Next-gen NSmen must adapt to changing technology, threats

The next generation of national servicemen must adapt their roles and responsibilities to a changing security environment and rapidly developing technologies.

Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman said this in Parliament yesterday, responding to an adjournment motion by Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) on the future of national service.

"We agree... that NS roles will be further optimised through the use of technology. Going forward, more national servicemen will operate unmanned platforms, use artificial intelligence, data analytics, and robotics to act as force multipliers," he said.

He noted how national servicemen are already trained to operate new air defence weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as use data analytic tools for maritime threats.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is also developing a new unmanned ground vehicle armed with a suite of sensors to respond to security threats, he added.

National servicemen will also form a key part of the 2,600-strong cyber defence force, and be trained for homeland security operations, he said.

During his speech, Mr Nair had questioned how NS would adapt to new military technologies, unconventional threats like terrorism, and the challenge of falling birth rates.

He asked if Basic Military Training, which trains the bulk of recruits in infantry combat, is still relevant given the changing nature of warfare and security threats.

"How relevant would (the training) make a largely infantry-based army, if every few years the technology that these infantrymen have to deal with changes at a very rapid pace," he said.

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC), who also spoke during the motion, urged the Defence Ministry to "put in more effort and checks" to step up vigilance during training, noting there was no room for carelessness or oversight.

"Our men and their families must have peace of mind so they can put their best into training," she said, to which Dr Maliki replied: "We must do everything possible to prevent loss of life or bodily harm to our soldiers."

He also noted that the Government has introduced life and personal accident insurance coverage for all national servicemen.

"We owe this to the young men who give their best serving the nation and to their parents who entrust their sons to us," he said.

"The SAF will continue to regularly review and strengthen its safety systems with regular inspections and external professional advice."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Next-gen NSmen must adapt to changing technology, threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe