October 3, 2022

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Funding for the Defence Forces will be increased to €1.5 billion by 2028 with thousands of extra civil and military personnel due to be hired as part of plans due to be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney will bring forward a memo on the future of the Defence Forces which will also see the Government agree to prioritise money for military radar capabilities, including primary radar.

There have been criticisms about the lack of such a primary radar system which would be capable of detecting aircraft flying with their transponders turned off, a practice Russia sometimes engages in off the west coast.

Mr Coveney will recommend to Government that Defence Force spending be increased from the present allocation of €1.1 billion until it reaches €1.5 billion by 2028. This will mean total defence spending of more than €8 billion between now and the end of 2028. It represents the largest investment in defence in the history of the State.

In February, the Commission on the Defence Forces reported that the Defence Forces were not currently capable of credibly defending the country against attack, and put forward various proposals for increased funding. The commission put forward three “levels of ambition” (LOAs) for defence spending. Mr Coveney will recommend the second level of ambition but will accelerate the timelines for extra funding from 2030 to 2028.

Under this level, an extra 2,000 personnel, both civil and military, will be recruited over and above the current establishment of 9,500. Sources said work had already commenced on this.

Annual increments

Mr Coveney will also tell the Cabinet of plans to approve the payment of the military service allowances (MSA) to the rank of all 3-star private/able seaman personnel.

The Government will also agree to the commission’s recommendation to remove the requirement for a 3-star private/able seaman to “mark time” for the first three years at that rank, so that they will now get increments each year. At present they don’t get increases until year four.

The Defence Forces will also be allowed to enhance the seagoing service commitment scheme.

Sources said that while spending decisions will be made each year as part of a normal budget cycle “such is the importance of the asset, the Minister will ask Government to prioritise monies for military radar capabilities, including primary radar”.

The plan being presented to Cabinet is expected to cover all 69 recommendations contained in the report.

Most of the non-financial recommendations are expected to be accepted in full. These include drastic changes to Defence Forces command and control structures and the replacement of the chief of staff role with a chief of defence (chod) who would have greater strategic authority.

Renaming of forces

Other recommendations to be accepted include the renaming of the Air Corps and Naval Service as the Irish Air Force and Irish Navy respectively.

One area where there has been some pushback from the military side relates to the future structure of the Military Police.

The report recommended the current system be replaced with a “single joint military police service” which would oversee all the branches and be removed from operational chain of command. Its director would report directly to the vice chief of defence.

It is understood general staff officers have expressed concerns about some elements of these recommendations.

They have also expressed concern about the report’s recommendation that the military representative associations be allowed affiliate with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

However, Mr Coveney has already agreed that they can affiliate.

The Commission on Defence Forces was set up in December 2020 and worked for 13 months before issuing its final report last February.

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