No announcement yet.

Government announces move to transform the Defence Forces

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Government announces move to transform the Defence Forces

    Government announces move to transform the Defence Forces and the largest increase in the Defence budget in the history of the State

    From Department of the Taoiseach

    Published on 13 July 2022

    Last updated on 12 July 2022

    Following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has announced that the government has approved a move to ‘Level of Ambition 2’ (LOA2), as set out in the capability framework devised by the Commission on the Defence Forces.

    This will result in the Defence budget rising from €1.1 billion to €1.5 billion, in 2022 prices, by 2028, the largest increase in Defence funding in the history of the State. This will allow for the required substantial transformation and investment in recruitment and equipment that were identified by the Commission.

    The move to LOA2 will require an additional 2,000 personnel (civil and military) over and above the current establishment of 9,500. Work has already commenced on this with the recently announced recruitment campaign, ‘BE MORE’.

    Some specific initiatives include the immediate commencement of planning for military radar capabilities, including primary radar and the establishment of an Office of Reserve Affairs with the priority objective of developing a regeneration plan for the Reserve Defence Force.

    Following on from the Cabinet decision, Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated:
    "The Action Plan we are launching today makes a clear commitment about our ambition for defence – just as our Defence Forces strengthen the nation, we must ensure that we strengthen our Defence Forces.
    "This single biggest investment in the history of the State shows the government’s strong commitment to urgently support the Defence Forces transition into a modern military force that is agile, with the appropriate capability, culture and values that reflect modern workplace and today’s Irish society."

    A High Level Action Plan (HLAP) that sets out the government’s response to the recent report of the Commission on the Defence Forces was also approved. The HLAP has now been published on the Defence Forces’ and Department of Defence websites[1],

    In pointing to the fact that the Commission had identified an urgent need for HR and cultural transformation within the Defence Forces, Minister Eamon Ryan explained:
    "In order to provide momentum to the HR and cultural change process, Minister Coveney has requested military management to progress, as a matter of priority, an open recruitment process to fill a number of new positions including 2 civilian posts of Head of Transformation and Head of Strategic HR to drive the transformation and cultural change that is urgently required within the Defence Forces."

    Noting that the Commission made a number of recommendations concerning existing pay structures, Minister Coveney welcomed the fact that the government has agreed to immediately progress the following recommendations:
    • removal of the requirement for a Private 3 Star/Able Seaman to ‘mark time’ for the first 3 years at that rank
    • payment of the full rate of Military Service Allowance (MSA) applicable to the rank of all Private 3 Star/Able Seaman personnel; and
    • provision of immediate access to the Sea-going Service Commitment Scheme to direct entry personnel in the Naval Service

    Minister Coveney concluded:
    "In line with all elements that fall within the scope of Representation, implementation of such recommendations will be the subject of consultation with Defence Forces’ Representative Associations."

    Separately, Minister Coveney added:
    "The implementation and oversight structures that are set out in the HLAP are significant, and a detailed implementation plan is to be produced before the end of this year."

    The government also noted the significant work ongoing in a number of areas referred to in the Commission report, including:
    • the establishment of an Independent Review Group (IRG) on dignity and equality issues in the Defence Forces and the introduction of a number of immediate measures to provide supports pending the outcome of the IRG
    • opportunities to develop our defence capabilities and joint procurement offered by participation in PESCO and the European Defence Agency. It is less than a week since the Dáil approved Minister Coveney’s proposal for the Defence Forces to join 4 new PESCO projects
    • consideration of associate membership of ICTU for the Defence Forces’ Representative Associations, and the recent offer and acceptance of conditional temporary consent to both
    • liaison with the Ombudsman for Defence Forces on the possible enhancement of the remit of his office

    For now, everything hangs on implementation of the CoDF report.

  • #2


    The establishment of an independent Commission on the Defence Forces was an important commitment made in the Programme for Government. On 15 December 2020, the government established the Commission and agreed its Terms of Reference and membership. The Commission’s report was published on 9 February this year[2].


    The government has approved publication of the HLAP which provides that:
    • 48 recommendations are accepted for implementation
    • 55 are accepted in principle with further consideration required on the optimal approach to meeting the intent of the Commission
    • 17 are desirable and will require further evaluation with key stakeholders, of the resource, policy, financial and legislative implications before a decision on implementation can be considered; and
    • 10 will need to revert to Government at a later stage (see section 3 below)

    As set out in the HLAP, the implementation structures will comprise:
    • a High-Level Steering Board, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach
    • an Implementation Oversight Group (IOG), independently chaired, which will oversee and drive progress on implementation; and
    • an Implementation Management Office (IMO) which will drive day to day implementation with the support of a professional and highly‐skilled transformation team, drawn from both internal and external sources

    The IMO’s initial focus will be on developing the Implementation Plan. This will be a living document and it is intended that the Implementation Plan will be published by end 2022.

    Recommendations that will be reverted to Government

    The HLAP provides that 10 recommendations will be reverted to Government. 4 of these relate to proposed changes to the Defence Forces’ structures and, in particular, the reform of high level Command and Control of the Defence Forces through the creation of a Chief of Defence (CHOD), supported by a Vice CHOD, with the appropriate military Command and Control authority of the Defence Forces.

    Legal advice has been sought from the Attorney General. Clarification of the Minister’s role and the future role of the Department of Defence may be required following receipt of that advice. The future decision by Government on high level Command and Control of the Defence Forces will encompass all of the Commission’s recommendations on restructuring the domains of land, air, sea and cyber, including the creation of new Service Chiefs’ roles, the new position of Joint Force Commander and associated supporting structures.

    For now, everything hangs on implementation of the CoDF report.


    • #3
      Cultural transformation

      The Commission pointed to the radical cultural shift that is required in the Defence Forces at all levels. It was particularly concerned by the evident culture across the Defence Forces which is masculine and has a limited appreciation of diversity of all kinds. The new Head of Transformation and Head of Strategic HR will report directly to the Chief of Staff and will be supported by civil-military teams to include the senior rank posts of Gender Advisor and Digital Transformation Officer who will lead a digital transformation programme.

      Capabilities (equipment and people) and level of ambition

      The Commission found that while a range of enablers to support defence capability development planning are in place, the absence of a formal defence capability development planning process is a significant gap hindering the effectiveness of the Defence Forces in carrying out its the roles. A Capability Development Branch (civil-military) will be established within the Department of Defence which will place a strong emphasis on exploring opportunities for increased engagement in EU capability development and joint procurement initiatives, while analysis of green defence solutions and horizon scanning to identify emerging technologies will be embedded within the capability development planning process.

      The ‘Level of Ambition’ (LOA) framework devised by the Commission for determining the level of capabilities[3] required by the Defence Forces is focused around 3 tiers of LOA.


      LOA1 represents current capabilities of the Defence Forces with appropriate replacement and routine modernisation of equipment and infrastructure. While some reforms and restructuring of the Defence Forces could be implemented, the Commission found that the core capabilities will not keep pace with the increasingly challenging security environment, the diversification and broadening of threats and the growing complexity of the modern operating environment. In the Commission’s view, this level of ambition is not consistent with the more ambitious statements of defence policy contained in the White Paper 2015, leaves the Defence Forces unable to conduct a meaningful defence of the State against a sustained act of aggression from a conventional military force, and likely to require a reduced commitment to international peace support, crisis management and humanitarian relief operations due to capacity constraints. According to the Commission, staying at this level will also severely constrain the capacity of the Defence Forces to maintain its overseas commitments and deliver required levels of aid to the civil power (ATCP) and aid to the civil authority (ATCA) supports. This level of ambition would require additional defence funding of about €47 million per annum at full strength.


      The Commission recommended that consideration be given to a step up to LOA2 in the short term pending the more detailed policy debate and decision required for higher levels of ambition. LOA2 represents enhanced capabilities, which would involve building on the current capability to address specific priority gaps in our ability to deal with an assault on Irish sovereignty and to serve in higher intensity peace support, crisis management and humanitarian relief operations overseas. The government’s decision to move to LOA2 will enable current policy to be realised, as outlined in the White Paper (2015) and White Paper Update (2019) and address priority gaps in the Defence Forces’ current capabilities to defend Ireland’s sovereign interests, serve on high intensity missions abroad and contribute to national resilience and security.

      The key capability effects that would be delivered through achievement of LOA2 include:
      • improved troop protection for the Army, particularly in the light of more demanding roles overseas
      • remaining a partner of choice for international peace support operations
      • enhanced situational awareness to support national security through the development of a Recognised Air Picture
      • significantly strengthened cyber defence capabilities of the Defence Forces
      • an increased presence at sea by, on a graduated basis, beginning to operate the current Naval fleet to an optimum level through double crewing, thus maximising the State’s return on the substantial financial investment involved in procurement of vessels
      • enhanced air capabilities that will extend the Air Corps’ organic fixed-wing strategic reach capability to, for example, Africa and the Middle East, as well as enhancing its capacity to support, for example, local authorities when dealing with wildland fires and other such climate related emergencies that are becoming more frequent
      • continuing to meet the Defence Forces’ regular ATCP and ATCA tasks, and making a significant contribution to national resilience; and
      • revitalisation of the Reserve Defence Force

      The Commission identified a net increase in the Permanent Defence Force establishment, including civilian staff, of some 2,000 personnel, bringing the total to approximately 11,500 (in addition to the existing cohort of civilian employees) to achieve LOA2. Ultimately, the additional numbers would be subject to detailed design, decision making and proactive management within a future Strategic HR approach, with prioritisation of staffing leading to reductions in some areas and additions to others, across the services, on the basis of the new detailed force design and review of taskings. The Defence Forces are responsible for recruitment and are currently developing a strategic recruitment plan to realise this increase in numbers. This will be a combination of military and civilian personnel.

      For now, everything hangs on implementation of the CoDF report.


      • #4
        International defence spending

        The Commission’s report compared the military expenditure of Ireland and selected comparator countries, as expressed as a percentage of each country’s GDP (Chapter 10, Table 10.4). In the table below, the Commission also included Ireland’s expenditure as a percentage of the country’s GNI* as the CSO considers this to be a better approximation of the size of the Irish economy, thus allowing for a better ‘ratio analysis’ for fiscal issues such as defence spending.

        Military Expenditure as % of GDP – SIPRI ¹
        Country 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
        Ireland 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3%
        Ireland (% of GNI*) 0.55% 0.52% 0.5% 0.48% 0.48% 0.5%
        Selected Comparators - % of GDP
        Austria 0.7% 0.7% 0.8% 0.7% 0.7% 0.8%
        Belgium 0.9% 0.9% 0.9% 0.9% 0.9% 1.1%
        Denmark 1.1% 1.2% 1.1% 1.3% 1.3% 1.4%
        Finland 1.4% 1.4% 1.4% 1.4% 1.3% 1.5%
        Netherlands 1.1% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.3% 1.4%
        Norway 1.5% 1.6% 1.7% 1.7% 1.9% 1.9%
        Portugal 1.8% 2.0% 1.7% 1.8% 1.8% 2.1%
        Sweden 1.1% 1.1% 1.0% 1.0% 1.1% 1.2%
        ¹ SIPRI is the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament.

        Notably, all 8 of the above comparator countries have, in light of the war in Ukraine, recently announced increases in their future defence spending commitments which will, if implemented, significantly increase their percentage GDP spend in comparison to the figures cited above.

        Future defence debate

        The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which started shortly after the publication of the Commission’s Report, has fundamentally changed the defence landscape across Europe. Like other EU countries, Ireland needs to adapt to the new security reality. A mature, respectful debate about the future of defence policy in Ireland would be a very helpful contribution to that necessary adaptation and, in this context, it is proposed that the Department of Defence will commence planning for a Strategic Defence Review towards the end of this year which will enable a broader debate on the State’s overall defence policy.

        Pay stuctures

        The Commission made a number of recommendations concerning pay structures and the Minister intends to immediately progress of the following measures:
        • removal of the requirement for a Private 3 Star/Able Seaman to ‘mark time’ for the first 3 years at that rank
        • payment of the full rate of Military Service Allowance (MSA) applicable to the rank of all Private 3 Star/Able Seaman personnel; and
        • provision of immediate access to the Sea-going Service Commitment Scheme to direct entry personnel in the Naval Service

        The following recommendations relating to pay structures will be subject to further evaluation which will commence before the end of this year:
        • on the basis that all personnel are paid the full rate of MSA applicable to their rank, MSA will be abolished and the full applicable rate integrated into core pay
        • replacement of the existing sea-going allowances with less complex sea-going duty measures; and
        • introduction of Long Service Increments to the pay scales of all ranks of enlisted personnel

        Department of Defence

        The Commission highlighted that the Department of Defence has a significant role to play in enabling, supporting and overseeing progress of the transformation agenda and that it will also require additional resources for a period of approximately 5 years.

        Separately, the department has been the subject of an Organisational Capability Review (OCR). This review arose from the government’s Civil Service Renewal Plan and was carried out by a Capability Review Team from the Reform and Delivery Office, based at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The completed report has been communicated to all departmental staff and an action plan has been prepared in the department. The report and the action plan are being prepared for publication following their recent consideration by Government.

        [1] and


        [3] In this context, the Commission defined ‘capabilities’ as “equipment and, in the case of cyber in particular, … personnel.” - Government announces move to transform the Defence Forces and the largest increase in the Defence budget in the history of the State (
        For now, everything hangs on implementation of the CoDF report.