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Topical Issues Debate Dáil Éireann
27th November 2012
Reply by the Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe,TD.
On behalf of Minister Alan Shatter TD.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: That the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence address the real concerns, particularly across rural parishes at the announcement last evening of dramatic changes to the present structure of the Reserve Defence Forces

Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe,TD.:
I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the re-organisation of the Reserve Defence Force. This is a key element of the response to the findings and recommendations of a Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force, which was recently completed and published.

This Value for Money Review was undertaken by a Steering Committee with an independent Chair. The Steering Committee was comprised of representatives from the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Steering Committee concluded that the current Reserve organisation was not fit for purpose and required radical reform.

The Review found that the current effective strength of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve at 4,500 personnel is less than half that of the 9,692 personnel for which the organisational structures were designed. The Permanent Defence Force (PDF) support framework, was designed for a Reserve of 9,692 and the retention of existing numbers of full time PDF personnel assigned to Reserve duties was both inefficient and no longer sustainable within a PDF strength ceiling of 9,500 personnel.

In addition, there were significant issues with regard to the uptake of training in the Reserve over the period of the review. In 2011 less than half of the effective strength of 4,554 participated in 7 days paid and unpaid training. The details for other years are outlined in the Review.

The central recommendation from the VFM Steering Committee is for the retention of the Reserve with 4,000 personnel spread countrywide to be based in barracks and in 16 other locations. This requires the consolidation of existing Reserve Units throughout the country into a smaller number of full-strength Units. The retention of all locations was not a viable or sustainable option.

I accepted the Steering Committee’s recommendations and directed that proposals for new organisational structures be prepared, taking account of the VFM report and the major re-organisation of the PDF. The Chief of Staff and Secretary General submitted an agreed report which set out detailed re-organisation proposals, including Unit structures and the location of Reserve Units. I accepted these proposals.

A new “Single Force” concept will see PDF Units having Reserve components, rather than a parallel Reserve as at present. Reserve Units within barracks will be supported by their parent PDF Unit and the 16 Units outside of PDF installations will be supported by dedicated full time PDF personnel. This concept offers significant potential advantages in terms of training and development of the Reserve. The initiative of locating Reserve Officers within the Defence Forces management structure will likewise underpin the future Reserve.

These steps create a viable structure while addressing the inefficiency caused by having too many widely dispersed and under-strength Units. Direct expenditure on the Reserve will reduce from €22 million in 2012 to €11 million in 2013. The cut in the number of PDF support staff accounts for the bulk of the reduction, whilst the money available for training activity by the Reserve is being maintained. In order to ensure sufficient paid training for a strength level of 4,000 personnel, gratuities will be withdrawn and the budget redirected to increase the overall number of paid training mandays. Modest savings will accrue over time from a reduction in Reserve property but is not the key driver of these reforms.

You will appreciate that this smaller number of full sized Units, outside of PDF installations, must cover the entire country. Amongst other considerations, the selection of locations for these Units sought to ensure continued opportunities for people throughout the country to serve in the Reserve.

These changes to the current Reserve organisation are in response to a compelling case for reform and will dovetail with the significant changes that are occurring in the PDF organizational structures. They are intended to ensure a better Reserve and enhance overarching Defence capabilities.

Finally, I would like to re-iterate that the service of all members of the Reserve is much appreciated by Government and I hope that all personnel will continue to serve within the new organisation.

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