Mindef to outsource more tasks to boost NS efficiency

Soldiers exiting the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV), an armoured infantry carrier. The Ministry of Defence is looking for civilian companies to take over the task of washing armoured vehicles and more. -- PHOTO: S
Soldiers exiting the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV), an armoured infantry carrier. The Ministry of Defence is looking for civilian companies to take over the task of washing armoured vehicles and more. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

Move will free up NSmen to focus on honing combat skills

The days of reservist soldiers spending countless hours installing and dismantling communications equipment for training exercises look set to be over. They are also not likely to be saddled with washing armoured vehicles.

According to tender documents obtained by The Straits Times, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) is looking for civilian companies to take over these time-consuming tasks, to further enhance national service (NS) training efficiency.

These tasks are currently carried out by armoured troops or tank crew before and after an outfield training exercise.

The outsourcing to civilian contractors will free up operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) to focus on honing their combat skills.

According to the documents, the civilian contractors will be expected to handle an average of 510 tracked vehicles a year, and will be responsible for mounting and dismantling equipment from the vehicles and washing them.

For a start, staff from private commercial companies will take over these tasks for selected major exercises for NSmen.

"These efforts allow for a faster turnover of vehicles required to support NS training," said Colonel Lam Sheau Kai, commander of the Combat Service Support Command.

It typically takes nine men up to four hours to dismantle communications equipment from the Bionix armoured infantry fighting vehicle and hose it down.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is also increasingly handing over the management and warehousing of combat equipment or stores in training institutes to civilian contractors.

The latest contract up for bidding requires civilian contractors to take over the management and warehousing of combat equipment or stores in the Motorised Infantry Training Institute.

Col Lam said store management has already been outsourced in units such as the Army Logistics Base, Safti Military Institute and 2nd People's Defence Force.

Outsourcing non-core jobs is something the SAF began doing in the 1970s, to allow its servicemen to focus on combat training.

Tasks such as fitness instruction, cookhouse operations and aircraft maintenance are now carried out by civilian contractors.

Government agencies, such as the police, civil defence force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, also do some outsourcing. However, the issuance and management of ammunition is done solely by the military.

The SAF said civilian contractors are put through stringent security checks before they are appointed, to ensure operational security is not compromised.

While outsourcing helps soldiers to perfect their combat skills, Ms Ellen Lee, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said doing some of these manual chores can help toughen up soldiers.

"It is through such manual work that you can build that sense of discipline and pride. You also get to know your vehicle better. Such knowledge will come in very useful in battle, too," she said.

jermync@sph.com.sg