The 5 Pillars of Total Defence

Total Defence is a framework for an all-round response to threats and challenges and involves all Singaporeans in the following five aspects:

Military Defence

"Keeping Singapore secure"

We need a strong Military Defence to defend ourselves when attacked or to deter foreign intervention and prevent ourselves from being attacked. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is a conscript armed force, depending on not only its Regulars but also the commitment of its National Servicemen with the support of their families and employers. To remain operationally ready, our servicemen keep fit, train seriously and keep abreast of the latest military doctrines and equipment. 

How can you put Military Defence into action?

  • Our soldiers, sailors and airmen do so by keeping fit, taking their training seriously, and staying operationally ready.
  • By being supportive of those who are doing their National Service or in-camp training (ICT), the public can encourage our National Servicemen and boost their morale.
  • Women can also contribute directly to Military Defence by joining the SAF, or serving with the SAF Volunteer Corps.


Civil Defence

"Taking care of our family, friends, and people around us in times of crisis"

During times of crisis or disaster, resources will be strained and we will need everyone to pitch in. If we know what to do, we can save ourselves and our loved ones, help others and ensure that life goes on as normally as possible. Learning what to do in an emergency before it happens - such as taking part in emergency exercises and attending first-aid and emergency preparedness programmes that the Singapore Civil Defence Force conducts - helps us respond more effectively in times of crisis.

The threat of global terrorism is real and security personnel cannot be everywhere all the time. Singaporeans can do our part to keep Singapore well protected by helping to look out for and reporting anything suspicious.

How can you put Civil Defence into action?

  • Read up on what to do in an emergency, and participate actively in Civil Defence exercises, be it water/food rationing or community emergency preparedness exercises.
  • Pick up life-saving skills such as first aid, CPR, AED, or fire-fighting.
  • By being vigilant and looking out for suspicious persons or activities.

Economic Defence

"Having a strong and resilient economy"

Economic Defence is about building up a strong and robust economy that can sustain Singapore through economic challenges and national emergencies. It means that the government, employers and trade unions work together during peacetime to ensure that we have good infrastructure and our economy is competitive. Individuals also play a part by retraining and upgrading, and by keeping up with new technologies and new ways of doing things. When we do this, we help ourselves remain employable as the economy changes. Saving up for a rainy day and adopting environment-friendly practices are also ways to protect ourselves and our future generations.

To prepare for national emergencies, the government and businesses work together to put in place contingency measures to keep offices and factories running even after National Servicemen and equipment have been mobilised, and to maintain national stockpiles of essential items to keep the economy going. We are also taking steps to enhance our country's defences against cyber-attacks so that our critical infrastructure and data remain secure.

How do you put Economic Defence into action?

  • Embrace lifelong learning and continual skills upgrading to adapt to the changing needs of the economy.
  • Save, invest wisely, and spend within your means. Be prepared to ride through times of economic uncertainty.
  • Conserve energy and water, and adopt environmentally-friendly practices.
  • Adopt good cyber-security practices like securing our internet-connected devices and networks.

Social Defence

"Living harmoniously and looking out for one another"

Singapore enjoys social and economic stability because people of all races and religions live together harmoniously. We know what could happen if we allow extremist ideologies and racial prejudice and discrimination to endanger social cohesion and harmony. We befriend, accept and help people of different ethnicities. 

We show consideration for one another, respecting and being sensitive to the needs and religious and cultural practices of others. We have meals together and invite friends to join in our festivities. Through such small efforts in our daily lives, we are able to better understand and appreciate the heritage, culture and practices of our fellow countrymen and strengthen our bonds as Singaporeans. We also contribute towards a gracious and compassionate society when we help the less fortunate and underprivileged among us.

How do you put Social Defence into action?

  • By being sensitive and respectful of other races in Singapore, and learning more about their traditions, cultures, religions, and heritage.
  • By befriending fellow citizens from other communities, and building strong bonds with them over common Singaporean experiences.
  • Show greater consideration and understanding to new citizens, helping them understand our way of life, and sharing with them different practices of different groups here.
  • Looking out for and helping the less fortunate and underprivileged among us.

Psychological Defence

"Being a resilient people"

While being prepared is the key to Total Defence, it is always the fighting spirit, the will, the resilience of Singaporeans that determines whether or not our nation will overcome a crisis. When each Singaporean is resolved and determined to overcome any crisis together, proud of our country and willing to stand up to defend what is ours, we can be assured of a secure future, regardless of the challenge. 

How do you put Psychological Defence into action?

  • By being proud to be Singaporean and prepared to stand up to defend Singapore in times of crises.
  • By developing resilience and the strength to return to our normal activities as soon as possible after a crisis hits.
  • By understanding our history and the principles that helped Singapore succeed, and having a strong resolve to stay united and keep Singapore strong and special.

Putting it all together

Total Defence has seen us through SARS, the fall-out from the 9/11 attacks and the economic crises of 1997 and 2008, and the haze in recent years. It has become a fundamental aspect of what makes us Singaporean and is shown in the things that we do on a daily basis – whether it is by fulfilling National Service duties, volunteering in Civil Defence activities, working hard and contributing to a strong economy, strengthening community ties with one another regardless of race and religion, or staying committed to defending the country. 

Our work in Total Defence is unceasing. When we understand our part in Total Defence, we will continue to strengthen ourselves, our community and our nation. 


Last updated on 06 Feb 2016