In 2020, the National Service Review Committee (NSRC), chaired by the Deputy Secretary (Administration) of the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of Army, was established to strengthen the National Service (NS) system. NSRC concluded its review in 2022. The NS system has been reviewed to ensure its relevance in fulfilling the operational demands of the Next-Generation Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and meeting the needs of a new generation of national servicemen.
This fact sheet summarises the key NSRC initiatives. The NSRC's reviews are organised along three key thrusts: (1) maximising servicemen's contributions; (2) improving NS experience; and (3) enhancing recognition and support for our national servicemen.
(1) Maximising Servicemen's Contributions
Review of the NS Deployment System
(i) The SAF is leveraging technology and redesigning jobs to deploy servicemen of varying physical abilities to a wider range of operational roles in order to optimise the deployment of every national serviceman. In 2021, the SAF redesigned 1,000 jobs while another 800 jobs will be redesigned by 2023.
(ii) In parallel, the SAF has been reviewing the Medical Classification System and Physical Employment Standards (PES) System to focus on the Operational Effectiveness of each individual, instead of the binary classification of whether one is Combat-Fit or Non-Combat-Fit. Medical exclusions that used to limit deployments may no longer be relevant in today's operating context or with the use of technology. The SAF has therefore trialled the use of functional assessments to determine our servicemen's deployability in specific vocations, such as for the selection of Transport Operators in 2021. Functional assessments replicate the physical demands required for daily operations, enabling the SAF to better match servicemen's functional abilities to the role's actual demands.
(iii) From 2022, functional assessments will be implemented at pre-enlistment medical screening. Pre-enlistees with selected orthopaedic conditions and sports injuries will undergo tests to assess their functional capacity related to range of motion, stability, and strength. These assessments were developed in consultation with external specialists in the field of physiotherapy, alongside SAF physiotherapists from the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance. The pre-enlistees' functions will be examined by trained physiotherapists in the SAF and assessed against the physical demands of the job-specific training requirements. The tests will enable a more holistic assessment of our servicemen's abilities, so that the SAF can assess their deployability to a wider range of roles.
(iv) Since 2018, MINDEF/SAF has launched Work-Learn Schemes across different domains for our NSFs to upskill and maximise their contributions during NS. Under the Work-Learn Scheme, servicemen undergo training and are able to attain a MINDEF-sponsored diploma or partial university credits while serving NS.
(v) The first of such schemes was the Cyber NSF Scheme launched in 2018. As part of the NSRC efforts, MINDEF/SAF launched the Work-Study Diplomas for Army and Air Force Technicians two years later in 2020, in collaboration with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). NSFs will serve their NS while undergoing training and certification to obtain a diploma in Electronic Engineering (for Army Technicians) or Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (for Air Force Technicians). Since 2021, RSAF has also partnered Temasek Polytechnic on the Work-Study Diploma for Air Force Technicians. Around 50 servicemen are enrolled in these two schemes annually.
(vi) In 2021, MINDEF/SAF launched the Work-Study Diploma for Supply Supervisors in a collaboration with ITE. Under this scheme, selected servicemen can serve their NS while undergoing training and certification to obtain a diploma in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. NSFs who enlist from November 2021 are eligible to apply for the programme.
(vii) MINDEF/SAF will also be launching the Digital Work-Learn Scheme in 2022, to meet the SAF's operational needs in software development, cloud development and Artificial Intelligence. This will be the fifth Work-Learn Scheme launched by MINDEF/SAF since 2018. NSFs who enlist from April 2023 and are interested to pursue undergraduate studies in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Data Science and Artificial Intelligence can apply for this programme. Selected NSFs can take academic modules in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) while serving their full-time NS to earn academic credits that will contribute to the eventual completion of their degree.
(viii) More of such schemes will be progressively implemented in the coming years.
Expertise Deployment of Operationally Ready National Servicemen
(ix) Over the years, MINDEF/SAF has expanded opportunities to deploy NSmen with relevant civilian expertise to operational roles requiring such expertise. Some NSmen acquire expertise that is useful to MINDEF/SAF through their civilian education and careers, and it is a key priority for the SAF to identify these NSmen and redeploy them effectively, to maximise their contributions.
(x) The Expertise Conversion Scheme was launched in 2014. This scheme allows NS Warrant Officers, Specialists and Enlistees (WOSEs) with relevant expertise and who have completed their Operationally Ready NS (ORNS) cycle or reached Statutory Age, to convert to ME4 and take on Officer-grade expertise roles. Since then, MINDEF/SAF has expanded expertise deployment further, by allowing NS WOSEs to convert even during their ORNS cycle, as long as they have served a minimum of two High-Key In-Camp Trainings (ICTs) and five ORNS years.
(xi) In 2021, a dedicated Expertise Deployment Centre (EDC) was set up within the SAF to oversee the expansion of expertise deployment for our NSmen. Since then, more NSmen have been redeployed annually, and we have also identified new emerging areas where NSmen can be redeployed to, such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Science.
(xii) From 2022, MINDEF/SAF will allow eligible NSmen with relevant expertise to be redeployed at any point in their ORNS cycle, instead of only after they have served a minimum of two High-Key ICTs and five ORNS years. Such redeployments will be subject to the SAF's operational needs. Eligible NSmen can now also be redeployed across all levels, including into roles assumed by WOSEs, and not just into Officer roles. The existing Expertise Conversion Scheme will be re-named the Enhanced Expertise Deployment Scheme.
(xiii) This will allow MINDEF/SAF to better optimise and maximise expertise that NSmen may have picked up in their civilian lives, and allow the SAF to better meet its operational needs.
(xiv) Servicemen are encouraged to update information pertaining to their education qualifications and work experience on NS Portal, in order to fully benefit from these changes. They may register their interest for this scheme with their NS Relations Officers in their Formation/Division Headquarters or via the NS Matters website.
(2) Improving NS Experience
(i) To enable a seamless experience and better service delivery, MINDEF/SAF is leveraging data and technology to improve the NS experience and reduce administrative load for servicemen.
Automated Make-Up Pay Claims System and Base NS Pay
(ii) From the second half of 2022, Make-Up Pay (MUP) claims will be automated. NSmen and their employers will no longer need to submit claims and supporting documents for ORNS activities such as ICTs. MINDEF/SAF and MHA/Home Team (HT) will draw data from IRAS and CPF Board to automatically compute the MUP amounts they should receive. NSmen and employers will be asked to review the computed amounts before these sums are paid out. If they do not indicate any objection by a stipulated date, the computed amounts will be paid out automatically. This will greatly reduce the administrative burden placed on employers and NSmen to submit claims. NSmen or employers who do not agree with the automatically computed amounts can submit additional documents for a recalculation.
(iii) MINDEF/SAF and MHA/HT will also implement a base NS pay, to compensate NSmen whose income from informal employment and foregone training allowances may not be fully reflected in data from IRAS and CPF Board. This will be implemented alongside the automated claims system. All NSmen will receive at least $1,600 for every month of ICT they attend. For ICTs of shorter durations, corresponding pro-ration will be made. For example, the base NS pay for a typical two week ICT will be $800.
(iv) The automated computation of MUP and base NS pay will benefit over 100,000 NSmen and 25,000 employers. More details on the automated MUP claims process and base NS Pay will be announced separately.
Enhanced Health Screening Programme (HSP) and HSP Centre
(v) NSmen who are IPPT-eligible and aged 35 and above have to undergo the HSP to ensure they are in good physical health to safely participate in high-intensity activities during ICT.
(vi) Since October 2020, the HSP process has been streamlined to one session instead of two sessions previously, with the introduction of non-fasting blood tests. A specialised SAF HSP Centre was also set up in the Military Medicine Institute (MMI) at Kent Ridge in July 2021 to provide NSmen with a more convenient location to undergo HSP, and shorten appointment booking and waiting times.
(vii) Overall, these enhancements benefited approximately 11,000 NSmen annually by enhancing efficiency and service delivery for HSP. All the feedback received from servicemen during the post implementation period was positive.
NS FIT and FIT@HOME
(viii) NS FIT is a 10-session programme, launched in April 2021, in collaboration with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Sport Singapore (SportSG). NS FIT is designed to better support NSmen in incorporating fitness and exercise into their daily routines while fulfilling their annual fitness requirements. NSmen are allowed to choose their preferred NS FIT training locations, and exercise with greater convenience. Flexibility is also provided for NSmen to take part in different programmes offered at the various training locations. NSmen will have the option to participate in fitness activities and exercise programmes in the community together with their family and friends. Since April 2021, a variety of NS FIT locations and programmes have been made available at over 40 sites island-wide, up from 13 in 2020.
(ix) FIT@HOME, a virtual NS FIT programme that was introduced to complement NS FIT activities, was launched in July 2021. Held over video conferencing platform, it provides even more flexibility and convenience for NSmen to maintain active and healthy lifestyles.
(x) NS FIT and FIT@HOME have received positive feedback. NSmen have expressed appreciation towards the significant flexibility and convenience offered to them under NS FIT, and highlighted that the close proximity of the various NS FIT locations to their homes or workplaces has helped them to save travelling time and allowed for better scheduling of their routines.
NS Digital Transformation
(xi) The NSRC has also focused on digital transformation efforts to enhance the NS experience of every national servicemen.
Digital Disbursement of NS Recognition Benefits
(xii) MINDEF/SAF has collaborated with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) to disburse NS recognition benefits to our NSmen digitally. Since November 2021, NS recognition benefits like the NS Excellence Award and Celebratory Gifts have been disbursed in cash credits that can be accessed via the LifeSG mobile application. The credits can be used at any online/physical merchants accepting payment by "Scan and Pay" via PayNow UEN QR. From April 2022, the credits can also be used at merchants accepting payment via NETS QR.
(xiii) Digital disbursement creates a simple and fast redemption experience. MINDEF will progressively shift more NS recognition benefits to digital disbursement over time. This will include the new NS HOME cash component, which will be disbursed via the LifeSG mobile application from May 2022, for national servicemen who reach their NS milestones from April 2022 onwards. By mid-2022, MINDEF and MHA will disburse NS recognition benefits to 100,000 national servicemen via LifeSG every year.
(xiv) MINDEF/SAF will continue to exploit digital technologies to cater to a tech-savvy generation. More initiatives will be shared in due course and servicemen can look forward to a more personalised, seamless and convenient digital experience.
You may download the LifeSG mobile application by searching "LifeSG" in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store or via this link https://go.life.gov.sg/ADpo.
(xv) Another example of us leveraging digital transformation to improve NS experience is the OneNS platform, a one-stop platform which consolidates all NS-related digital services and transactions throughout an individual's NS journey. The OneNS platform was designed to anticipate national servicemen's needs and push relevant services to them, to provide a personalised NS experience. The first phase of the OneNS platform will be launched in the second half of 2022. NSmen will have access to enhanced call-up and deferment eServices which will be integrated with Smart ICT features through the OneNS platform. More eServices and products will be progressively enhanced and rolled out on the OneNS platform.
(3) Strengthening Recognition and Support for National Servicemen
NS Housing, Medical and Education (HOME) awards
(i) The NS HOME awards serve to recognise national servicemen for their sustained commitment to national defence. It is paid out at three milestones - at the end of full-time NS, the mid-point of ORNS, and completion of ORNS. At each milestone, servicemen are given at least $5,000, credited directly into their Post-Secondary Education or CPF-Ordinary accounts, and their CPF-Medisave accounts. Since 2014, over 300,000 national servicemen have received NS HOME award payments.
Enhanced NS HOME Awards
(ii) From 1 April 2022, national servicemen will receive an additional $2,000 in cash credits cumulatively across the three existing HOME milestones – $1,000 after completing full-time NS, and $500 each, at the mid-point and completion of the ORNS cycle. NSmen will now receive at least $6,000 in total at the end of their full-time NS, and at least $5,500 in total, at the mid-point milestone and at the completion of their ORNS milestones.
(iii) The NS HOME cash payment is intended to better recognise our national servicemen's contributions to national defence. This will be disbursed to national servicemen via the LifeSG mobile application and provides national servicemen with the flexibility to use the award to meet immediate needs. The cash credits can be used conveniently and immediately at a wide range of physical and online merchants. National servicemen may access the list of merchants where they can use their LifeSG credits at http://go.gov.sg/lifesgcredits-merchants.
Enhanced Partnerships with Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD)
(iv) Since restructuring in 2014, ACCORD has been reaching out to employers, businesses, families, community and educational institutions, to encourage ground-up initiatives in support of NS and Total Defence.