Panel seeks to sustain the young's NS commitment

Just because older generations may have been committed to National Service does not mean their children and grandchildren inevitably will be as well.

And it is up to Singapore to ensure that each new generation finds its own commitment to NS.

This was the message from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen after the Committee to Strengthen National Service concluded its first meeting at the Basic Military Training Centre on Pulau Tekong on Wednesday.

Acknowledging that the younger generation today has different aspirations, he said that the committee will focus on finding out how to continue and strengthen their commitment to NS.

"Commitment to NS is not something you transmit genetically. Just because you're committed doesn't mean that you can pass your commitment to your children," he said.

But he stressed that the question was not one of flagging commitment, but of how to maintain it by listening to servicemen's concerns and wishes.

This in mind, the 20-member committee made up of ministers, MPs, top military brass, NSmen and employers, will begin its work by spending the next six months holding focus group discussions and town hall sessions across the country.

It will hear views not just from national servicemen, but also from society at large, including parents, employers, new citizens and permament residents. They may also air their views on a new website (www.strengthenNS.sg) or via email at strengthenNS@starnet.gov.sg

Said Dr Ng: "This is a good time to talk about NS, because it is a different generation from the last... if we allow our younger Singaporeans to express in their words and in their own experiences what their fears are, what they wish were better, I think that we can make NS stronger."

The committee will complete its work within a year.

Aside from aiming to keep servicemen motivated and committed, it also seeks to help them balance their duty with family, career and personal needs, and bolster support for NS from the wider community.