The Government is to go ahead with the largest increase in the defence budget in the history of the state.
Following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney announced 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 by 2028.
It will allow for the required transformation and investment in recruitment and equipment that were identified by the commission.
The move to LOA2 will require an additional 2,000 civil and military personnel over and above the current establishment of 9,500.
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.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “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.
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.
Minister Eamon Ryan said the commission had identified an urgent need for HR and cultural transformation within the Defence Forces.
Plans for HR and cultural transformation
He said: “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 two 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.”
Mr 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 ongoing work 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.
– Opportunities to develop defence capabilities and joint procurement offered by participation in PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and the European Defence Agency.
– Consideration of associate membership of ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) for the Defence Forces’ Representative Associations.
– Liaison with the Ombudsman for Defence Forces on the possible enhancement of the remit of his office.