Singapore Armed Forces to keep relying on national service, despite risks

It is "not possible" to outsource all maintenance work for heavy vehicles and machinery, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Monday (Feb 11), as he emphasised the importance of national servicemen, including technicians, to national defence.

Singapore Armed Forces to keep relying on national service despite risks
Singapore Armed Forces need keeping to rely on national service to fulfill their missions, without outsourcing dangerous tasks (Picture source: Singapore MoD)

As reported by The Strait Times, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said well-trained servicemen contribute towards the deterrence effect as he reflected on the deaths of four servicemen in the past 16 months. There were no NS training deaths from 2013 to 2016. "We must never give up on NS that forms the backbone of our SAF for national defence," said Dr Ng.

"This imperative of NS and our national defence does not absolve or reduce the accountability of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the SAF in any way to ensure safe training. On the contrary, it compels Mindef and the SAF to do all that is humanly possible to prevent training deaths for NS men because we are fully aware that precious sons have been entrusted to us by their families," he added.

He was giving a ministerial statement on recent training deaths in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), including that of Singapore actor and operationally ready national serviceman (NSman) Aloysius Pang on Jan 19 during a military exercise in New Zealand.

Maintenance work that are complex and require specialised tools and equipment are outsourced. Following the fatal incident that happened to CFC Pang, members of the public suggested reducing the need for NSmen to perform maintenance for heavy machinery, such as for artillery guns and armoured vehicles.

While acknowledging the impact of the deaths of four national servicemen since September 2017, Dr Ng explained the importance of NSmen to a strong SAF: "Without NS men, we cannot have an SAF or the Home Team that can deter terrorists from attacking Changi Airport or Jurong or harming innocent civilians in shopping malls and crowded places. Without NS men and the SAF, potential aggressors would not shy away from simply marching into and occupying today's affluent Singapore, as Iraq did to Kuwait. Without a strong defence, our air and shipping routes in and out of Singapore could easily be blocked - as Qatar now faces. These are not imaginary security threats but real - they have happened elsewhere and can occur to Singapore too."