Figures in a leaked report, compiled by senior military officers, show that in 2016 a total of 62 officers and 441 enlisted men left the Army, Naval Service, and Air Corps voluntarily.
The cost of training the officer replacements was €4m and €11m for enlisted men.
In the same year, the Department of Defence had a surplus of €26.55m. This was diverted to the purchase of equipment.
Basic pay for Defence Forces personnel is 13.48% below the national average.
In the report, senior officers said that if this money had been spent on personnel, it might have significantly reduced the exodus in recent years of highly trained soldiers, sailors, and aircrews.
The report states: “The DF (Defence Forces) cannot continue to commit such a high proportion of its resources to training increasingly large recruit and cadet intakes to the detriment of enhancing and evolving its capabilities to meet the threats of a dynamic operating environment.”
Senior officers maintain they cannot recruit their way out of the current situation and that retention is key to solving the prob-lem.
The minimum strength of the Defence Forces should be 9,500.
However, this figure has not been maintained in recent years. Twice last year, it dipped below 9,000, even including personnel still in training.
The Defence Forces are undertaking more roles than ever, even with reduced manpower and with vacancies in critical positions.
The Naval Service, which could not get enough people to fill its latest recruit class, is taking part in anti-people-smuggling operations off the coast of Libya. It also has a shortage of marine engineering officers and electrical officers.
Meanwhile, there are currently 36 vacancies for pilots in the Air Corps, which is nearly a third of what is required.
Since 2011, only three of the 50 pilot officers who left the force did so because they had reached mandatory retirement age.
The report stated many went to Aer Lingus, where a pilot with 20 years’ experience can earn in excess of €200,000 per annum, a salary 2.5 times higher than an Air Corps pilot with 25 years’ experience.
The Air Corps is also critically short of air-traffic controllers and has 90 vacancies for aircraft technicians.
The result of shortages is increased workloads and this has been highlighted by Army officers.
Many who completed exit interviews said that pay was not the only issue.
They cited double and treble-jobbing as a major problem and having to “act up” to cover a more senior appointment, but without the extra pay.
Since the reorganisation of the Army, in 2012, the majority of barracks are in the western and southern parts of the country.
The report said this requires the posting of a large number of officers to barracks that are a considerable distance from their homes.
“This has resulted in additional, significant, financial cost and work-life balance challenges,” the report said.
It was also stated that in an internal survey carried out by the Defence Forces last year, more than 80% of respondents said they would recommend a military career to family or friends.