Thursday, 20 September 2012
Defence Forces Reorganisation
To ask the Minister for Defence if he will postpone his plans for the restructuring of the Defence Forces until the White Paper on Defence is published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39493/12]
To ask the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent proposals for the reorganisation of the Defence Forces including the Southern, Eastern and Western Brigades; his plans to implement a personnel ceiling of 9,500 members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39490/12]
That is agreed.
Information not given on the floor of the House.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 22 together.
Arising from the comprehensive review of expenditure which reported at end 2011, the Defence Forces must operate within a significantly reduced resource envelope. The Minister for Defence secured the agreement of the Government to stabilise the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. However, at this strength ceiling, the organisational structures that had been in place for a strength ceiling of 11,500 personnel were no longer viable. Accordingly, the Minister initiated a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces.
A Green Paper on Defence is being prepared and is scheduled for completion at the end of this year. When published, the Green Paper will initiate and inform a broad consultative process as part of the development of a new White Paper on defence. The new White Paper on defence is scheduled for completion at the end of 2013 and will address defence policy and inform long-term capability requirements for implementation over and beyond the next decade. In the context of the immediate financial realities and in order to maintain the operational capabilities of the Permanent Defence Force to the greatest extent possible, it was neither prudent nor practical to delay the re-organisation of the Defence Forces until completion of the Green and White Paper process.
The Secretary General of the Department of Defence and the Chief of Staff brought forward re-organisation proposals and the Minister announced the details of the re-organisation in July of this year. This encompasses a reduction in the number of Army brigades from three to two larger brigades, a reduction in the number of headquarters, re-deployment of personnel to operational units, the consolidation of under-strength units and the disestablishment of certain units. The re-organisation proposals were framed in the context of the most recent defence and security environment assessment, which was published earlier this year, in the Department of Defence and Defence Forces Strategy Statement 2011-2014.
The implementation of the re-organisation has commenced. All personnel in the Permanent Defence Force have now been briefed on the re-organisation proposals. They will receive further briefings and advice on the many options available to them as implementation of the re-organisation progresses. The Minister is committed to maintaining the capacity of the Permanent Defence Force to meet their operational requirements and the current reorganisation is part of that process. The reorganisation is being implemented in a manner which best addresses organisational needs and capability requirements.
I thank the Minister of State. The argument is being made that because of the reduction in the security threats along the Border we should consider reconfiguration of the Defence Forces. In his earlier contribution the Minister of State made the point that we do not have the cash to maintain the existing structure. The Border has not gone away. In 2011, some 57 alleged victims of human trafficking, including 13 children, were reported to the Garda. I have no doubt some of them were transferred across the Border or potentially could have been. We have had recent reports that the Real IRA has developed an alliance with three other dissident factions with a combined active membership of between 250 and 300. These are two significant threats along our Border and the Athlone brigade headquarters at Custume barracks has traditionally been a vital cog in policing the Border. This is why the PricewaterhouseCoopers report at the time recommended a structure remain in place that would facilitate the retention of the status of Custume barracks. In light of these new threats, will the Minister review his decision to downgrade Custume barracks?
The Deputy stated the security threat on the Border has not gone away and we have seen this in recent weeks, specifically during the week before last in Dublin. The PricewaterhouseCoopers review of the Defence Forces was completed in 1994. It set out a range of options the organisation of the Permanent Defence Force at varying strength levels. This did not include an option for a strength of 9,500 personnel. The Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence were tasked to bring forward detailed proposals for the Minister's consideration. The Minister has relied on this work to inform decisions regarding the re-organisation and not the 1994 PricewaterhouseCoopers review.
The Department and the Defence Forces are very much aware of Border threats and will continue to monitor and review what is happening on it.