Holistic support of NS key to progress, prosperity

Since independence, Singapore has defied the odds by outperforming many economies to become a developed country.

Our economic success is built on an open and globalised economy. Thus, a strong defence is imperative and necessary to safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Singapore's defence policy is one of deterrence and diplomacy. Over the years, we have established strong armed forces and built firm relations through extensive interactions and cooperation with defence institutions worldwide.

Our population constraint means Singapore cannot be supported by an adequately sized regular military to protect the country.

In this regard, national service has become one of the contributors towards sustaining the security and stability needed for Singapore's progress and prosperity.

The roles of our servicemen have changed over the years, and newer generations of Singaporeans have been born in times of peace and stability. They have little knowledge of the early years of our independence and no longer subscribe to the traditional role of NS.

Hence, the definition of NS needed to be revisited in order to resonate better with new generations. This led to the formation of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord), which serves as a channel for all walks of life to give feedback on our defence matters.

The role of Accord will be even more important to support the Ministry of Defence on the reshaping of NS and, consequently, enhance our capabilities in combating external and internal aggressors, particularly in the face of increasing threats of terrorism.

The council engaged various stakeholders, including employers and businesses, trade associations and chambers, educational institutions, families and the community, through focus groups and surveys.

Our 18 proposals were presented to Mindef. These initiatives include improving transition time for servicemen returning to school or employment upon the completion of NS and strengthening the support from employers and businesses to our servicemen.

Particularly, we cannot stress the importance of employers' and businesses' support enough.

Strong support from employers and businesses is paramount and indispensable in allowing our servicemen to discharge their duties.

The future of our national service will place a stronger focus on individual development of talents, skills and qualifications to allow our servicemen to integrate better into society upon completing their national duty.

NS will be fundamental to national defence and in maintaining Singapore's peace and stability. As we reaffirm our loyalty to the armed forces and Singapore on SAF Day tomorrow, let us all work together towards building a peaceful and stable Singapore for generations to come.

Teo Siong Seng
Member, Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Employer and Business)
Chairman, Singapore Business Federation

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Holistic support of NS key to progress, prosperity'. Print Edition | Subscribe