NS changes: 30 proposals to boost buy-in for NS, salute national servicemen

SINGAPORE - Sweeping changes are afoot to give national servicemen more leeway when serving National service, while at the same time, saluting those who have done, or want to do, their part for the country’s defence.

One key proposal to ease the stress on servicemen is to stop the current standard practice of notifying the Defence Ministry or the Home Team when they leave the country for more than 24 hours. Instead, only those who will be away for more than two weeks will need to inform the authorities. If approved, only one in 10 overseas trips will require official notification.

Another key change: giving servicemen up to 24 months to pass, or work out to scrape through, their annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

These are among 30 proposed changes, announced on Thursday by the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) after a year-long review, that are aimed at fixing the shortfalls in NS training that many servicemen have complained about. The panel, led by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, canvassed for feedback and views from more than 40,000 participants in focus group discussions and townhall meetings.

To boost buy-in for NS among servicemen and the community, the CSNS, among other things, also want to:

- Give and redistribute more monetary rewards and benefits for those who have served their NS obligations or have done well during their stints;- Shorten the waiting time for 90 per cent of Singapore’s NS-bound young men so they do not wait more than four months before they begin their full-time stints;- Set up the new Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps targeted at women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens who choose to pitch in for the country’s defence.

The recommendations will be tabled in Parliament next week, with MPs debating on them. The proposals are expected to be approved next month.