One-in-five young Defence Forces officers see themselves retiring at or before the age of 35, according to an independent survey carried out on behalf of their representative association.
This highlights a potential significant decline in trained and experienced officers over the next 10-15 years.
The Representative Association for Commissioned Officers (RACO) said the findings of a report carried out by Amárach Research give it cause for great concern about the future of the Defence Forces as these people are supposed to be its future leaders.
The survey of 622 young officers underpinned fears RACO has that they won't stay long in the job because as from 2013 their pensions were changed for the worse.
That's because they have to retire at 58, unlike other public servants who will be allowed to top up their pension pot until the age of 68 from 2021.
The survey showed a further one-fifth of officers see themselves retiring at or before the age of 40.
When this is analysed by age, 43% of those aged 18-25 will retire between the ages of 30-35.
Among those aged 26-35, 28% see themselves retiring between 30-35, and 29% see themselves retiring between 36-40.
In fact, 90% of respondents would consider retiring from the Defence Forces before their mandatory retirement age.
55% of the respondents say that the new pension arrangements have a high or very high impact on their decision.
However, while the pension is seen as a negative, 11% of respondents reported that poor pay or remuneration is a trigger for them to leave.
Many feel as though loyalty is being punished, and their trust is being eroded.
Many more predicted that large numbers of officers will leave the Defence Forces in their 30s, so that they have adequate time to save for a proper pension.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on Defence, Jack Chambers, said the instability posed by the ongoing retention crisis within the Defence Forces has been raised with both the Government and the Minister for Defence, Paul Kehoe time and time again: “It's an eye-opener when you consider officers who have pursued a vocation, spent years in training and education, and made substantial personal sacrifices to serve our State, are desperate to get out."