The ‘brain drain’ has severely impacted the country’s military capabilities but benefited the private sector.
Senior officers yesterday warned the Department of Defence that the loss of personnel with years of military experience needs to be addressed immediately.
Commandant Earnan Naughton told Minister for Defence Simon Coveney that, since 2013, a total of 136 officers had left the forces ahead of normal retirement age.
The commandant is the general secretary of Raco (Representative Association of Commissioned Officers) which represents senior personnel in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.
Speaking yesterday at the Raco annual conference in Naas, Co Kildare, he said there were currently 370 vacancies which had not been filled in officer ranks across all Defence Forces services which was further adding to the workload of staff, many of whom were acting up and double jobbing to try and plug the gaps.
“The last reorganisation of the Defence Forces in 2012/13 continues to place very significant demands on our association members,” said Comdt Naughton.
“The closure of barracks, disbandment of units, the establishment of new units and the increased time away from family and home have placed enormous stresses on both family relationships, and the financial viability associated with continual relocation and service in the Defence Forces,” he said.
He said the average number of postings at the ranks of commandant and captain in the army was eight in a five-year period, often with as little as one week’s notice to move and with no return date.
“The impact on a household is that our members are weekend partners/parents. The implications are obvious: childcare demands increase, sustainment costs of travel, accommodation and dining at the new post.
“The financial and relationship impact are a cause of significant concern. All of these real and unique demands of military service are forcing decisions around career-versus-family, friendly jobs in the greater public or private sector in which a wider range of family-designed support provisions are available,” Comdt Naughton said.
With such demands, it was not any wonder, he said, the Defence Forces struggle to recruit greater numbers of women who may not see these challenges of service as compatible with the more family-friendly policies enjoyed by the public or private sectors.
Addressing Mr Coveney, he asked: “Minister, where management are struggling for initiatives to attract greater numbers of females into service, why do they not consider the provision of practical, family-friendly polices that facilitate their service?”
Meanwhile, Raco president Commandant Ian Harrington told Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett that the strain of officer relocation on family life was unquantifiable.
“As individual officers, our loyalty to this State is unquestioned, but when your efforts to uphold your oath to the State seem to conflict with your oath to marriage and family the strain becomes enormous.”