Tuesday 2 July 2013

New SAF cyber unit to fight online threats: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's SAF Day 2013 interview

First of its kind in S-E Asia, it allows SAF to boost surveillance, networks
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2013

AMID the growing threat of online attacks by spies and hackers, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is bringing together its cyber security experts under a new command.

Called the Cyber Defence Operations Hub, it is the first of its kind in South-east Asia, with Indonesia still working to create its own cyber defence force.

The newly formed unit allows SAF to monitor cyber threats around the clock and beef up its networks against virtual attacks.

These computer networks support SAF's surveillance equipment, weapons, engineering and logistics systems.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who announced this in an interview ahead of SAF Day today, said such attacks are "increasing in frequency, potency and can create great damage".

On the new command, Dr Ng said: "It allows us to have command and control structures, because when you want to respond, who responds? What is the response plan? It may cut across agencies. It may cut across different forces, different services."

Previously, cyber security experts worked independently within the army, navy and air force.

The new unit will also partner Singapore Infocomm Technology Security Authority to track cyber trends.

Countries such as the United States, China and South Korea already have cyber commands, and details on Singapore's set-up will be announced at a later date.

The Republic's move coincides with mounting tensions between the US and China over claims that the Chinese had been involved in cyber espionage.

Last year, in the largest reported attack on Singapore government websites, hackers broke into at least 17 sites linked to the People's Association.

In his wide-ranging annual interview with the media, Dr Ng said SAF is now a "force with bite" since its birth in 1967.

But he also reiterated Singapore's roles in defence diplomacy - that the Republic will continue to "make friends" in Asean and with countries like the US and China. This is because Singapore is a small country that "depends on the external environment".

By building ties through multi-lateral groupings like the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), Singapore can "shape an environment that is as benign as possible" in which both big powers and small countries can have a say, he said.

On national service, Dr Ng stressed that SAF cannot be strong without it.

While a committee is looking into better rewarding the efforts and commitment of national servicemen, he said such rewards cannot dilute NS values of "duty, honour and country".

Citing comments from former servicemen, Dr Ng said SAF has become "unrecognisable" compared to when it was founded 46 years ago.

"Some shake their heads in astonishment... that a small country with limited population is able to achieve this today. It tells us what we can achieve when we put our minds to it and continue to steadily invest in defence."

The Defence Minister on...


We are not such a big country like Australia, the United Kingdom or United States that needs that kind of White Paper... Neither does it mean that we don't share what our defence concerns are, and we do this every year in the Budget.

But Singapore is so small... Whatever we buy, people can see; whatever we train (with), people will know; how we train, people know.


We are in no acute need of the F-35s. It's a long-term programme. So let's take our time to evaluate everything... No pressures for the SAF to decide soon.


Despite our falling fertility, we still have enough able-bodied NSmen to generate a sizeable SAF force for years to come. We are still able to mount a force for the foreseeable future because of this strong commitment to NS.

More NSFs may get to become commanders
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2013

THE Defence Ministry is exploring the idea of allowing more national servicemen to become commanders, in order to better match their aspirations.

This may include expanding the proportion of officers and will depend on whether the Singapore Armed Forces' command structure requires it, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

In his SAF Day interview, he noted that a high proportion of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) who were polled said they wanted to become officers and specialists. Dr Ng said this reflects their strong commitment.

Currently, about 30 per cent of national service enlistees enter command and leadership positions.

The idea of having more commanders emerged from an ongoing series of focus group discussions on how to strengthen the support and commitment for NS, said Dr Ng.

The aim of the discussions was for the Committee to Strengthen National Service to gather views on how to better recognise those who have fulfilled their NS obligations.

Dr Ng, who chairs the committee, visited one of the sessions last Saturday. He said bigger themes that emerged included matching a serviceman's skills to his military vocation, allowing those who are not NS-liable to volunteer and offering more benefits and recognition to NSmen.

The committee will "crystallise" the themes before coming up with policy proposals within a year. But efforts to reward NSmen for their contributions cannot dilute the values of NS, he insisted. The NS rite of passage cannot be seen as a transaction in which "I will only serve if you show me benefits".

Dr Ng added: "Then I think our NS system cannot hold because there can never be enough benefits sometimes for someone who has sacrificed his health or his life."

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