Continuing ‘business as usual’ in the Defense Forces will leave Ireland without a credible military capability to protect the country, its people and its resources for an extended period, a report has warned.
The Defense Force Commission examined the capabilities, structures and strength of the Irish military, in a report released on Wednesday.
Commission members spent more than 13 months compiling the report, received 480 submissions, and interviewed 1,000 Defense Force members of all ranks.
The report said many reported a “strong sense of crisis” in the Defense Force, with one of the immediate causes being understaffing.
“While Defense Force personnel recognize that the organization faces issues and challenges, it is clear that there is also a serious desire for change at all levels,” the report said.
He said it underscored the need for “urgent action”.
The report states that the Defense Forces would need time and space to “transform and modernize”, but this change is essential and its implementation cannot be postponed.
He said change must be “relentlessly pursued”, with strong external and parliamentary scrutiny, and will require external expertise.
The commission defined three levels of ambition and warned that the “status quo” would render the country unable to achieve the desired level of military deployment abroad and weaken its capabilities.
The report also warned that it would leave the Defense Force unable to conduct “meaningful defence” of the state against a sustained act of aggression by conventional military force.
Maintaining the status quo would likely require reduced engagement in international peace support, crisis management and humanitarian operations due to capacity constraints.
The commission also warned that the current battalions do not align with NATO standards and are understaffed and under-resourced.
He said there was an “urgent need” to restructure the army into a more agile and flexible force capable of responding to current and future operational tasks.
The report says the Defense Force should nearly triple its spending to develop comprehensive defense capabilities to protect Ireland and its people.
“These significantly stronger capabilities would also enable deeper engagement in international humanitarian and peace missions and provide benefits in terms of Aid to Civil Power (ATCP) and Aid to Civil Authority (ATCA),” adds The report.
Defense Minister Simon Coveney accepted “virtually everything” in the report.
He described it as the most important defense report in the past 50 years.
“We expected them to come back with very tough conclusions and recommendations. And that’s certainly what happened here,” Mr Coveney told RTE.
“What I need as Minister of Defense, in order to present a case to the cabinet to significantly increase the resources of the defense sector, I knew and I know that I need a report of this importance and these details to be able to present this file.
“That is why, in the program of the government, we have agreed to set up this commission.
“So what we have now is a very credible, hard-hitting and honest report that actually calls for a whole host of things that the government now needs to find a way to address.
“It will certainly take me four or five months to work with government colleagues.
Cathal Berry, Independent TD and former Army Ranger, said the report had the potential to be transformational, but only if fully funded and implemented by government.
Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sean Clancy said he will analyze the reports’ content and recommendations.
“The level of public and institutional engagement, with nearly 500 public submissions throughout the process, demonstrates the ever-increasing importance of defense to state institutions and citizens,” he said.
“Once this report has been accepted by the government, the hard work of implementing its recommendations will begin.
“The implementation process is a marathon, not a sprint.
“The Defense Forces will need time and space to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations accepted by the government.
“To do this, we must have adequate resources, plans without resources are unrealizable.
“However, I am confident that the report will ensure that the Defense Force remains an agile, flexible and adaptive organization capable of responding to future changes in the security environment and responding to new emerging threats.”