The Irish Times view on the Strategic Defence Review

It is a case of better late than never for undertaking a review of the threats facing Ireland - any credible response needs to also deliver on promises to reform and resource the defence forces

The Department of Defence is starting work on a wide-ranging assessment, known as a Strategic Defence Review, of the security threats facing Ireland.

The review, which was delayed for a year so as not to duplicate the work of the Commission on the Future of Defence, will examine the gaps in the State’s ability to respond to threats. Given the current state of the Defence Forces, there will certainly be plenty of issues to examine.

The commencement of the review process is welcome, in light of how much the international security picture has changed following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The review will examine a wide variety of risks facing the State, including the threat posed by cyber and hybrid warfare.

Coming as it does after Minister for Defence Simon Coveney’s commitment to implement many of the recommendations of the commission, including a promise to rejuvenate the Defence Forces, the review is hopefully a sign the Government is ready to take defence and security seriously. The planned appointment of a head of transformation and a gender adviser for the military is also promising.

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However, there is still much to be concerned about. The Government has committed to increasing defence spending by 50 per cent in six years but some of the most important recommendations, including those relating to the antiquated command and control structures, have only been accepted “in principle”.

Meanwhile, the retention crisis continues , with trained personnel leaving for better pay and conditions in the private sector. New recruits are being hired to replace those who leave, but this is putting severe strain on training structures. There is little point in spending millions on new aircraft and ships if there is no one to operate them.

More broadly, a National Security Strategy for 2020-2025 laying out how Ireland should respond to security threats remains unpublished, despite public consultations concluding in 2019. The Strategic Security Review is a good start but there is a long road ahead.