Permanent Secretary (Defence Development),
Chief of Defence Force,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good afternoon.
I am delighted to be with you this afternoon to celebrate your achievements and contributions to the PRIDE movement. I am also pleased to congratulate our six winners of the Minister for Defence Awards, as well as the other PRIDE day award winners - of which there are almost 200.
The PRIDE movement in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), Singapore and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has been a proud tradition for the past 34 years, where prize winners have charted new ground in organisational excellence. As we saw from the video, this past year has been another productive and innovative one for all of us. This year's campaign generated a total savings of more than $141M, and signals MINDEF/SAF's commitment to prudence and resource optimisation at all levels of our organisation.
This ethos of continually innovating to find the best ways to achieve our mission is one that is deeply embedded in our organisation. I've experienced it first hand over my many years in the Navy and I see it continuing and being stronger than ever before. Since the inception of the SAF, we have leveraged technology and have found new solutions to old problems. We have transformed our defence, integrated platforms and created a system-of-systems approach to warfighting. Looking ahead, as the SAF of the future will be even leaner, we must make technology work harder for us, so as to maximise every soldier's potential in operations and relieve as much as possible the exposure of our personnel to dangerous, or even laborious and mundane tasks.
Indeed, this innovative spirit is an integral part of MINDEF/SAF's culture of continuous improvement. This year's prize winners for PRIDE day continue to break new ground and set new standards, with many of our innovations adopted by other advanced militaries and defence companies. One of our winners, Naval Logistics Command (NALCOM), developed an in-house gun performance analysis tool for the 76mm Super Rapid Gun, which is used on the Republic of Singapore Navy's warships. The new performance analysis tool is made from commonly-found civil engineering equipment, and it simplifies an otherwise laborious and resource-intensive testing process. This innovation was so successful that Italian defence company Oto Melara that manufactures this gun, adopted it readily and even requested that the team give a presentation at an international NATO conference - which our team did earlier this year.
Some of our projects reap economies of scale for the security sector, by consolidating similar demands across security agencies to get a bigger bang for our buck. For instance, Headquarters Army Medical Services worked closely with DSTA to merge the SAF's requirements for Emergency Ambulance Services with that of the Singapore Civil Defence Force. The joint tender that resulted is estimated to achieve cash savings of almost $10M each year, and it helped in optimising the deployment of scarce paramedic resources at the national level.
Behind these projects are of course the men and women who had the gumption to find a better solution to existing problems, and the imagination to create new possibilities in the way we do things. People like ME3 Lim Zhi Cheng from the 1st Army Maintenance Base have won numerous PRIDE awards and made significant innovations in improving maintenance and engineering processes. One of the projects that ME3 Lim was involved in was the invention of an electrical diagnostic tool that helps to quickly ascertain the cause of failure for the fuel system of the Bionix II Infantry Fighting Vehicle without having to go through a series of labour-intensive tests to assess the source of fault. The invention has cut down the time required to determine the source of damage from up to 10 hours to under 30 minutes! I am proud to note that ME3 Lim has also been recognised nationally, as a winner of the 2014 Public Service 21 Excellence through Continuous Enterprise and Learning (PS21 ExCEL) Innovation Champion Gold Award - which is the highest honour among the PS21 ExCEL awards.
I am proud to hear of examples like ME3 Lim because organisations, no matter how well designed, are only as good as the people who serve in them. In order to strengthen our positive culture of innovation, we must continue to encourage experimentation and collaboration within the larger defence ecosystem, to co-create solutions with partners and stakeholders. It is through such efforts that new standards for operations have been set and resources optimised. If we can continue this spirit of innovation to find new ways to do things better, then I think we will move on.
In fact, in April this year, we established a committee to chart the way forward to realise our vision of Smart Defence. Our vision of Smart Defence is to apply new technologies so that we as an organisation work smarter, and our people's work lives are improved as a result. Within the SAF, data mining and analytics, coupled with predictive engines, can offer us sustained sense-making and intelligence to detect security threats to Singapore. We will also apply new applications to streamline corporate services and raise the productivity of administrative and corporate functions. At the individual level, work life in MINDEF/SAF can be made better and much improved through smart technologies. All these are in line with the national vision for Singapore to be a Smart Nation. Let me share some of the ideas from the committee that we have established.
First, we will apply technology to enhance connectivity across various camps and offices. The committee is exploring the use of biometrics to allow for seamless entry into our various camps and premises. For employees, this would also alleviate the need for multiple access cards for entry into different camps. At the organisational level, this allows us to streamline various access systems into a single one, strengthening overall camp security. In fact, starting next year, we will be trialling driverless transporters to provide shuttle services from MINDEF/SAF camps and offices to public transport points just outside, so that even getting to the office, let alone getting into the office will be less of a hassle.
Second, over the next five to ten years, we will apply technology to enhance the NS experience, starting from enlistment at the Central Manpower Base. Trials permitting, self-service kiosks will enable a larger number of visitors to be attended to quickly for straightforward queries and issues, while our helpdesk personnel deal with more complicated cases. Integrated queue systems will also keep visitors updated on their expected wait times.
Third, we are exploring smart solutions to allow our servicemen to bring in and use their camera-equipped devices and smart phones in camp. I know this is going to be very welcomed by all of us specially our NSmen. As you know, we restrict the use of camera-equipped devices in sensitive areas designated as Red Zones in camps because of security reasons and I think only in Singapore are phones without cameras sold in such large quantities. This I know is not going to be good news for the equipment providers but welcomed by all of us. I know that this inconveniences our servicemen and especially our NSmen when they come for In-Camp Training. At this stage, we are still testing a number of ideas to make it easier for our servicemen to bring in their phones in without compromising security, so I won't say much more about it, but I am hopeful that over the next few years, we will be able to roll out some prototype solutions to deal with this problem which has plagued us over many years.
These are a few of the ideas from the smart initiatives that we hope to implement for MINDEF and the SAF in time to come. We will start test-bedding these projects with selected departments and camps, to better understand each of their potential and limitations, gather feedback and more importantly, ensure that the eventual solutions that we adopt are reliable and robust, prior to the full-scale roll-out and deployment.
But underlying all these is the message that we must, even as we move forward, continue to innovate. Today, we stand at the next bound of innovation. Creativity, imagination and innovation will be necessary ingredients in shaping the collective future of our defence. It will involve experimentation, we will encounter some failures, and I hope that we will learn quickly from these failures and setbacks to come up with better solutions. But most of all, this future that we envisage will involve personal perseverance and courage to try new things, and at the organisation's level, wholehearted support for this experimentation. So I challenge all of you here, commanders and the men and women of MINDEF and the SAF, to help achieve this vision of Smart Defence and to spur ourselves to greater achievements in the years to come. And with that, let me wish all of us here and all our colleagues another productive and innovative year ahead.