SINGAPORE - Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman envisions that that the next generation of national servicemen must adapt their roles and responsibilities to a changing security environment and rapidly developing technologies.
In helping them to do so, the Government will build on the current capabilities of national servicemen, he added, pointing out that they are already trained in skills such as operating unmanned aerial vehicles and using analytic tools to detect maritime threats.
He said in Parliament on Monday (Nov 6), responding to MPs who asked how NS will continue to stay relevant.
At the same time, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is developing a new unmanned ground vehicle armed with a suite of sensors to respond to security threats, said Dr Maliki.
National servicemen will also be a key part of the 2,600-strong cyber defence force over that next 10 years, and be trained for homeland security operations, he added.
He was responding to an adjournment motion on the future of national service (NS) by Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) and Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC).
Mr Nair had asked how NS would adapt to new military technologies, unconventional threats such as terrorism, and deal with such challenges as falling birthrates.
For instance, he asked if Basic Military Training (BMT), which is based on infantry training and which most recruits have to go through, 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 Pereira, meanwhile, urged the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) to "put in more effort and checks" to step up security during training, noting that there was no room for carelessness or any oversight.
"Our men and their families must have peace of mind so they can put their best into training," she said.
In response, Dr Maliki agreed saying: "We must do everything possible to prevent loss of life or bodily harm to our soldiers."
He noted also 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. The SAF will continue to regularly review and strengthen its safety systems with regular inspections and external professional advice," he said.