Following Government approval earlier this week, the Minister with responsibility for Defence, Mr Paul Kehoe TD, has now published the White Paper on Defence – Update 2019. This Update is the first in a new fixed cycle of defence reviews which the government decided to introduce when it approved the White Paper on Defence in 2015.
Speaking yesterday, Minister Kehoe stated:
The Minister noted that the updated security environment assessment concludes that while the essential aggregate level of threat facing this State has not altered in a way to justify increasing the overall stated level of threat, the position has developed and changed in the period since 2015. Threats in the cyber domain, and from espionage, are assessed as increasing since 2015, while the wider political global environment is now more complex and uncertain. All of these aspects are addressed in the Update, as are important recent developments in relation to national security management, including the establishment of a National Security Analysis Centre, the appointment of a Director and progress towards development of a National Security Strategy.
The Minister also reflected on the good progress that has been made so far in implementing the commitments made in the White Paper:
In relation to important human resources issues that have emerged in the period since finalisation of the White Paper in 2015, and which are fully reflected in the Update, the Minister noted:
Finally, the Minister referred to the multi-annual capital programme, launched as Project Ireland 2040, which has increased the overall level of investment in Defence and provides for €541m. in capital funding over the period to 2022.
In terms of equipment, the Minister stated:
In relation to infrastructure, the Minister added:
The White Paper on Defence, approved by Government in July 2015, provides the strategic and comprehensive defence policy framework for the period up to 2025. This policy framework is designed to be flexible and responsive given the dynamic nature of the security environment and enables the Defence Organisation (comprising the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces) to be adaptive to changing circumstances and to use resources as efficiently as possible.
Within this context, the White Paper contains the government’s decision to put in place a fixed cycle of defence reviews. These are common internationally and give assurance that policy remains up to date and relevant to changing future circumstances. The White Paper provides that these reviews are to have a three yearly cycle, with every second review being more comprehensive in nature and styled a Strategic Defence Review.
Completion of the first such review, the White Paper Update, was led by the Minister with responsibility for Defence while the review process was managed throughout by a high-level civil-military Steering Group. An inter-departmental/inter-agency Defence and Security Environment Assessment Group was also established to review and update the security environment assessment. This Group was led by the Department of Defence and also comprised representatives of the Departments of the Taoiseach; Justice and Equality; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Communications, Climate Action and Environment; as well as the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána.
The Update was undertaken while Brexit has continued to evolve. The Update notes that the precise security implications of Brexit remain hard to predict, albeit that the overall setting in which security resides may be adversely impacted. It is not clear, at this point, that any particular implications call for a defence response beyond what is committed in the White Paper. Prudent planning remains the essential relevant focus against the backdrop of the current position on Brexit, and the responsibility, in the first instance, of the Department of Justice and Equality, along with An Garda Síochána, for internal security matters and the Revenue Commissioners for customs issues.
The White Paper on Defence – Update 2019 is available on the Department of Defence website.