Defence forces: Finance puts Army in the crosshairs once again
DEFENCE Minister Tony Killeen last night admitted that the scale of the cutbacks being imposed on the Defence Forces will significantly challenge their capacity to meet the targets assigned by the Government.
The military organisation has been drastically slimmed down since a major overhaul was introduced in the 1990s.
This resulted in the strength of the forces being reduced from 12,700 to 10,500, with an additional group of 250 troops in training.
The add-on training complement has since been scrapped and over the past couple of years the strength has dropped well below the agreed figure.
The four-year plan for the defence budget envisages another fall in personnel numbers, including civilian employees but not civil servants, from 10,800 to 10,300.
And it warns the cuts in strength could be even greater if it proves difficult to achieve the savings at the targeted personnel level.
The overall organisation and structure of the Defence Forces is being reviewed, but the plan does not spell out what further changes might be envisaged for an organisation that has probably undergone and accepted more fundamental change in little over a decade than any other in the State.
The plan bluntly states that the Defence Forces will co-operate with the flexible deployment and redeployment of personnel.
Overall savings in the plan are being listed at €106m. This amounts to a massive 15pc reduction on the 2010 budget, excluding pensions.
It is envisaged that €46m in cuts will be achieved partly by a reduction in the provision for allowances for overseas deployment by the Defence Forces, a smaller number of civilian employees attached to military installations and by either deferring or cancelling the intended purchase of replacement equipment as well as building and maintenance projects.
The balance of €20m will be generated from payroll savings.
The plan suggests that as the public service payroll represents about one third of overall spending, there is significant scope to make major savings, and it says this is a key element of the overall consolidation strategy.
The purchase of new ships for the Naval Service escapes the axe as a contract was recently signed with the suppliers and details agreed on phased payment.
Further measures are being planned to net another €60m by 2014.
"We will seek to maintain the capability of the Defence Forces to the highest standard during this difficult period and I have every confidence that the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces will meet the challenge," Mr Killeen said.