Civilian fitness instructors have taken over the physical training of operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) from the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) who fail their annual fitness test.
Since last September, civilians have been training NSmen in both agencies who did not make the grade in their Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).
The remedial training and IPPT preparation training programmes are conducted at the Home Team Academy and the Civil Defence Academy's National Service Training Institute.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, both the police and the SCDF confirmed the move, explaining that outsourcing less-critical jobs to civilians has allowed staff to focus on operational duties.
A Singapore Police Force (SPF) spokesman said that besides the physical fitness programme, it has also farmed out training courses such as first aid, driving and report writing to the private sector.
Outsourcing non-core functions has "helped to raise efficiency and effectiveness within SPF", he said.
Similarly, an SCDF spokesman said that outsourcing the NSmen fitness programmes has enabled it to "tap the capacity and expertise of established commercial companies, and at the same time enjoy economies of scale".
He said the SCDF has already outsourced some jobs, including the management of its warehouses.
It has farmed out part of its emergency ambulance service to private operators, and contracted out the maintenance and repair of its vehicles.
The SCDF is also considering outsourcing some disciplinary duties, such as carrying out urine tests on SCDF servicemen and keeping tabs on or arresting those who go absent without official leave.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has been handing over less-critical roles to civilians for nearly 40 years, leaving its servicemen to focus on core operational tasks.
For example, the handing over of SAF cookhouses to contractors more than 10 years ago freed up more than 750 soldiers. Outsourcing aircraft maintenance in the 1990s freed up about 1,600 air force personnel.
More recently, the SAF has outsourced the running of its firing ranges. Civilian fitness instructors are now training recruits for their Basic Military Training.
The practice of outsourcing also saves the SAF millions of dollars a year.
In 2004, then Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is now Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister, described outsourcing as a key cost-saving measure.
Outsourcing then accounted for about 10 per cent of annual defence spending, or more than $800 million, with aircraft maintenance and food catering making up the largest contracts.
Last April, a Home Affairs Ministry spokesman told The Straits Times that its outsourcing efforts "have not compromised our operational goals, service delivery standards and information integrity"
This article was first published on Jan 25, 2012.
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