The Association representing officer grades in the Permanent Defence Forces will tomorrow decide whether to accept the Public Service Pay Commission proposals for a €10 million package of allowances aimed at tackling staff shortages.

The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) which opens its annual conference tomorrow blames inadequate pay for an exodus from the Defence Forces, which is currently 9% below strength.

The Permanent Defence Forces are supposed to have 9,500 military, naval and Air Corps members - but the latest figures show its current strength at 8653 - a shortfall of almost 9%.

If fully staffed, the Army would have a strength of 7,520, but membership currently lags at 6,979.

The Air Corps has just 705 of the 886 members it is supposed to have, while the naval service total at 969 is below its target of 1094.

The two Defence Forces representative bodies - RACO for 1,100 officers and PDFORRA for the remaining enlisted members - have repeatedly insisted that pay must rise to halt an exodus of serving members, arguing that some even have to resort to social welfare payments to make ends meet.

In July, the Public Service Pay Commission ruled out increases in basic pay, but sanctioned a €10 million package of enhanced allowances.

The Military Service Allowance rises by 10% - delivering a pay increase of between €602 and €675 per year, while a previous 10% cut to Sunday premium rates is restored.

Officers completing a six month armed peace support overseas tour of duty will receive a tax free payment of up to €20,400, with up to €16,100 for enlisted personnel.

A Service Commitment Scheme for pilots worth €18,500 will also be reintroduced to encourage them to stay.

Defence Forces personnel also benefit from the across the board Public Service Stability Agreement increases of 6.4% to 7.2%.

The Government accepted the proposals, saying they would deliver pay increases and incentivise specialists to stay on.

At their conference in Naas, RACO delegates will decide whether to accept the package.

If they don't, it will put RACO - which has sought a specialist Pay Review Body for the Defence Forces - into further conflict with the Government on pay.

On Tuesday, delegates will be addressed by Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe, who is expected to address their concerns on a number of issues, including fixed period promotions for specialist officers.

The Minister may also address this week's agreement in principle by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to accept PDFORRA for associate affiliation - a move strongly criticised by Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett as potentially jeopardising national security.