RECORD, Recognising the Contributing of Operationally Ready NSmen To Total Defence, is an initiative rolled out by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) – with five previous committees convening in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2009 – which considers different proposals for two specific purposes (emphasis mine):
– To recommend ways to recognise the contribution of Singaporeans, especially Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen), to Total Defence; and
– To recommend ways to enhance the contribution of NSmen, their families and employers to Total Defence.
From tax relief, allowances and awards to enhancing convenience for exits, RECORD is certainly well-intentioned, and has – in its history – proposed a number of useful recommendations which were subsequently accepted by the administration. The most recent RECORD V, for example, pushed for larger increments in allowances, made In-Camp Training (ICT) slightly more flexible, as well as spearheaded plans for the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). Nevertheless, while we are cognisant of the merits of RECORD (though some could fairly posit that the 2009 recommendations were comparatively insignificant), I figured it would be meaningful to consider some of these inadequacies, and to pen corresponding enhancements.
Strengthening Feedback Mechanisms
The biggest shortcoming, in my opinion, is that the contributing members of RECORD V were hardly representative of the NSmen community, since they were mainly high-ranking bureaucrats or commanders within the service. I was surprised that rank-and-file representatives from the organisation were not consulted for their points of view on an assortment of issues or concerns. This, however, could be attributed to the lack of transparency over the committee’s adopted methodology, on how actual sentiments from units were comprehensively gathered for these “recommendations” to be made.
This unfortunate exclusivity does undermine the intentions of some key considerations; take for instance this point (emphasis mine) from RECORD V (which made me chuckle, especially if you consider the composition of the team writing these):
National Servicemen who are commanders play an increasingly critical role in fostering strong commitment and a positive NS experience. Greater recognition should be given to them in appreciation of the leadership responsibilities they have to bear.
Besides the woeful levels of inclusiveness, I reckon it is also a pity there are no similar consultative measures or parallels within the National Service Full-Time (NSF) community. These soldiers have immediate, on-the-ground experiences that would definitely render their views much more current and useful. Their insightful perspectives could complement present initiatives – such as the aforementioned RECORD mechanism and other in-unit feedback exercises – to add another dimension in discourse.
We – as servicemen – are not just here to consistently reinforce criticisms or to petulantly demand for change to be introduced without question (we are cognisant that difficulties are always present); neither do we provide recommendations for the mere sake of doing so. Instead, we want to be part of a movement that recognises that there can be improvements to the status quo, that corresponding enhancements will bring about benefits, and we want to do so in a constructive manner. MINDEF should perceive us as partners in this process, and developing established channels for these would be incredibly beneficial (here).