National Service stints may be shortened by a few weeks from the current two years, under a plan by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to hire more career soldiers to make NS training more effective.
Young men due to be enlisted may also face a shorter wait of four to five months, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen during the debate on his ministry's Budget on Thursday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Thursday that having more experienced professional career soldiers in units and training schools to teach the fledgling soldiers will make NS training more effective and efficient. Having more seasoned hands will also result in "greater impact on training outcomes, inculcating discipline and transmitting values", he said in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget.
Even with the potential time savings, Dr Ng cautioned that his ministry "makes no promises" as the army will study the details to ensure that Singapore can continue to generate operationally ready units.
Dr Ng added that the ramped-up recruitment will not cut the number of in-camp trainings that Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) have to fulfill. Currently, they are called up annually for 10 years.
Do you know?
Once upon a time, NS was as long as three years.
When NS started in 1967, officers served 36 months and the other ranks had to complete 30 months of training.
Training for full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) could be shortened by a few weeks when more professional trainers are employed by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said this in Parliament during the ministry's Budget debate on Thursday.
As many as 1,100 more full-time trainers could be recruited.
Only one in six trainers is a professional regular at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC).
The SAF wants to increase the ratio to one in three.
Dr Ng said having professional trainers will have greater impact on training outcomes, inculcating discipline and transmitting values.
He elaborated: "In the present system, some time is required for the second year NSF trainers to adapt themselves to the training environment in their units and training schools. Having regular trainers will smoothen this transition.
“But here again let me quell unrealistic expectations. The time savings will be a few weeks at most, if any. MINDEF makes no promises as the army has to study many details to ensure that we can continue to generate operationally ready units."
Even though training duration can be shortened, Dr Ng said this will not reduce the number of In-Camp Training (ICT) that Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) have to perform.
ICTs were reduced from 13 to 10 in 2006. The 10 ICTs will still be needed to meet Singapore's defence needs, even with falling birth rates, until 2040.
The call to improve the training system arose from the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) discussions.
The waiting time before enlistment can also be reduced.
Dr Ng has asked the SAF to develop a system where it can commit to enlist all enlistees, except for some exceptions, within a fixed time frame of four to five months.
The army expects to complete its detailed studies on the issues raised by the CSNS in the second half of this year.
Another suggestion from the CSNS is for the creation of a new volunteer corp, and the Defence Ministry is working on the proposal.
This will allow the broader community -- in particular women, new citizens and first generation permanent residents -- to better understand and contribute to Singapore's defence.
The proposed SAF Volunteer
Corps should harness the different skills of the volunteers to
complement Singapore’s defence capabilities.
Volunteers with expertise in specific areas, such as healthcare, psychology and communications, could be given opportunities to serve in their respective specialist areas.
Those who wish to serve in other military functions could be trained as necessary for these operations.
Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "MINDEF will look into developing basic modules to impart relevant basic military skills and values to all volunteers. Specific training will then be conducted according to operational needs.
"In order for meaningful contributions to be made, volunteers could commit to performing various operational duties for a certain period of time."
MINDEF will also want to strengthen its qualification system for employers to better appreciate the skills and leadership qualities of Singapore’s NSmen.
This will not only help NSmen in the job market, but also provide meaningful recognition for their efforts during NS.
Members of the House were also given an update on the Safety and Systems Review Directorate formed last year.
It has found the SAF safety system to be robust. Useful recommendations were also made -- for example, paying more attention to recruits' psychological well-being on top of physical safety.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) will continue its approach of steady defence spending over the long term.
This strategy has reaped significant benefits for Singapore's defence capabilities, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
He was speaking in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget on Thursday.
Singapore's defence budget has roughly kept pace with inflation, growing from $8.6 billion in 2004 to $12.2 billion in 2013.
Dr Ng said sharp spikes in spending will be avoided unless required by security risks.
It will also avoid sharp drops that will undermine Singapore's defence capabilities over the medium term.
Dr Ng also gave an illustration of how the SAF will be like in the future.
In 2030, SAF will be a highly networked force, he said.
This means that whether it's the fighter pilot in the air, the sailor at sea or the soldier on land, each will be able to see the big picture.
And beyond that, they will also be able to speak to each other to jointly target threats and orchestrate responses.
Dr Ng said: "These capabilities of the SAF, if achieved by 2030, should provide Singaporeans the confidence that Singapore can be protected. I say confidence, not certainty. The future is always unpredictable."
The Defence Ministry is working on the proposal for a new volunteer corps, which surfaced during discussions by the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS).
This will allow the broader community -- in particular women, new citizens and first-generation permanent residents -- to better understand and contribute to Singapore's defence.
Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing said this during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on Thursday.
He told members of the House that the proposed Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps should harness the different skills of the volunteers to complement the Republic's defence capabilities.
Volunteers with expertise in specific areas -- like healthcare, psychology and communications -- could be given opportunities to serve in their respective specialist areas.
Others who wish to serve in other military functions could be trained as necessary.
Mr Chan said MINDEF will look into developing basic modules to impart relevant basic military skills and values to all volunteers.
Specific training will then be conducted according to needs.
In order for meaningful contributions to be made, volunteers could commit to performing various operational duties for a certain period of time.
Mr Chan also touched on safety in his speech.
Last year, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced the formation of the Safety and Systems Review Directorate to conduct safety and systemic reviews on MINDEF and SAF.
Mr Chan said the panel has since reviewed the safety practices at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), Officer Cadet School (OCS) and Specialist Cadet School (SCS).
It has found the SAF safety system to be robust.
In addition, it has also made useful recommendations to help check blind spots.
For example, the panel recommended that as much attention be paid to recruits' psychological well-being as their physical safety.
It will continue to review the safety systems and practices of more units.
The Defence Ministry has also commenced the deployment of Unit Safety Officers in every unit.
Mr Chan said as ex-regulars with experience, they will help strengthen the system by imparting their knowledge and experiences to new and junior commanders.
They will complement the "external pair of eyes" from the inspectors beyond the unit.
A new SAFRA clubhouse will be built in Punggol as part of MINDEF's continuing efforts to recognise National Servicemen and to cater to an increased membership.
This will add close to 20,000 square metres of additional recreational spaces for NSmen and their families to enjoy and bond.
Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman announced this in Parliament during the Ministry's Committee of Supply debate on Thursday.
When completed, NSmen and their families will have access to facilities at six SAFRA clubs located islandwide.
MINDEF will also be redeveloping SAFRA Tampines to include new sports and other exciting facilities.
In addition, the feasibility of a new SAFRA clubhouse in the northwestern part of Singapore will be studied.
This is to expand further the variety of offerings to more than 540,000 NSmen and their families who are SAFRA members today.