Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 01 April, 1999

Written Answers. - FCA Review.

13. Mr. L. Burke asked the Minister for Defence when the review group set up to examine the FCA will finalise its report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9228/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan 1996-1998, which was approved by Government in March 1996, provides for a special study of the reserve to be undertaken during the lifetime of the plan. Accordingly, in November 1997, I announced the setting up of a joint civilian-military steering group to carry out this examination. As part of the examination process the Chief of Staff had already established a military board to conduct a study of the reserve. In addition, a considerable amount of work had already been undertaken by earlier military boards which were set up to seek the views of the membership on the future organisation and structure of the reserve.

The joint civilian-military steering group, as part of its work, oversees and guides the military board in its task. The membership of the steering group comprises an independent chairman, three senior military officers, three senior civil servants from my Department and a serving officer of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil. No member of the steering group is a member of the military board.

From the outset there has been ongoing liaison and exchange of views between the steering group and the military board and meetings of the steering group are attended in part by either the chairman or the secretary of the military board who keep the group well briefed on the board's progress. The steering group also advises the military board regarding aspects of the reserve that should be examined or looked at in greater depth by the military board.

The military board submitted an interim report early in 1998 and the steering group submitted an interim report to me in July 1998. In December 1998, the military board forwarded an initial draft of its final report to the steering group for con[333] sideration. The steering group, having examined the report conveyed its views and recommendations to the military board. The military board, having had regard to those views and recommendations is at present preparing the final draft of its report. The steering group will then examine the findings and recommendations of the board and on conclusion of its deliberations will submit a final report to me setting out its findings and recommendations.

The steering group met with each of the Permanent Defence Force representative associations, who made presentations to the group regarding their areas of concern, and it met on three occasions with the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association which also made presentations to the group.

As the military board study is nearing completion it is anticipated that the board will be in a position to submit its final report shortly. The steering group, which will have regard to the military board report, will submit its final report to me as soon as possible thereafter and I will publish the report in due course.