Statement by Mr. Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Defence to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on Review of the Reserve Defence Force
16 May 2012
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I welcome this opportunity to brief you on the Value for Money Review (VFM) of the Reserve Defence Force. I understand that you may also wish to discuss any developments in the Permanent Defence Force in terms of reducing the number of Army Brigades.
A Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force was one of two VFMs approved by Government as part of the 2009-2011 round of VFM and Policy Reviews. The other review focusing on the training of General Service Recruits in the Permanent Defence Force was scheduled to take place first. However, given the moratorium on recruitment to the Permanent Defence Force, it was decided, in April 2009, to bring forward the review of the Reserve to commence in 2010.
In July 2009, the McCarthy Report recommended that the strength of the Reserve be reduced by two thirds to deliver savings of €5.6 million. Given the fact that a VFM Review was scheduled, the Minister for Defence, at the time, did not implement the strength reduction to approximately 2,500 personnel necessary to achieve the savings from Reserve Pay and Allowances as recommended. I understand the savings were found elsewhere in the Vote including reducing the levels of paid training to members of the Reserve.
In accordance with the appropriate guidelines, a Steering Committee was established to oversee the Review and an independent Chairperson, drawn from a panel established for this purpose by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, was appointed.
The Steering Committee commenced its work in February 2010, supported by a working group of civil servants and military personnel. This included a small number of personnel with specialised evaluation expertise. In 2010 priorities arose that required the diversion of these limited resources away from the Review of the Reserve. Firstly, the implementation of the then Government’s National Recovery Plan and subsequently, in 2011, undertaking the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure.
As these reviews encompassed the entire Defence Vote they effectively overtook the Review of the Reserve and resources were assigned accordingly. Work on data gathering and analysis for the Review of the Reserve did continue, where feasible, during 2011 but was not sufficient to require a Steering Committee meeting. The Chair was kept informed of developments.
It is worth noting that as part of their Comprehensive Review of Expenditure assessment, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Central Evaluation Unit recommended abolishing the Reserve. The Department of Defence Comprehensive Review assessment recommended no further cuts to the Reserve pending the outcome of the VFM Review. Accordingly, the budget for Reserve training was not reduced in 2012.
Arising from the Government’s decision to reduce the strength ceiling of the Permanent Defence Force to 9,500 personnel, I initiated a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces, encompassing a reduction in the number of Permanent Defence Force Army Brigades from three to two. I tasked the Secretary General and the Chief of Staff to prepare this re-organisation and work is ongoing in that regard.
As the Army Reserve is organised along similar lines to the PDF and supported by PDF personnel, the re-organisation must also have a direct bearing on the Reserve. Indeed, had the report of the Value for Money review been completed before the reorganisation it is likely that the recommendations could have been superseded and rendered outmoded.
The Steering Committee re-commenced their work in 2012 and met in February 2012 where the changing circumstances were discussed and a way forward was decided. Unfortunately, the Chairperson was unable to continue in her capacity due to personal circumstances and a member of the Steering Committee is acting as interim chair pending the appointment of a new independent chair.
The Steering Committee met most recently on 3rd May. I am informed that good progress is being made and that drafting of the Report is well underway. The Steering Committee are aware that their recommendations must have due regard to the broader re-organisation of the Defence Forces. On completion of the report the procedure is for the Chairperson to forward a copy to myself and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. In advance of publication, I will bring forward a memorandum to Government outlining the key findings and actions to be undertaken. VFM Reviews are subsequently laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published on the department’s website.
Ideally, this Review would be completed by now but circumstances have conspired to extend the period of preparation. I have asked the interim chair and members of the Steering Committee and working group to progress the review as quickly as possible and I anticipate its completion by end September.