'New ways needed' to tackle evolving security threats

Singapore forces have to adapt to more complex environment, says Maliki

Singapore's security forces, namely the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Home Team, have to find new ways of adapting to the increasingly complex security environment, said Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman yesterday.

Countries around the world face modern threats like cyber attacks and terrorism, as the fight against terrorism moves away from the front lines in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and closer to home. This can be seen in recent attacks in major cities like Paris, France.

"In the face of such non-traditional security challenges, how relevant are the armed forces, which have traditionally been structured for full-on conventional warfare?" he asked.

In Singapore, efforts like the setting up of the Defence Cyber Organisation and the partnership of the police emergency response teams and the SAF's Special Operations Task Force are ways in which local security forces have been preparing themselves to remain relevant, he said.

"This level of interoperability would not be possible without alignment at all levels across the whole-of-Government on the salience of the terror threat and the need for concerted action," added the minister.

Dr Maliki was giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 19th Asia-Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers, or Appsmo.

This year's event, held at Village Hotel Changi starting yesterday, will gather more than 120 military officers from over 20 countries.

The conference, which is organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), aims to improve participants' knowledge of current affairs and their impact on the armed forces, as well as to provide networking opportunities for senior military officers.

Over the week-long event, participants will attend panel discussions and lectures by experts, such as East Asian Institute chairman Wang Gungwu and Professor Ralf Emmers, the associate dean of RSIS.

In a wide-ranging speech outlining the changing security environment, and the response to it from Singapore and the region, Dr Maliki said that, over the past year, there has been an increase in non-traditional security threats, such as the WannaCry and NotPetya cyber attacks in recent months.

"The barrier for such terrorist elements to access sophisticated capabilities, ranging from cyber to biological and chemical weapons, is also lower as they are easily available through the Internet or dark Web," Dr Maliki said.

"With the multi-faceted challenges that countries and the armed forces face today, your generation of leaders will need to wear many hats and view these challenges from new perspectives.

"As military leaders, your primary responsibility to defend the peace has not changed. The methods to do so, however, are evolving even as we speak," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline ''New ways needed' to tackle evolving security threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe