Dynamic SAF needed to tackle evolving threats

For the past 50 years, our armed forces, which were built up from scratch, have kept Singapore safe and acted as an effective deterrent against any hostile forces.

Our founding fathers, including the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singapore's first defence minister, showed foresight in implementing national service to ensure the total commitment of our citizens in defending the nation.

Moving forward, the Ministry of Defence recently announced the implementation of new incentives for national servicemen that include insurance coverage and indication by pre-enlistees of vocation choice ("All national servicemen to get free insurance", June 22; and "NS pre-enlistees will get to indicate vocation choice", last Friday).

However, for the latter, care should be taken to ensure that there are more than sufficient numbers for combat units.

Our military and police forces must always be robust enough to handle any eventuality.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has an added responsibility.

Besides being prepared for conventional warfare, it is now also trained for unconventional (anti-terrorist) operations.

To this end, the introduction of the Army Deployment Force is timely, in the face of heightened terrorist threats in the region ("SAF to fight terror with rapid response"; last Friday).

Our navy and air force also play vital roles, with the former keeping our ports and shipping lanes safe from saboteurs and incursions, and the latter acting as an active defence deterrent force against hostile intentions.

The SAF plays an important role in the security of the region. It has been acknowledged as a "principled security partner" by United States Defence Secretary Ashton Carter ("S'pore a capable, principled security partner: Carter"; June 4), and has declared its keenness to support joint patrols with Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia in the Sulu Sea against militants ("Keen on joint patrols"; last Friday).

The importance of developing a high-tech defence force is pertinent, in view of Singapore's low birth rate and rapidly ageing population.

All the more, we need to support an increased defence spending for sophisticated army equipment and hardware, and modern ships and aircraft.

In being prepared for eventualities, Sun Tzu's adage about knowing oneself and knowing the enemy is still pertinent.

As the SAF crosses into its next 50 years, we must never forget the service of past NSmen and retired regular servicemen and women, as well as the veterans who served during the hostilities of 1963-1966 and defended the nation.

They have the people's sincere gratitude.

Adrian Villanueva

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Dynamic SAF needed to tackle evolving threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe