64. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the recruitment targets for the 2018 intake in view of the opening of RDF recruitment to take place in April 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 10196/18 asked on 21 Mar 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The White Paper on Defence (2015) provides for a Permanent Defence Force (PDF) strength of 9,500 personnel and the Government is committed to ensuring that the PDF reaches this strength level. In this context, the Government has ensured that there is sufficient funding in place to provide for a full strength of 9,500 PDF personnel.

The PDF has a higher turnover level than other elements of the Public Service and this is not a new trend. In 2017 there was recruitment at both enlisted and officer level which resulted in 751 personnel being recruited to the PDF during the year. This included general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force is currently 9,138 whole-time equivalents and recruitment will continue in 2018. It is anticipated that in the region of 800 personnel will be inducted to the PDF in 2018 and plans are currently being finalised for the various competitions, including General Service Recruits and Cadets.

The White Paper on Defence also provides for a combined establishment of 4,169 personnel for the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve. The current combined strength of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve is 1,777 personnel. A total of 139 new recruits were inducted into the RDF in 2017 and there is on-going engagement with applicants from the 2017 recruitment campaign that should yield further inductions. In addition a new recruitment campaign will be launched in 2018.

As I have previously outlined, there are shortages of certain specialists in the PDF. These include pilots, engineers and certain technicians. Under my direction, the Department brought the issue of recruitment and retention of specialists to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission. This issue is being further explored in the second tranche of the Public Service Pay Commission’s work, which is currently underway. The Department of Defence in collaboration with the Defence Forces is preparing detailed information for the Commission on recruitment and retention trends and I anticipate that this will be submitted in the coming weeks. I have also directed civil and military management to examine alternative approaches to recruiting specialists. This includes options for the re-entry of former PDF personnel with certain specialist skills and consideration of the scope to expand direct entry to a broader range of specialities than currently targeted.

I remain committed to ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capacity to operate effectively across all roles assigned by Government. I will continue to work closely with the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General to ensure that the Defence Forces are fully supported to enable them to achieve capability targets for personnel.