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09 Mar 2019
Ministry of Defense
Suggestion View - 352
My suggestion to improve the effectiveness of our national defense

I posted this view in 2014 - 5 years ago. This is largely relevant today.

If it was implemented, Aloysius Pang would not have died. Maybe more people would get married and have more children. Maybe, our locals would not have to worry about losing jobs to foreign workers.
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Singapore now has 70,000 active military personnel, comprising 30,000 regulars and 40,000 conscripts serving national service for two years and 13 years of active reservists duty.

The reservists are expected to be operationally ready and are called up once a year to spend two weeks in training. They are also required to pass the physical proficiency test, failing which, they have to attend remedial training. This requirement can be taxing for most reservists who have to do a full time job and to look after a family.

I wish to propose a new approach - that will reduce the demand on the conscripts and reservists. The conscripts will be required to serve full time for 12 months only. This is sufficient for the military training for non-officers. The conscripts can be discharged after 12 months and be placed on  active reservist duty for 5 years and passive reservist duty for 8 years. 

To maintain our active personnel at 70,000, we need to recruit another 20,000 regulars, to make a total of 50,000. It is better to rely on a larger professional army than on conscripts.

I estimate that the additional cost of replacing 20,000 full time conscripts with professional soldiers to be $600 million, taking into account the difference in salary between professionals and conscripts. 

The reservists are expected to be fit and operationally ready for 5 years. After 5 years, they are placed on passive duty and will not be called up for reservists training or to pass the physical test. By that time, they are likely to settle down to start a family. If they are relieved of active reservist duty, they can carry on their work and family life without being interrupted by call ups.

This will provide a pool of 100,000 active reservists that are operationally ready at all times. This number, together with 70,000 active personnel, should be sufficient for our defense capability. During times of war or hostility, the other reservists can be called up and put under refresher courses and remedial training. As they have gone through military training. 

If the reservists are placed on another 8 years of passive reservist duty, it will provide another 160,000 personnel that can be called up for refresher and remedial training. 

By releasing 160,000 personnel from active reservist training, the savings in the defense budget is estimated to be $500 million, assuming that it cost $3,000 to train a reservist for two weeks in a year. This will nearly offset the $600 million required to replace 20,000 conscripts (during their second year) by professional soldiers.  The total defense budget works out to be almost the same.

Here is the score card.

Current system - 30,000 professionals, 40,000 conscripts, 260,000 operationally ready reserves

New system - 50,000 professionals, 20,000 conscripts, 100,000 operationally ready reserves, 160,000 passive reserves.

Defense budget - about the same for both systems. The new system is likely to produce a more effective defense force, and to require less sacrifice from male citizens - as they serve 12 months of full time military service and have to be operationally ready for 5 years (instead of 13 years). 

Tan Kin Lian 



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