A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim
COS Cut for Mindef
Since its introduction in 1967, NS had served as the backbone of the SAF, and has been instrumental in deterring potential adversaries and establishing the bedrock of peace for Singapore over the last 50 years. Potential adversaries know that when they want to attack Singapore, it is a fight against all of us.
The political atmospherics in the region have waxed and waned over the years. As we now enjoy warm and friendly relations with all our ASEAN partners, some segments of our society have questioned if NS remains relevant in this context. After all, the probability of conventional conflict is perceived to be remote.
Recognising that NS is premised on the need for national defence, can MINDEF elaborate on the role that NS plays in Singapore today and its importance given prevailing geopolitical conditions?
It remains the bedrock of a strong and credible Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) that we have today.
Since 1967, more than one million Singaporeans have invested their time, blood, sweat and tears, in faithfully performing their NS duties. Their families and their sacrifices keep our country safe and secure, and as Singaporeans, we can decide our future.
One of our greatest defence assets is that Singaporeans are strongly behind NS. Mr Cedric Foo asked about this. Support for NS cannot be one-off during NS50 but has to be sustained for the long term. Some countries in fact struggle to maintain public support for their conscription system. Dr Ng Eng Hen mentioned Lithuania. Another example is Sweden, which got rid of NS a decade ago, only to have to reinstate it as they re-evaluate their security environment.
Our key challenge today is twofold. The first challenge, which is a question by Mr Zainal Sapari and Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, is demographic – falling cohort sizes and shrinking enlistment pool. The second challenge is the evolving new unconventional security threats, such as terrorism, cyberattacks and also disinformation campaigns or fake news. Mr Amrin Amin asked about this.
So the imperative is to do more with less, to work with fewer but more capable servicemen. The future capability and effectiveness of the SAF will not be based on the quantity of people we have, instead it will be based on their quality and their ability. We will achieve this by enhancing three things. One, individual ability, two, strengthening system efficiency, and three, leveraging technology.