Evidently, having a standing military force with the navy and airforce mostly comprising of professionals while the army continues to conscript its male citizens is not "free". It is a very expensive proposition because in 2008/09 Mindef asked for $10.6 billion for its budget. In 2009/10 they are asking for $11.45 b. This is no small change.
Jane's mentions that Malaysia spent US 4.5 b (taking 1.5 exchange rate is about SGD 6.75 b) but don't forget Malaysia includes Peninsular Malaysia (i.e. north of Singapore) and Sabah, Sarawak. The territories are wide and they have borders with Thailand to patrol as well as a long coastline that includes the Straits of Malacca.
Indonesia budgeted about US 3.9b (SGD 5.85b) for FY 2008 for defence and it is a country of thousands of islands an a population of close to 237 million people.
We are spending almost what both Indonesia and Malaysia spends combined and they have larger territory sovereignty to defend. In addition, they have hotspots to patrol. Malaysia's border with Southern Thailand is not exactly the most peaceful place in the Peninsula. Indonesia still has its far flung provinces of Papua and Irian Jaya to defend after Timor Leste gained independence.
I am not against scrapping our defence forces. The world is a dangerous place. Whilst diplomacy and friendly ties is the order of the day, the ability to defend yourself against potential aggressors and in today's world of Jemiah Islamiah and terrorism, defence is needed.
The question is HOW MUCH of defence then is needed and HOW should this defence be deployed using TAXPAYERS MONIES.
I am for a change in the system of defence. I see conscription as an anarchronism in today's age. It is not working effectively and efficiently to deliver a robust defence posture for the amount of resources we pour in.
Mindef has professionalised the RSAF (airforce) and the RSN (Navy). Is it such a logical leap to ask if the army can be similarly professionalised with mostly volunteer regulars instead of conscript cannon fodder?
So for the $11.45b we are going to spend even if under the guise of pump priming the economy. How much of that goes to full-time NSFs who get a miserly allowance of $600ish for risking their lives unvoluntarily to the State? Even reservists who get retrenched would only get some rank pay if they are called back for in-camp training and not their previous pay since the SAF reimburses EMPLOYERS and if you're unemployed, tough luck. Maybe ICT gives you free room and board for three weeks but not much in terms of wages.
I seriously question the wisdom of flinging our hard-earned tax dollars down the bureaucracy that is Mindef. What next big weapons systems is in Mindef's radar? More UAVs? More submarines? More Self-propelled artillery systems? More Multiple Launch Rocket systems? Hey, why not throw in a WHITE HORSE alert system that scans soldiers' 11B coded with RFID so that Commanders and Officers know who they are and AVOID giving them prefential treatment?
There is too much wastage in Mindef.