Ng Eng Hen: NS to be shortened by a few weeks at most

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be employing more regulars as full-time trainers of National Servicemen to make training more effective, efficient and possibly shorter, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament today (March 6).

As many as 1,100 more regulars could be hired to fill this vital role. This will increase the proportion of professional regular trainers in Basic Military Training Centre to about one in three trainers, down from the current one in six.

While the number of In-Camp Trainings that NSmen have to perform will not be reduced, Dr Ng said the largest impact of employing more regular trainers will be on the training of full-time National Servicemen (NSF).

Currently, some time is required for second-year NSF trainers to adapt themselves to the training environment in their units and training schools. But having regular trainers will smoothen this transition, Dr Ng said as Parliament debated the Defence Ministry’s spending.

“Let me quickly quell unrealistic expectations,” he added. “The time savings will be a few weeks at most, if any. We are not making no promises here as the Army has to study many details to ensure that we can continue to generate operationally ready units.”

Dr Ng said that having second-year conscripts train and lead new servicemen has merits, but professional trainers will have a greater impact on training outcomes, inculcating discipline and transmitting values.

Dr Ng said that this is how the Commandos train their men, where almost all their trainers are professional regulars, in contrast to the infantry where only about one in six trainers are professional regulars.

The SAF’s decision to hire more regulars as trainers followed servicemen’s criticism — collected through the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) — that time committed to the SAF during full-time National Service and In-Camp Training could be better utilised.

Dr Ng said the SAF takes the criticism to heart because they were not asking for lighter loads or less involvement. “They wanted NS (National Service) to better strengthen our national identity and social cohesion, and instil discipline and values. They said there should be less time wasted and more effective training systems,” he said.

The SAF will also be tasked to develop a system where all enlistees, except for some exceptions, will start their Basic Military Training and NS within a fixed time frame, say within four to five months, after they completed their studies.

On defence spending, Dr Ng said: “Mindef will continue its approach of steady defence spending that has reaped significant benefits for our defence capabilities. We will avoid sharp spikes unless security risks require increased spending. We will also avoid sharp drops that will undermine Singapore’s defence capabilities over the medium term.”

“Our defence spending over the last 10 years reflects this steady investment in capability building, where the defence budget has roughly kept pace with inflation from S$8.6 billion in 2004 to S$12.2 billion in 2013,” Dr Ng said.

“I expect our defence spending to continue on this trajectory that more or less keeps pace with inflation, over the long term.”

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