Wednesday, 26 June, 2013.

Chairman, Members,
I am pleased to appear before the Select Committee today and I welcome the opportunity for positive engagement on all aspects of the Defence and Army Pensions Estimates for 2013. I have a short opening statement, after which I will be happy to take questions from the members, if that is in order.

The combined Estimates for Defence and Army Pensions for 2013 will provide for gross expenditure of some €896 million. This compares with actual expenditure in 2012 of €901 million.

Over 74% of the Defence Vote goes towards providing for the pay and allowances of some 9,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel, 655 civilians employees and 350 civil servants. It also provides for payments to members of the Reserve while on paid training.
The non-pay element of the allocation is mainly for the replacement and maintenance of essential equipment and operational costs.

As you will be aware, I have secured the agreement of Government to accept my recommendation to stabilise the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) at 9,500 personnel. Within this strength ceiling, a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces was initiated which encompassed a reduction in the number of Army brigades from three to two.
This has prioritised operational capability and re-deployed PDF personnel from administrative and support tasks to operational Units. In addition, equipment procurement continues to be prioritised by Defence Forces operational requirements. This has all been achieved within the reduced resource envelope available to Defence.

I am pleased to say that Ireland is still playing its part on overseas missions and currently has 445 personnel serving on 12 overseas missions.
This reflects the Government’s continued commitment to our responsibilities in the area of international peace and security. The main overseas mission in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed is the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 361 personnel.

The Defence Forces also continue to provide a military operational response to both the civil power and civil authorities, as required at home.
This work is of vital importance; for example, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal or EOD Teams responded to 209 callouts in 2012 and by the end of May, 2013, had responded to 110 callouts.

I recently had the opportunity to appear before the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to discuss the significant progress that has been made in the implementation of the Value for Money review of the Reserve, since its publication in November 2012.
A major re-organisation of the Reserve began in late 2012 and new organisational structures were brought into effect at the end of March 2013.

The changes being implemented create the opportunity for improved interaction and support between the PDF and the RDF as well as enhancing overall capability.

The re-organisation is now in the second phase of implementation which is due to be completed in September of this year, and I look forward to seeing the process completed in its entirety.

From a strategic perspective, I intend to publish a new White Paper on Defence in Spring, 2014. The preparation of the new White Paper will benefit greatly from an informed and wide-ranging debate on Ireland’s defence policy.

In support of this process, I have initiated the preparation of a Green Paper on Defence which will assesses the defence and security environment, while also posing policy questions designed to guide the public consultation process.

The Green Paper will be published shortly and I look forward to engaging and thoughtful deliberation on Irelands future defence policy.

Finally, I would also like to refer to the Army Pensions Vote, and specifically to the increasing numbers and cost. Currently, there are just short of 12,000 pensioners of all categories paid by my Department under the Army Pensions Vote. Net expenditure on military pensions has increased by over 30% from 2007 to 2012.

These increases arose mainly due to the rising numbers of military pensioners. While we are some way from the end of 2013 and the final number of retirements is not yet known, it is my intention that any shortfall arising on the Pensions Vote provision will be met from payroll and other savings on the Defence Vote.

I now commend both Estimates for Vote 35 and Vote 36 to the Committee and look forward to dealing with any questions that arise.
Thank you.