New Inspector-General's Office to 'scrutinise, enforce' safety in SAF
It will scrutinise and enforce safety processes and practices at all levels
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is setting up a new Inspector-General's Office (IGO) that will report directly to the Chief of Defence Force and have full authority to scrutinise and enforce safety processes and practices at all levels.
The new office is among a raft of measures undertaken by the SAF in the wake of actor Aloysius Pang's death on Jan 23, four days after the operationally ready national serviceman was hurt during a military exercise.
As part of an unprecedented move by the SAF to lower the training tempo across all services in the next few months, the army will also review whether to scale back its exercises and will redesign and even remove selected training courses.
For instance, some confidence courses from command schools will be removed.
It will also be redesigning its training to be more focused on its objectives and spread the intensity, so soldiers can prepare better and training can be conducted effectively.
Other moves include increasing the number of safety inspection teams and full-time safety officers to perform checks and audits on unit-level safety systems in the army, which will progressively lift an ongoing safety timeout from Feb 7.
The IGO was announced by Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong at a meeting with 750 commanders, comprising both active and operationally ready servicemen, at Pasir Laba Camp yesterday.
A Ministry of Defence statement said Lieutenant-General Ong called for all servicemen to adopt a "zero-accident" mindset, where they go about daily tasks with alertness and mindfulness so as to "do things right the first time, every time".
"Safety is a command responsibility. Commanders answer for the training and safety of their men. To do so, commanders have to be fully committed and personally and intimately involved in their unit's training, operations and safety," he said.
Lt-Gen Ong said he, as well as the army, air force and navy chiefs and commanders at all levels, will make more visits to SAF units to ensure training is safe.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting yesterday, Army Chief Goh Si Hou said this year's Exercise Wallaby, the largest overseas training exercise for the SAF, could be scaled back.
"We're looking at re-scoping the scale of our exercises, including our overseas exercises... so that we can really free up capacity and allow every unit to focus on their training," he added.
On Jan 24, Lt-Gen Ong announced the unprecedented move of reducing training tempo across all three services, which refers to the duration, frequency and intensity of training activities, to focus on safety.
All services have been tasked with reviewing how they would lower their training tempo after the Army lifts its safety timeout. No details were given on when the new IGO will be set up, its size and composition, or who will head it.
The army, navy and air force have their own safety inspectorates.
Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said the new IGO could reflect an acknowledgement that there are still gaps in safety that need to be closed, even if the safety regime is generally robust.
"There may have, unfortunately, been areas which were overlooked, and the Inspector-General's job is to ensure complete and absolute compliance. Ninety-nine per cent might not be good enough - 100 per cent is what is demanded now."
SAF training safety has come under the spotlight after Corporal First Class (NS) Pang's death - the fifth reported since September 2017, before which the SAF had four years of zero training- and operations-related fatalities.
A Committee of Inquiry led by a State Court-nominated judge was convened last Friday.