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SAF must raise game to battle new threats: Ng

SINGAPORE — Small states such as Singapore must never take peace for granted, especially in the face of new security threats such as cyberthreats and the growing use of disinformation in “hybrid warfare”, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate yesterday.

SAF must raise game to battle new threats: Ng

The cost of the National Day Parade this year will be about S$40 million, or double the usual amount. TODAY File Photo

SINGAPORE — Small states such as Singapore must never take peace for granted, especially in the face of new security threats such as cyberthreats and the growing use of disinformation in “hybrid warfare”, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate yesterday.

While hybrid warfare — involving unconventional methods by state and non-state actors — “is as old as war itself”, Dr Ng said the amplification of disinformation due to social media is new, citing the example of Russia’s recent’s annexation of Crimea, where subversion and subterfuge were conducted not only in person, but also through disinformation on social media.

Such methods are the “exact antagonist” of Singapore’s Total Defence strategy. “Hybrid warfare is an orchestrated campaign to fracture the solidarity of the target nation through undermining its defences in civil, economic, social, psychological and military spheres,” Dr Ng said.

The Islamic State — well known for its outreach on social media — has also employed such methods, and such examples have added urgency to many countries in studying their defences against hybrid warfare from their adversaries, said Dr Ng.

“No country, including Singapore, is immune to this disinformation war. And the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) will have to raise capabilities to detect and counteract such threats in the cyber and info domains,” he said.

“New units for cyberdefence are being raised. Better capabilities using infocomm technology, robotics and artificial intelligence are in the pipeline for testing and integration into existing systems.”

The unrest in Ukraine holds other lessons for Singapore, Dr Ng said. Several European countries had reduced defence spending or even scrapped military conscription following the end of the Cold War. These include the small Baltic state of Lithuania, which is now “frantically trying to raise an army” following the unrest in Ukraine.

“Singapore, like the Baltic states, is a small country ... we do well to heed the cautionary tales from their experiences. Never take our peace for granted. It can only be purchased through the collective commitment of our NSmen and all Singaporeans. Never weaken the strong defence that we have built up over the years through neglect and complacency. The time to build up a strong defence is during peace,” he said.

He added: “A strong deterrence is Singapore’s best defence … When danger is upon you, as it is precipitously for the Baltic states, it will be too little, too late to build up a defence.”

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