Figures show 2,840 personnel have left in the past five years
It is claimed that only 8% of those who express an initial interest in joining the Defence Forces actually reach a stage where they could be selected.
PDFORRA - the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew - says the current crisis in recruitment is "a major and worrying challenge" facing the entire Defence Forces.
PDFORRA General-Secretary Gerry Guinan says: "The pronouncement in the recently published Public Service Pay Commission report that the Defence Forces do not have recruiting difficulties, except in particular areas, is deeply flawed.
"This analysis failed to consider the underlying facts surrounding recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces.
"Currently, the numbers have dropped through the floor with only 8% of those who express an initial interest in joining actually reaching a stage where they could be selected."
Figures attained by PDFORRA show that 2,840 enlisted personnel left the Defence Forces in the past five years - resulting in a drop of over 30% of total personnel.
Just over 1,000 personnel 'purchased' their discharge in the same period - reportedly paying the State a discharge fee of €300.
Mr Guinan claims the current recruitment campaign "is essentially a failure", as it is not solving the problem.
"The failure to recruit lies in these simple facts: people joining the force do not have the security of tenure enjoyed by other public servants, their pay is amongst the lowest in the public service and they do not enjoy the protections of basic employment legislation, like the Working Time Directive".
He adds: "If the Department of Defence are serious about trying to recruit and retain personnel they need to offer comparable pay and conditions of service to that generally enjoyed in the wider public service."
PDFORRA is holding its annual conference in Co Cavan from Tuesday.