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     700,000 serving and ex-NSmen may get 40th NS anniversary bonus

Continued from FrontPage of Article

Statement by Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen at the RECORD IV Press Conference


The Fourth Committee to Recognise the Contribution of Operationally Ready NSmen in the SAF, Police and SCDF to Total Defence (RECORD IV) was convened in September last year. On behalf of my committee members who are with me on this panel, we are pleased to announce that we have completed our work and the report has been presented to the Minister for Defence. In reply, the Government will study the recommendations and give its response during the budget debate.


Before I start discussing the recommendations, let me recap why RECORD was set up. NS was introduced 38 years ago in 1967 but all of us know and realise the need for NS going forward remains as critical as ever. As a small nation with limited resources, we are completely dependent on National Service (NS) to maintain our defence capability, we cannot raise a professional army, for example. Our NSmen play a critical role in safeguarding the security of Singapore and ensuring a stable environment that is conducive for economic growth and businesses to flourish. We recognise, for every NSman, there comes a cost, opportunity cost and sacrifice, and for this reason, the Government set up in 1990 RECORD to work out ideas that would help us further recognise and appreciate the contribution of our NSmen to the defence of Singapore.

The recent debate on NS defaulters was useful. It reaffirmed the acceptance by our population that every eligible male is expected to fulfil his commitment to NS. On this, there was no debate. There was consensus, complete consensus. As a conscript army, this principle of equity of responsibility for all to serve is essential in upholding a strong SAF, SCDF and Police. But let me remind Singaporeans and ourselves that NS is an investment ¨C we serve to protect our present and secure the future for our children; to preserve our way of life and the independence to choose and shape our future. We are also reminded that NS also requires sacrifice in this debate. For all it means either delaying further studies or employment opportunities. For a small number who need to train under extreme and realistic conditions and to be exposed to harm¡¯s way, for example when you train under our special forces, when the button is pressed, it may even mean injury or the loss of life.

Our recommendations, and the committee wants to carefully underscore this, should not be seen as commensurate with the investment or sacrifice made by NS men ¨C they are not meant to be tallied from one to the other because it demeans the exercise. Rather, it is a tangible expression, a simple way of saying that we appreciate the role of every NS men in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Key Considerations

In its discussions, the Committee bore in mind a few key considerations. One was the need to maintain or increase the commitment to Total Defence. Another was the transformation to the 3G SAF, and the new threats for the SCDF and SPF, counter-terrorism for example. And thirdly, we recognise the day-to-day aspects. In other words, the changing profile of the NSmen and the work they do. I will now elaborate on each of these key considerations.

Total Defence is critical

With new and emerging security threats such as transnational terrorism, Total Defence remains a national priority and is of increasing importance. The London Bomb blasts reminded us that ultimately it is the people who will decide if the war against terrorism will be won. Because your security forces can respond, the Police can come in, the SCDF can come in, the SAF can pour in troops to maintain law and order, but if the people are cowed, the people are fractured when a bomb blast occurs from terrorists, then we have lost much. Ultimately, it is the people that decide whether we are going to win this war. There is therefore a great need to ensure that all Singaporeans remain committed to and supportive of NS. And when we engaged our stakeholders, and any of the members of RECORD will tell you, whether it was employers or spouses, there was this emerging need to say that we want to know more, because we want to participate in Total Defence. So we felt it was important to step up our engagement with family members and employers, to help them better appreciate the importance of NS, their roles in safeguarding Singapore¡¯s security and stability, and our capabilities.

Third Generation SAF (3G SAF)

The SAF¡¯s transformation to a third generation fighting force cannot succeed without National Service (NS) key command and staff appointment holders playing their part. They are critical players, because you need the commanders to shape the right values and transit to a more potent 3G SAF. Similarly KAH¡¯s roles and responsibilities within the Police and SCDF have been stepped up in response to counter-terrorism threats. Your terrain is more complex as many of us saw at Exercise Northstar. You have to know how to manage crowds, manage chemical and biological, even radiological and explosive threats. These Key Appointment Holders are responsible for maintaining the training level and operational readiness state of their units, and building a climate that fosters ideas, commitment and camaraderie as we change and respond to these new threats. Their sacrifice and dedication to NS should be given due recognition.

Changing Profile of NSmen

RECORD IV also discussed how the profile of NSmen is changing. NSmen are better educated and they now travel more often for both work and leisure. The committee is mindful of the competing demands on the time of our NSmen and therefore looked at measures to assist them in balancing their work and family commitments and their NS obligations.

Consultation with Stakeholders

How did the committee do its work? You can ask individual experiences ¨C I purposely stayed away from some consultative forums so that it would give more free play. Members themselves chaired sessions with NSmen, their spouses. Some of the press were with us when we engaged employers and we visited commanders. Everyone was very lively and had a say on NS and it was quite useful as you can tell. They gave us many suggestions, some of which we have incorporated. For example, the additional SAFRA clubhouse in the west and greater involvement by families in Total Defence. RECORD member Lim Mei Mei in the first meeting said, and I am paraphrasing her, wives should not just have the role of seeing their husbands off when they go to do their In-Camp Training. Spouses should have a greater exposure to what actually goes on. A similar refrain was heard from the employers. Let me now just highlight some of the key recommendations.

RECORD IV Recommendations

Let me start with some of the financial recommendations.

To tie in with the upcoming 40th anniversary of NS in 2007, RECORD IV has recommended a 40th National Service anniversary Bonus in the next surplus sharing exercise. Our security capabilities today have been built on the dedication and sacrifice of every NS men who have served and who are serving in the SAF, Police and SCDF. The Committee therefore thought it appropriate to recognise all ex and serving NS men ¨C which means that more than 700,000 will benefit from this.

We also proposed that NS men who have completed their ORNS (Operationally Ready NS) cycles should be given a higher additional allocation than those who are still serving NS. This recognises that they have diligently completed, not only their NSF but their In-Camp Training. Secondly, RECORD IV suggests for the first time that full-time national servicemen (NSFs) should be given an allocation. In the past surplus sharing exercises, they were not included but we felt that they should be included.

But surplus-sharing exercises, as you know, are one-off events. RECORD IV felt that there was also a need to have a recurrent way to recognise those who contributed to NSmen. We therefore recommended a new ORNS Completion Award to be introduced. This is to be given upon completion of Operationally Ready NS. This is a broad-based initiative, the completion award for ORNS, and every year about 20,000 would complete ORNS, that would benefit this group.

As mentioned earlier, RECORD IV felt that we need to enhance recognition to key command and staff appointment holders who take on greater responsibility.

Currently, NSmen are eligible for a tax relief of $1,500. The KAHS, those who performed NS activities in the preceding year, are eligible for a higher tax relief of $3,000. RECORD IV recommends that NS key command and staff appointment holders be given an additional relief, on top of that, of $2,000 over and above these sums.

RECORD IV also recommends that the additional allowances, apart from tax reliefs, be given to KAHs (Key Appointment Holders). This is in the form of allowances Responsibility (NS) Allowances, over and above their service and make up pay be increased.

Enhancing Family and Employer Support for NS

We felt that because family and employers need to take an active role, we need to step up the engagement. RECORD IV recommends three ways.

One is to expand the current unit cohesion programme, we need to fund these activities more, to engage families and employers of NSmen;

Secondly, we felt that there was a need to expand the role of the Advisory Council for Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD). We felt that ACCORD needed to reach out to more stakeholders in society; not only to ACCORD members such as employers, women groups, family, even the media and other stakeholders.

RECORD IV also proposes that MINDEF develops a museum to showcase the history of NS. If you want people to be involved in Total Defence, you need to tell them the story about the past, the present contributions. This will not only serve as a tribute to the contributions of NSmen, but also as a learning institution for all Singaporeans. In recent forum pages where some people had said, beyond the penalties, we need to step up the education, we felt that this was in line as well.


From our feedback sessions, some people said that for those living in the West, there was a need for SAFRA Club to be in the West. RECORD IV agree. We propose a new SAFRA clubhouse to be built in Jurong, to better serve those living in the West. RECORD IV also felt that some of our clubhouses could do with a major make-over, that SAFRA Toa Payoh needed a major upgrading exercise instead of just doing additions and alternation, so that it can remain relevant and attractive to members.

Facilitating Transition from NS

As business environment and education landscape is changing, we want to facilitate the transition of our full-time national servicemen to further studies and employment, we felt that we needed to enhance the existing e-PREP scheme and the Certificate of Service. This is a Certificate that was given at the completion of your NSF tour.

Employers told that they actually value this certificate - if SAF says a person is excellent, employers tend to hire them more easily and give them more responsibility. We felt that in this certificate of service, for the top performers, SAF, SCDF, SPF should put their mark of recognition, so that employers can recognise this.

Enhancing Convenience for NSmen

As NSmen travel more for work and leisure, we thought we could streamline the exit control measures. This has to be done without compromising operational readiness. Some possible measures include exempting NSmen who have already completed their ORNS from having to notify MINDEF of their short overseas trips, and requiring NSFs to apply for an exit permit only for overseas trips of three months and longer. This is the understanding of increasing commitment and of their roles.


With new and emerging security threats, Total Defence remains a national priority and the contribution of our national servicemen continues to be of relevance and importance. The Government is committed to recognising the contribution of our national servicemen who ensure Singapore¡¯s peace and stability.

RECORD IV has completed its work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my committee members for their invaluable contribution to this continual effort of providing recognition for our NSmen. I am heartened on their decibel level, quite vocal and quite rightly so.

My committee will now be happy to take any questions that you may have.

Source: News Release 19 Jan 2006