Damning results from Defence Forces exit survey

Damning results from Defence Forces exit survey

The latest RACO survey focused on officers who left the Defence Forces from 2015 to 2019.

Nearly one-in-three officers who quit the Defence Forces in the past few years told a survey they wouldn't recommend a military career in this country.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they left for better pay in the private sector, and more than half experienced a better work/life balance as a result.

Furthermore, opinions on career management and organisational leadership were generally negative, as evidenced by the many respondent quotes in the report.

The damning details are contained in an exit survey carried out with 103 officers by RACO (Representative Association of Commissioned Officers).

It is yet another snapshot showing why highly-trained personnel from the Defence Forces are leaving in unsustainable numbers – with pay and conditions being the key reasons.

Growing exodus

The survey has been given to members of the Commission on Defence, who are expected to report to the government in December on what needs to be done to address the growing exodus.

The Commission has published it on its website, along with a number of other submissions it received.

The latest RACO survey focused on officers who left the Defence Forces from 2015 to 2019.

The average length of service of the respondents was 19 years and they ranged in rank from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel.

RACO has said the approach in recent years of attempting to address the turnover issue through unprecedented levels of recruitment has reduced supervisory capacity and increased organisational risk.

Additionally, RACO says attempts to mitigate the loss of corporate knowledge and experience with the introduction of brand-new personnel, has left the organisation in a situation where 35% of all officers in the Defence Forces now have less than five years’ service.

The latest survey mirrors one undertaken nearly four years ago by academics from the University of Limerick (UL).

They interviewed 603 serving personnel at the time, including officers of all ranks, NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) and lower ranks.

Poor pay

That survey showed poor pay, lack of expertise (caused by an exodus of highly-trained personnel), exhaustion as a result of double and treble-jobbing to fill the gaps, and inadequate barrack accommodation had lead the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps to a point where academics maintained the organisation was on the verge of being “dysfunctional.” Little has been done to stem the tide since then. When the Irish Examiner exclusively carried that UL report in 2017 there were 9,072 personnel in the Defence Forces. It currently stands at 8,570, which includes almost five hundred untrained personnel.

The Naval Service, in particular, has taken a battering. In mid 2017 it had 1,067 personnel. The current strength, including untrained recruits, is 895. It is supposed to have a minimum of 1,069.

The lack of crews and specialists in a number of roles has led to ships being tied up and a reduction in sea-going patrol hours.

Over the same period the Army strength has dropped from 7,297 to 6,938. It's particularly short of sergeants. The Air Corps managed to increase personnel from 708 to 737.

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