Dáil Éireann - Volume 498 - 09 December, 1998

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Review.

64. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Defence the number of meetings of the consultative group on the implementation of the Price Waterhouse report on the Defence Forces held to date; the progress made to date; when the group will conclude its work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26724/98]

70. Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Defence if the first meeting of the implementation group [482] for the Price Waterhouse review of the Navy and Air Corps has been held; and if he will make a statement on the action plan for the development of these services. [22726/98]

73. Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Defence his response to Air Corps requests for new interceptor planes outlined at the recent RACO conference. [26774/98]

74. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the future plans, if any, he has for the development of the Air Corps. [22724/98]

106. Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the plans, if any, he has for the replacement of aircraft for the Air Corps as outlined by him in a recent press statement [22737/98]

151. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Defence his response to Air Corps requests for new interceptor planes as outlined at the recent RACO conference. [26938/98]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 70, 73, 74, 106 and 151 together.

Having considered the report of Price Waterhouse Management Consultants on the review of the Air Corps and the Naval Service, the Government decided that the future development of both the Air Corps and the Naval Service critically depends on the input of all of the relevant stakeholders. Given the cross-departmental nature of the State's air and sea requirements, key stakeholders include the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources as well as the Department of the Taoiseach and my own Department.

As Minister for Defence, I am ultimately responsible for the development of the Air Corps and the Naval Service. The task of putting together the necessary plans to give effect to the Government's decision on the recommendations made by Price Waterhouse will be addressed as a priority by the civil and military branches of my Department.

There are two broad dimensions to this work. First, there is the need to address the military capability requirements to be comprehended within the White Paper on defence which were not dealt with in the consultants' report. Second, there is a range of effectiveness and efficiency recommendations for implementation in order to ensure that the taxpayer obtains the best air and sea services possible. It will, in the final analysis, be the task of the General Officer Commanding, Air Corps and the Flag Officer Commanding, Naval Service to present plans for my consideration to address all these matters.

In this regard, I have recently instructed the Chief of Staff to initiate, in conjunction with the General Officer Commanding Air Corps and the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, the necessary process to address these matters. It is my aim to ensure that plans for the effectiveness and efficiency measures can be finalised early in the new year. Detailed issues, including the future [483] equipping of the Air Corps and the Naval Service and the location of the headquarters of both services, will be considered within these plans. This work is now under way.

My colleagues in Government are participating in the consultation group which was set up to provide a forum for external stakeholders to make their input to the planning process with a view to ensuring that both services are meeting the needs of these clients. The group is made up of senior civil and military officers, including the General Officer Commanding the Air Corps and the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service and is tasked with making relevant inputs to the planning process leading to the finalisation of implementation plans to give effect to the Government's decision as outlined already. I am chairing this group, which recently held its first meeting. The group will meet as required by the need to ensure that both services take cognisance of the requirements of client organisations in the planning process.

The re-equipping and reorganisation of the Army has already been addressed under the Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan 1996-8, and its ongoing development will be addressed further in the White Paper process.