With declining fertility, the number of full-time national servicemen is expected to shrink by about 30 per cent by 2030, which is why the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is leveraging on technology and more effective systems and platforms when tapping the manpower it has.
That is where the new SAF Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP) comes in. The centre, which was officially opened on Dec 1, looks at how each soldier's performance can be maximised. Headquartered in Selarang Camp in Loyang, it has four areas of focus: fitness and nutrition, improving soldier systems and equipment, building mental resilience and better injury management.
These programmes will be developed with the help of experts in five domains, including psychology, sports science and nutrition. Initially, the focus will be on the Singapore Army, which is where most full-time national servicemen serve.
Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that while the CESP approaches soldier performance broadly by recognising the equal importance of a strong mind, heart and body, it could potentially be customised to specific needs, all developed using evidence-based approaches.
He said: "While there may be general training that all personnel will go through, efficiency comes from tailored programmes. Limited training time is therefore better spent."
Mr Ho also said that it is not about developing "super soldiers", as "soldier performance is still largely dependent on individual motivation".
The larger goal of these scientific and data-driven approaches remains the safety and security of Singapore.
As Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung said at the centre's opening: "Ultimately, these developments make Singapore a safer place by allowing our army to better deploy our NS resources to deal with the complex security challenges we will face in the future."