Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has declared that he would not like to see the strength of his force drop below 13,000.
He is concerned that if the numbers continue to fall, it will take two years to build up the force again because of the training programme for recruits.
Mr Callinan admitted that he would "love" to see the recruitment embargo lifted.
He was outlining concerns at the impact of an ongoing drop in numbers on providing a professional policing service as he addressed the Oireachtas Justice Committee.
He pointed out that the Government had set a deadline of the end of the year for the force to reach 13,000. The current strength of the force was 13,472 and there would not be sufficient retirements to bring it down to the required level.
Mr Callinan said there were around 1,200 personnel, who were between 50 years – when they could retire after 30 years' service – and the compulsory retirement age of 60.
But committee member and Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to lift the embargo and re-open recruit training at the Garda College in Templemore in the new year.
Mr Callinan said station closures were not a cost-cutting exercise. He said travelling gangs would not be tackled by keeping gardai in stations but by putting people on the streets.