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Singapore Budget 2014: NS could be shortened by a few week, says Dr Ng Eng Hen

Full-time National Service (NS) specialist cadets from Lima Company, Specialist Cadet School, sharing lessons before a training exercise near Pasir Laba Camp, on July 1, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Full-time National Service (NS) specialist cadets from Lima Company, Specialist Cadet School, sharing lessons before a training exercise near Pasir Laba Camp, on July 1, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

National Service stints may be shortened by a few weeks, thanks to the Singapore Army's plan to hire as many as 1,100 more career soldiers to better train full-time national servicemen.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Thursday that having more experienced professional career soldiers in units and training schools to teach the fledgling soldiers will make NS training more effective and efficient. Having more seasoned hands will also result in "greater impact on training outcomes, inculcating discipline and transmitting values", he said in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget.

Even with the potential time savings, Dr Ng cautioned that his ministry "makes no promises" as the army will study the details to ensure that Singapore can continue to generate operationally ready units.

Dr Ng added that the ramped-up recruitment will not cut the number of in-camp trainings that Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) have to fulfill. Currently, they are called up annually for 10 years.

"We will need the 10 ICTs and those in Mindef reserves to maintain the strength in our standing force, which will meet our defence needs, even with falling birth rates, until 2040."

He said that the move to hire full-time trainers will also smoothen the NSF trainers' transition in adapting to the training environment in units and training schools.

Today, only one in six trainers in the Basic Military Training Centre are career soldiers. The new recruitment drive will increase the proportion to one in three.