Army vet­ting new re­cruits with search on Google

Se­cu­rity con­cerns as ‘brain drain’ ham­pers timely screen­ing of De­fence Forces en­trants

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News - Paul Wil­liams

DE­FENCE Forces re­cruits are be­ing in­ducted for train­ing with­out ad­e­quate se­cu­rity clear­ance, as the military au­thor­i­ties fight a los­ing bat­tle against an in­ex­orable de­cline in per­son­nel num­bers that threat­ens the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s abil­ity to func­tion, a Sun­day In­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion can re­veal.

Military sources claim that the rush to re­place the losses suf­fered as a re­sult of a “brain drain” from all ranks has forced the De­part­ment of De­fence to forgo nor­mal se­cu­rity clear­ance pro­to­cols which in­volves gar­dai car­ry­ing out es­sen­tial back­ground screen­ing of new en­trants — a process which can take be­tween three and six months.

In­stead, the De­fence Forces are be­ing forced to “Google” new ap­pli­cants and also rely on a let­ter of ref­er­ence from a “per­son of good stand­ing”, in­clud­ing a lo­cal garda, priest or foot­ball team man­ager, who is known to the po­ten­tial re­cruit.

“It re­ally has be­come far­ci­cal at this stage and it il­lus­trates the sheer des­per­a­tion and panic there is to re­verse the brain drain across the three ser­vices,” a se­nior military source said.

“New troops are be­ing taken in and trained in the ab­sence of a de­tailed garda back­ground se­cu­rity check which in­cludes en­quir­ing whether the re­cruit has a crim­i­nal record or if there is in­tel­li­gence con­cern­ing any pos­si­ble as­so­ci­a­tions with mem­bers of sub­ver­sive or crim­i­nal gangs.

“No military or­gan­i­sa­tion can in­duct new blood with­out car­ry­ing out such de­tailed assess­ments before the re­cruit is al­lowed to stand on the bar­rack square,” the source added.

Ac­cord­ing to a num­ber of military sources, the new re­cruits are of­ten near the end of their ba­sic train­ing cour­ses when the garda re­ports are re­ceived.

An­other source said: “If it is dis­cov­ered by then that the in­di­vid­ual does not sat­isfy the se­cu­rity cri­te­ria laid down and has sub­ver­sive or crim­i­nal as­so­ci­a­tions, it is a bit late be­cause by then we have trained that in­di­vid­ual to a very high stan­dard of pro­fi­ciency in the use of ex­plo­sives, ad­vanced weapons and tac­tics that would be very valu­able to such groups.

“It is im­por­tant to point out and em­pha­sise that this is not the fault of the gar­dai be­cause they have a huge vol­ume of back­ground checks to com­plete all the time.’’

The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent can also re­veal that the ac­cel­er­ated re­cruit­ment cam­paign for the De­fence Forces has so far been a fail­ure as more troops are leav­ing than are ac­tu­ally be­ing re­cruited.

But military sources say the ma­jor is­sue is find­ing a way to re­tain highly trained of­fi­cers, NCOs and rank-and-file per­son­nel who pos­sess skills built up over many years.

“The de­part­ment has only two pri­or­i­ties: save money and pro­tect the line min­is­ter and Gov­ern­ment. They have been ped­dling du­bi­ous statis­tics which every man and woman in uni­form knows are false and mis­lead­ing,” an­other source claimed.

“On Thurs­day the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the De­part­ment ad­dressed the Joint Com­mit­tee for For­eign Af­fairs and De­fence when, in any other coun­try, the meet­ing would also have in­vited the chief of staff and their se­nior of­fi­cers.”

Con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments seen by this news­pa­per pro­vide fur­ther proof that there is a cri­sis across the Army, Navy and Air Corps as the or­gan­i­sa­tional strength has dwin­dled to a 50-year low.

De­spite the max­i­mum re­cruit­ment drive, the cur­rent strength of the De­fence Forces is just over 8,900 which is 600 be­low the de­signed es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure.

So far this year a to­tal of 750 troops were re­cruited but 200 — or 30pc — left before com­plet­ing the 16-week ba­sic train­ing course.

At the same time 700 ex­pe­ri­enced soldiers, air­men and sailors have left.

The con­fi­den­tial fig­ures also show that 72 of­fi­cers re­signed from the De­fence Forces be­tween Jan­uary and Au­gust of this year alone. Every unit in the De­fence Forces is now op­er­at­ing at around 50pc be­low the re­quired num­bers of of­fi­cers.

In the vast ma­jor­ity of cases, the per­son­nel in­formed their su­pe­ri­ors that they were leav­ing be­cause of dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the terms and con­di­tions.

There are cur­rently 900 NCO va­can­cies through­out the De­fence Forces in­clud­ing a short­fall of 450 sergeants.

The De­fence Forces re­fused to com­ment on the se­cu­rity vet­ting process for “op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity rea­sons”.

A spokesper­son con­firmed that “the De­fence Forces re­cruited 550 per­son­nel so far this year”, and that 417 passed out as two-star pri­vates.

CRI­SIS: Army num­bers have dwin­dled to a 50-year low

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