National defense is important for Singapore. However, we should review our approach to make sure that the budget and resources are effectively used to produce the desired outcome.
Our defense budget is high as a proportion of GDP in relation to other countries. We also require our male citizens to spend two years full time for military training and to be called back for reservist training over a period of up to 15 years.
Two years is too long. In many countries that have conscription, they are able to achieve their training within 12 months.
Many conscripts said that the actual military training could be completed within 12 months. They spend a large part of the remaining period idling, doing general cleaning, being involved in National Day Parade preparations, and waiting to be discharged. Their effectiveness would not be compromised, if they are discharged earlier.
Some conscripts are selected to be trained as officers and need to spend more time on their training. These conscripts should have to serve an additional 6 to 12 months, but they should be paid a higher allowance to make it worth their time.
If there are insufficient NS men who are keen to be selected as officers, this role should be performed by career soldiers. It is costly to train an officer and this investment can get better results when they are given to career soldiers.
We also need to review the regular call-up for reservist training. This is a heavy strain on the work and family life of the NS men. It is also a disadvantage to them, when they have to compete for jobs against non-citizens who do not have to be called up. Many employers do not like to see the disruption to their work schedule and prefer to employ non-citizens.
We also need to review the remedial training (RT) that NS men have to do for failing the physical proficiency (IPPT) test. It is unfair that non-regulars have to meet the same passing requirements as professional soldiers. Professional soldiers use working hours to keep fit but the non-regulars cannot ask their employer to give them time within working hours to keep fit.
CALL TO SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT
This is a call to the Singapore Government to reduce the duration of full time conscription from 24 months to 12 months, and to reduce the call-up for reservist and remedial training.
TAN KIN LIAN