The high turnover rate in the Defence Forces is leading to Ireland's defence capability being "ground into the dust", according to the association that represents officers.

Commandant Conor King, General Secretary of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO), told an Oireachtas committee that the historically high turnover rate is leading to the creation of "a crippling operational and training tempo for remaining service personnel".

"When is the Government going to shout stop? Does it realise that defence capability is being ground into the dust? Does it care?" he said.

Representatives from RACO are before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence this morning.

Mr King also warned about serious governance concerns within the force due to a shortage of senior personnel.

"A significant number of young officers are coming under high levels of stress, due to organisational need, putting the responsibility on their young shoulders that they are not equipped to deal with.

"They don't have the mentoring or supervision to guide them along," Mr King said.

"This is serious stuff we are talking about. This is the execution of lethal force and a second lieutenant doing a captain's job is dangerous."

Mr King said that 3,200 personnel have left the Defence Forces between 2014 and 2018 which is 34.7% of the average strength for those years.

"Before people think that this is due to the early mandatory retirement ages for Defence Forces personnel, I must state that 82% of these were premature voluntary retirements," he said.

Last year the problem of retention was highlighted after it emerged that large numbers of soldiers, sailors and Air Corps personnel are buying themselves out of the Defence Forces over pay and conditions.

In March, Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe announced a rolling recruitment process for the Defence Forces.

Mr King also said the Department of Defence had failed to protect its members, given their inability to strike.

"The department's approach to representation, divisive, dismissive and sometimes subversive, has led to an adversarial and dysfunctional industrial relations climate which has been to the detriment of the well-being of the most loyal citizens of this State.

"It is nothing short of shameful," he said.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said he has received the report from the Independent Pay Commission examining pay and conditions in the Defence Forces and it will published following discussion by cabinet. 

Mr Kehoe said he had acknowledged the challenges raised by RACO members at today's Oireachtas Committee. 

"That is one of the reasons why I asked the Pay Commission to look at pay and conditions, and recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces".

Asked if members could look forward to better conditions in the future, Mr Kehoe said "absolutely".

"I want to fix the challenges. I want to work with the representative associations, military management and the Department to overcome the challenges that we have". 

He also pointed to an increase of €50m allocated to the Defence Forces for this year's budget. 

Mr Kehoe said members would have full pay restoration by 2020 under existing public service pay agreements and would be "very much part and parcel of negotiations" in and around any new pay agreements.