|MINISTER'S ADDRESS TO THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, EQUALITY, DEFENCE AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS: 3 April 2007|
Chairman, Deputies I am pleased to appear before the Committee today to put forward for your consideration the Defence and Army Pensions Estimates for 2007 and the first Annual Output Statement for my Department. The combined Estimates provide for gross expenditure of more than €1,000m.
An important new development in the Estimates process this year is the inclusion of the Annual Output Statement. The development of Output Statements is a key element of the Budget and Estimates Reform measures announced by my colleague the Minister for Finance in Budget 2006. The Output Statements are designed to match key outputs and strategic impacts to financial and staffing resources for the financial year.
The production of an Output Statement aligning Defence Strategic Goals and Objectives with expenditure programmes, and listing high-level outputs to be achieved for the year, has presented a particular challenge to the Defence Organisation. This challenge arises because many Defence outputs consist of preparing to meet possible emergencies rather than on providing services to individual customers. The Defence Forces are engaged in developing and maintaining capabilities both for contingencies and for ongoing deployments. The White Paper states that: “Defence provision is to a significant extent about preparing for and dealing with contingency: it has been likened to insurance. The defence organisation must seek to provide capabilities appropriate to the anticipated risks – the risks to the security of the State in its broadest sense……To a significant extent, defence is about preparing and maintaining a capability to respond to contingencies and threats. When not actually engaged in operations, any defence organisation concentrates on training and preparation, and not on the provision of identifiable services to individual citizens … However, it is important to stress that the Defence Forces continue to provide services to the general public, for example, aid to the civil power, search and rescue, emergencies, fishery protection and air ambulance”.
In drawing up the first ever Output Statement, we have grouped outputs under five distinct programmes so as to provide better information regarding Defence spending. The five programmes are:
On Island Security and support to other Agencies;
International Peace and Security;
Defence Policy, Military Advice and Corporate Services; and
Military Pensions and Gratuities
The estimated programme expenditure represents the costs for the anticipated levels of activity for the current year and the associated outputs under each of the programme headings.
It must be borne in mind, however, that much of the expenditure in programmes 1 to 3 will be incurred regardless of changing levels of activity. The cost of “being ready” must be incurred whether or not the requirement is actually called out. For example, the costs of employing, training and equipping a bomb disposal team must be met in full, even if there are no call outs.
Further details of the 5 programmes are contained in the Output Statement circulated to members.
Turning now to details of the Estimates, the Defence Estimate includes provision for the pay and allowances of 10,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel, 880 civilians employed with the Defence Forces throughout the country and some 400 civil service staff. It also provides for the pay of 7,500 members of the Reserve while on full-time training. The Army Pensions Estimate provides for the payment of almost 9,800 service related pensions and over 1,100 disability related benefits to former members of the Defence Forces and their spouses and children.
The allocation for 2007 in the Defence Estimate will allow us to continue the programmes of investment in equipment and infrastructure which have taken place in recent years. These modernisation programmes have brought about enormous improvements for all areas of the Defence Forces.
Equipment delivered in 2006 included:-
· 8,000 units of body armour for the individual soldier on operational duties. The new body armour provides significantly greater protection, comfort and coverage than the old model. The total cost was €8m.
· 12,000 helmets at a cost of €2.5m.
· 400 General Purpose Machine guns which were acquired from FN Herstal in Belgium at a cost of €4.4m.
· 1,400 pistols purchased from Heckler and Koch to replace the FN 9mm Browning Automatic at a cost of €800,000.
· 6 Field Deployable Command Post Containers acquired at a cost of €4.4m. Two of the containers are deployed in Lebanon.
· 800 Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) suits, bringing the total stock to about 9,500.
In the period from 2001 to 2004 the Defence Forces acquired a total of sixty-five Mowag APCs at a cost of €84m. Thirty four (34) APCs are currently on operational duties with our troops in Kosovo, Liberia and Lebanon. The vehicles have worked extremely well in these environments.
In December 2005, a further contract was signed with Mowag for the supply of fifteen additional Piranha Armoured Vehicles for delivery this year. The contract value is €36.5m. Nine of the vehicles will be fitted with a Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station with a 12.7mm machine gun, and six will be fitted with an Oto Melara turret armed with a 30mm cannon. The fifteen vehicles, the first 4 of which were delivered in March, will be used mainly in Surveillance and Reconnaissance roles on overseas missions.
A tender competition for Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles was cancelled in 2005 on foot of a recommendation by the military Project Evaluation Team that the procurement project be deferred until the market for such vehicles was more mature. The military authorities indicated at that time that a suitably configured Armoured Personnel Carrier platform would meet their needs in the interim, and it was in that context that the contract for the supply of fifteen additional Piranha Armoured Vehicles was placed in December 2005. The military authorities have now advised that the market for Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles has developed considerably since 2005. Accordingly, it is proposed to run a fresh tender competition for the purchase of this class of vehicle in the latter part of this year.
A tender competition for the acquisition of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for use in reconnaissance is in progress. The competition was carried out in two stages - a Request for Proposals stage followed by a restricted tender competition involving those companies which came through the first stage. The evaluation process is ongoing and it is expected that a contract will be placed later this year. The equipment, which will cost about €750,000, will be of significant benefit to the Defence Forces in the performance of duties overseas.
There has been major investment in new aircraft for the Air Corps. Eight Pilatus turbo propeller aircraft were delivered in 2004, at a total cost of €60m, to replace the Marchetti aircraft in the pilot training role. Two light utility EC 135 helicopters, which were delivered in late 2005, at a cost of about €13m, are used for pilot training, instructor training and instrument flight training. Six utility AW 139 helicopters are being acquired from Agusta S.p.A. at a cost of €75m. The helicopters are being built at the Agusta facility near Milan, Italy. Two were delivered in November 2006, two will be delivered later this year and the final two will be delivered in 2008. Payments for the helicopters are spread over a number of years from 2004 to 2008.
The six utility helicopters will be operated by the Air Corps in a general purpose military operational and training role. Primary taskings for the helicopters will include training and operations with Special Forces, aid to the civil power, military exercises, infantry interoperability training and limited troop transport. They will also be used to perform air ambulance, inland Search and Rescue and aid to the civil community tasks. The first two helicopters are expected to enter operational service in the coming weeks.
A contract has been signed with EADS, Spain, for a major mid-life upgrade for the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft. The contract value is in the region of €16m. The upgrade on the first aircraft will be carried out in the latter part of 2007 and the second in 2008.
I should also mention that a number of old aircraft were sold by public tender in 2006. Six Marchettis were sold for €600,000 while four Dauphin helicopters and one Gazelle were sold for €517,000.
The replacement programme for Naval Service vessels is under active consideration. As a general guide, the objective would be to replace vessels after approximately 30 years service. On that basis, three (3) ships will fall due for replacement over the next few years – L.E. Emer commissioned in 1978, L.E. Aoife commissioned in 1979 and L.E. Aisling commissioned in 1980. A Departmental study group, comprising civilian and Naval Service personnel, was set up in 2006 to examine and report on a vessel replacement programme having regard to the imminent replacement requirements. The group has now submitted its report and I will be bringing proposals in the matter to Government in the coming weeks. All going well, the tender process will commence within the next few months with the expectation of placing a contract for the first of three ships in early 2008.
Over the past 10 years there has been substantial investment in providing first class accommodation and facilities for the Defence Forces. From 1997 up to the end of 2006, capital expenditure on the upgrade of barracks accommodation and facilities amounted to more than €240m. During the same period expenditure on non-capital maintenance works came to over €90m. The results of that expenditure can now be seen at barracks throughout the country. Major projects have recently been completed at Custume Barracks, Athlone, Collins Barracks, Cork, Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick and Dún Ui Mhaoliosa, Galway.
The provision for capital building works in this year’s Estimate is €25.6m plus a carry over of €2.6m from 2006. Major projects are at present underway or due to start this year at Cathal Brugha and McKee Barracks, Dublin, Dun Uí Mhaolíosa, Galway, Aiken Barracks, Dundalk, Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh, Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel and Naval Service Headquarters, Haulbowline.
Turning to our overseas commitments, there are at present 812 Defence Forces personnel serving in 17 different missions throughout the world. The main commitments are to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), with 325 personnel, to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), with 165 personnel, to the NATO-led International Security presence in Kosovo (KFOR), with 215 personnel and to EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 45 personnel.
The Defence Forces have served with UNMIL in Liberia since December 2003 and will complete their service with this mission in May. They provide the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to the Force Commander. A Swedish contingent, which partnered Ireland in the QRF, withdrew in December 2006 and was replaced by a Company from Pakistan, which will assume the role of QRF on Ireland’s withdrawal.
In addition to conducting normal patrolling and security operations in Liberia, the Irish contingent, at the request of the UN, also conducts limited operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in support of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
In October 2006, a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 158 personnel, was deployed for service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) under its expanded mandate. A further seven personnel are deployed in UNIFIL staff posts. The main Irish contribution forms part of a joint Finnish/Irish Engineering Battalion, which conducts construction and maintenance tasks in support of UNIFIL. The primary role of the Irish contingent is to provide protection and security for personnel of the Finnish Engineer Company who undertake the clearance of designated sites prior to the commencement of engineering works. In addition, it can be tasked to conduct independent security operations, such as guaranteeing freedom of movement, escorts and patrols, at the request of the UNIFIL Force Commander. We are committed to UNIFIL for a period of 12 months to the end of 2007. A review of the mission will then be conducted in association with our Finnish partners.
The Defence Forces continue to contribute to the UN authorised and NATO-led peace support operation in Kosovo (KFOR). Some 215 personnel, comprising an Infantry Company Group, serve as part of a Multinational Task Force. In August 2007, Ireland will take on the role of Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force Centre in KFOR for a period of 12 months. Approximately 54 additional personnel will be deployed to KFOR during the Framework Nation period. This will be the first time Ireland has participated at this level in a NATO/PfP-led peace support operation. A Brigadier General from the Defence Forces will assume command of 1,200 troops from 6 nations. The estimated additional cost of our participation as Framework Nation will amount to about €6m over the period August 2007 to July 2008.
Forty five (45) members of the Defence Forces are serving in EUFOR, the EU-led, UN-mandated, mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU recently decided to downsize this mission over the coming months. When the downsizing is complete, the Defence Forces contribution will be reduced to approximately 24 personnel.
I would now like to turn to EU security and defence developments. The ability of the Union to contribute to peacekeeping and crisis management continues to be of primary importance to Member States and is carried out within the context of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Ireland’s participation in the development of ESDP is fully consistent with our policy of neutrality and our commitment to international peace and security. It also enhances our position on the international stage as it is aimed primarily at conflict prevention, peacekeeping, humanitarian missions and crisis management.
The main priority in the area of ESDP is the continued improvement of the EU’s capability to undertake the agreed range of tasks to meet the objectives of the 2010 Headline Goal (HG2010). The most high profile aspect of HG2010 was undoubtedly the decision of the EU to acquire the capacity to deploy force packages at high readiness - commonly known as Battlegroups - in response to a crisis. At the Battlegroup Co-ordination Conference on 27 October 2006, Member States committed packages to Battlegroups until the end of 2009. From the 1st January 2007, the EU achieved Full Operational Capacity to undertake two battlegroup-sized rapid response operations concurrently.
In November 2006 the Government formally approved the arrangements for Ireland’s participation in the Nordic Battlegroup. It was agreed to provide a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to participate in the Battlegroup and for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to sign the Memorandum of Understanding for the Nordic Battlegroup, subject to the approval of Dáil Éireann. The MoU, which was approved by this Committee last week, defines the terms of our participation within the Battlegroup. This means that any operation, other than one which is clearly humanitarian, is subject to the triple lock. Discussions on our participation in the Nordic Battlegroup are continuing with Sweden, which is the Framework Nation. Our potential participation in future Battlegroups with other EU partners remains under active consideration.
Ireland continues to contribute efficiently and effectively to operations, both military and civil, in the ESDP arena. We also aim to encourage and foster the ongoing development of EU-UN co-operation in the area of humanitarian action, crisis management, peacekeeping and conflict prevention. In 2006, the EU conducted 10 operations across three continents, two of which are purely military crisis management operations. We will continue to place particular emphasis on EU action in support of UN operations.
A review of progress on the implementation of the White Paper of 2000 has been completed by a civil/military working group and will be published later this week. Particularly noteworthy findings from the review are the improvements in equipment, infrastructure, training and Human Resources management. The emphasis on the development of military capabilities and on improving interoperability has delivered results and continues to improve the Defence Forces contribution to peace and security at home and internationally. The review recognises the significant developments in the national and international defence and security environments that have occurred since 2000. I am pleased to say that the new defence organisation has proven sufficiently flexible to meet the challenges presented by these developments.
Further work will be carried out on the resolution of issues impacting on army structures and organisation and progress needs to be made with the civilianisation of some military jobs in order to maximise the number of soldiers available for operational activities. All of these matters will be progressed within the period envisaged in the White Paper.
Progress continues to be made on the re-organisation of the Reserve Defence Forces. The coming year will see a particular focus on the development of the integrated element of the Reserve. This will comprise approximately 2,650 personnel who will integrate with Permanent Defence Force units in contingency situations. These personnel will receive enhanced training and extra equipment. The integrated Reserve is being established on a pilot basis in all Brigades across the majority of PDF units. The Reserve Defence Forces Implementation Plan provides for all elements of the integrated Reserve to be established by end 2009.
The revised organisational structures, the development of the integrated element of the Reserve and the improvements in training and equipment are significantly enhancing the capabilities of the Reserve. These factors are key enablers in facilitating future participation by Reserve personnel in overseas missions. In other countries, service by Reservists on overseas missions is quite common. As envisaged in the plan, participation by members of the Reserve is likely to be in specialised areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications and information services. While there are no immediate plans for participation by members of the Reserve in overseas missions, policies to support the selection of suitably qualified personnel for overseas duties will be developed. These policies will include consideration of the impact of overseas duties on the civilian employment of Reserve personnel. The question of legislation will also be considered in this context.
As Minister for Defence, I chair the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning,which was established in October 2001. The Task Force continues to meet on a regular basis and there have been over 50 meetings held to date. Membership of the Task Force includes Ministers, senior officials of Government Departments, and senior officers of the Defence Forces and an Garda Síochána. Last year saw an increase in the membership of the Task Force and I am pleased to say that all Government Departments are now participating in its work.
The main issues which the Task Force has dealt with recently include the outbreaks internationally of avian flu and any potential threat of a human influenza pandemic, the finalisation of ‘A Framework for Major Emergency Management’, the preparation of a Public Information and Awareness Campaign on Emergency Planning and the development of the National Emergency Coordination Centre.
I can assure the Committee that there has been significant progress in these areas. The building work for the National Emergency Coordination Centre is complete. The technical and communications needs of the Centre are also nearing completion and I expect that the Centre will be ready to open very shortly. The necessary preparatory work for the launch of a Public Information and Awareness Campaign on Emergency Planning is very well advanced and it is my intention that this campaign will be rolled out nationally over the coming weeks and months.
The Task Force continues to be briefed on an ongoing basis by both the Department of Agriculture and Food, in relation to avian flu, and the Department of Health and Children in relation to a possible human influenza pandemic. In January 2007, the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive launched the National Pandemic Influenza Plan. This plan provides information on pandemic influenza and explains what the Government and the Health Services are doing to prepare for a possible pandemic.
In May 2006, the Government approved the implementation of a new Framework for Major Emergency Management, which will be a major undertaking for the principal response agencies involved [An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and the Local Authorities]. An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces provide each meeting of the Task Force with an assessment of the current risk to Ireland from international terrorism. Any potential threats to the State are continuously monitored and those involved in this work continue to be vigilant.
As part of my role as Chair of the Task Force, I present a Confidential Annual Report to Government on emergency planning issues. This report provides a summary of the main issues that have arisen during the year and provides an analysis of each Department’s progress across a range of emergency planning spheres. The Office of Emergency Planning, which is a joint civil military office within my Department, continues to be proactive in working with all those involved in emergency planning and I am pleased to report to the Committee that there continues to be excellent cooperation between the Office of Emergency Planning and all Government Departments and public authorities in co-ordinating and improving their emergency planning and response.
The Committee has received details of individual subheads for both the Defence and Army Pensions Estimates which are presented today for your approval. I will be glad to supply further information or clarify any matters that members may request.
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