Many would have thought that the first hint of good life in National Service (NS) came when the 2.5 years of compulsory service was reduced to 2 years. The truth is, good life started way before that; perhaps in the days that cookhouse food was outsourced to Singapore Food Industry (SFI), who happens to be responsible for snacks for events like National Day parades.

Rumours were aplenty that the reduction in the number of years to serve is due to the inbound service of sons of many affluent people – whose names shall not be mentioned here. However, Mindef attributed this to the advancement in technology, which enabled men to be more effective and efficient, resulting in the reduction of the number of years.

Now, it seems that NSF-to-be are in for a better time. There may no longer be range duties and specialists and officers may no longer have to worry about things going wrong at ranges. I am not sure if accountability of ammunition is left to the potential outsourced company, or are the soldiers still responsible for it. Imagine – no more hunting for shells, no more taking long senseless walks up and down the grounds… and no more worries of "IA! IA!"?

Oh wait! How about rifle cleaning? Hmm… =)

IN WHAT would be a first for the army, private companies could some day supervise soldiers as they practise gunning down targets at outdoor firing ranges.

Jobs such as issuing live bullets, counting scores and retrieving empty brass cartridges – duties traditionally borne by the army – may be outsourced, according to recently released documents.

While the Singapore Armed Forces has outsourced administrative tasks like cooking and cleaning, this would be the first time it has asked private companies to supervise shooting practices.

Details of the plan were contained in the ‘request for information’ issued last Monday by the agency that manages defence contracts for the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

The Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) asked companies for quotes on how much it would cost to run a 100m rifle range at Safti, next to Pasir Laba Camp on the western edge of Singapore.

The range covers 16,150 sq m, about 1.5 times the size of a soccer field, and has 54 electronic targets. It is one of 16 outdoor shooting ranges used by the SAF for small arms live-firing practices, said the DSTA.

A DSTA spokesman told The Straits Times that the agency was exploring ways to ‘enhance the operation and maintenance of the outdoor rifle ranges’.

Though a formal tender may be some months away, outsourcing of non-core jobs is something the SAF has embraced since the 1970s.

For example, a manpower crunch in the 1980s led Mindef to outsource cookhouse duties to private contractors.

Mindef has also outsourced some cleaning tasks in SAF camps to private companies, as well as maintenance work for aircraft and vehicles.

The move to outsource firing-range duties would free up SAF personnel to spend more time on combat training.

A range session for a company-sized unit of about 130 soldiers needs 22 personnel to staff positions such as supervising officer, ammunition dispenser, sentry and medical orderly, said the DSTA.

The outsourcing could also open up new business opportunities for former soldiers. In its request for information, the agency said it preferred retired or operationally ready National Servicemen for the jobs.

Article obtained from on 13th April 2008 dated 10th April 2008

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