Mindef to review 'outdated' PES medical classification system

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) National Servicemen, soldiers (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) National Servicemen, soldiers (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will use an updated medical classification system to better match the vocations and deployment of National Servicemen, said Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How on Monday (1 March).

"The new system will take also take into account their civilian jobs and skillsets," said Dr Ng in his speech at the Defence Ministry's Committee of Supply debate.

Currently, the SAF uses the Physical Employment Standards (PES) classification system, which correspondingly assigns NSFs and NSmen to combat and non-combat roles.

An NS review committee was set up under the Chief of Army and the defence ministry's Deputy Secretary for Administration last year. Dr Ng on Monday said the committee found that with more jobs redesigned or using new technology, more servicemen will be able to contribute in areas which they were previously not eligible.

"For example, being deployed for maritime security and protection of installations, through the use of unmanned surface vessels and unmanned watch towers," he said.

"More fundamentally, the NS Review Committee has highlighted that the old binary classification of Combat-Fit or Non-Combat-Fit makes little sense when applied to roles such as unmanned vessel operators. This old system is outdated and retrogressive for many roles in the Next Gen SAF," he added.

Meanwhile, Heng said in his speech that medical exclusions that used to limit deployments may not longer be relevant in today's operational context or with the latest technology.

"The key idea is to deploy every soldier in a meaningful operational role, without compromising safety or operational effectiveness," he added.

Heng also said that the SAF has introduced functional assessments to select transport operators. The assessment replicates the physical demands required for daily operations. If the trial is successful, it will be extended to other vocations like tank operators, he added.

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