Exodus of officers could affect Defence Forces operations

The exodus of officers from the Defence Forces continues and, if it is not addressed, it could seriously affect its operating capabilities.

That’s the warning from the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO), the organisation representing commissioned officers in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, which says so far this year 48 applications are being processed for early retirement, on top of the current 90-plus officer vacancies.

Last year, 76 officers quit the Defence Forces early, many being tempted into higher-paying private sector jobs, and it looks as though even more will bail out this year.

Writing in RACO’s magazine, Signal, its general secretary Commandant Earnan Naughton stated that a number of factors causing the exit haven’t been addressed by management, even though they were raised at RACO’s conference last November.

He said management has, “disappointingly, failed to engage or constructively respond to issues and concerns raised at the conference”.

These include the need to address the ongoing retention of personnel, the “pressing requirement” to address family-friendly policies in an effort to support officers who are continuingly being relocated, and what RACO called the “dysfunction” of the Defence Forces conciliation and arbitration process.

Last November, RACO said officers are double or triple-jobbing and, as a result, only see their families at weekends.

“The gaps place obvious capability sustainment concerns on those responsible and those who must carry additional work burdens,” Comdt Naughton said.

The Naval Service is short of marine engineers and electrical engineers, the Air Corps is short pilots, and the Army lacks engineering and line officers. It can take up to five years to fully train specialist officers.

In the article, Comdt Naughton said Defence Forces management ordered an ‘organisation climate survey’ to be carried out last year.

He said management had yet to engage with RACO on the findings of this survey which was completed last August.

“This does little to give confidence to members that senior management are actually interested in addressing genuine service concerns of personnel,” the officer wrote.

RACO believes the survey will shed light on why so many officers are leaving, and that it needs to be published so that a solution is found to keeping highly trained personnel.


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