By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
ROYAL Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel yesterday called considerations to extend the mandatory retirement age of enlisted officers from 55 to 60 “necessary” to offset the personnel shortfalls being experienced.
In a statement to The Tribune, Commodore Bethel said the suggestion, if sanctioned, would greatly minimize the loss of expertise as the mandatory age for retirement is currently 55.
Adding to this challenge, he said, are plans to develop the Defence Force’s bases in Great Inagua and Ragged Island, and the intention to expand its bases in the northern Bahamas as part of the Force’s decentralisation programme.
An extension to the retirement age was suggested by National Security Minister Marvin Dames at the RBDF’s annual church service earlier this month.
Commodore Bethel said the Ministry of National Security, upon the recommendation of the minister, has also authorised the RBDF to augment its recruitment programmes.
To that end, Commodore Bethel said the RBDF successfully secured 120 applicants for its recruitment class in January, essentially doubling its recruitment intake for a single entry.
In his initial comments back on March 11, Mr Dames said his office was working in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, with a view to increasing the retirement age for the RBDF.
At the time of his speech, Mr Dames said it was important for officials to take all of the necessary steps to alleviate the “brain drain” being experienced by the RBDF.
Moreover, Mr Dames said he also advised the backlog of promotions, particularly that of junior rate corps, to be reviewed and addressed forthwith.
Additionally, he also authorised a review of the allowances, additional qualification pay, sea pay, air pay and other allowances for members of the Defence Force, which he said was “long overdue”.
He said the Minnis administration was of the view that succession planning and training go hand-in-hand.
He noted that towards that end, steps were also being undertaken to transform the training department into an accredited institution for the training of quality officers and marines.
“This military institution will focus on the development of character and leadership, management and supervisory, and professional and technical skills for members of the Force,” he said.
“I can also report that the Force has already commenced the first phase of development of its Naval-Infantry School, with the intention of making it a regional centre of excellence for amphibious military training.”
Minister Dames said that, when expanding transnational criminal networks are taken into consideration against the backdrop of The Bahamas’ geographical challenges and ever-stretching resources, the need for even greater collaboration with local and regional partners to minimise their threats to national security was clearly evident.
“To mitigate these threats, our Government through one of its policy directives is moving towards the establishment of a Multi-agency Law Enforcement Coastal Security Programme to include the RBDF, RBPF, HMC and BID,” he said.
“This multi-agency programme, will be responsible for conducting onshore/offshore patrols.
“We must better secure our borders. The status quo is no longer acceptable,” Mr Dames added.