the retention of the Reserve on the conditional basis that it be reformed and re-organised. They also recommended that greater utility should be derived from the Reserve, in a voluntary unpaid capacity.
I accepted the findings and recommendations of the Steering Committee outlined in the Report. This included a recommended strength for the Reserve of approximately 4,000 personnel, based both in PDF installations and in 16 other locations throughout the country. This strength level was only sustainable, within existing resources, if gratuities were withdrawn from members of the Reserve and this budget re-directed to boost the availability of paid training.
Detailed re-organisation proposals, including the location of the Reserve Units in the sixteen locations outside of PDF installations, were brought forward by the Chief of Staff and Secretary General of my Department. I accepted these proposals and the details of the re-organisation were published at the same time as the VFM Review. The re-organisation would consolidate a large number of under-strength Army Reserve Units that were previously organised into a three Brigade structure, into a smaller number of full-strength Units, within the new two Brigade structure. The new organisational structures set a revised strength ceiling for the Reserve of 4,069 personnel (3,869 for the Army Reserve and 200 for the Naval Service Reserve).
Progress to Date
Implementation of the re-organisation commenced immediately under the auspices of a High Level Implementation Group, which is chaired by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support). There has been ongoing consultation with the Representative Associations as part of this implementation process. The revised organisational structures for the Reserve came into effect at the end of March 2013.
This re-organisation was based on a different model than had been in place. A “single force” structure concept means that Army Units have Permanent and Reserve components rather than the previous separate parallel PDF and Reserve structures. This will lead to a much closer relationship and improved interoperability. The Naval Service Reserve strength ceilings have been revised to reflect effective strength levels and Units have been retained in Dublin, Limerick Waterford and in Cork. The Cork Unit was moved from Collins Barracks to Haulbowline.
Gratuities have been withdrawn from members of the Reserve and the budget for 2013 has seen this resource re-directed to increase the number of paid mandays. This will support the re-organisation process and facilitate any required conversion training for members of the Reserve.
The military authorities are currently developing further proposals for my consideration as recommended in the VFM Review. These include proposals to amend the regulatory criteria governing the classification of Reservists as effective. Broader regulatory proposals to further underpin the new organisation and support relationships are also being developed. The military authorities have been actively engaged in developing appropriate support systems that meet the requirements of all stakeholders. As the interaction between PDF and Reserve components of Units progresses over the coming months, these working relationships will evolve. Activities such as joint training will consolidate the new organisational structures and improve interoperability.
The VFM Review highlighted the requirement for reforms to the Reserve. These are necessary in order to ensure its continued viability. I am confident that the changes being introduced will create the opportunity for improved PDF and RDF interaction and support, and an overall enhanced defence capability. The success of this process will be dependent on the efforts of all personnel within the Defence Forces, both Permanent and Reserve and the Defence Forces have an excellent track record of implementing change. In reality it will take a number of years to determine whether these reforms are having the desired effect. Progress will be monitored on an ongoing basis and I have directed that there will be a formal review of progress after a period of three years.
I would like to thank the Steering Committee and working group for their work on the VFM. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the members of the Reserve for their loyalty and dedication. Finally, I would like to thank the Committee for their continued interest in the Reserve Defence Force and I look forward to hearing your views.
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