Chief of Navy,
Graduates of the 18th SAF Senior Military Expert Course and your families,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good evening to all and may I wish everyone a very happy new year. It gives me great pleasure to be here on this special day, as we witness the appointment of 91 Senior Military Experts of the Singapore Armed Forces.
To all the graduates today, congratulations on completing your course and achieving a momentous career milestone. Please also remember to express your appreciation to your family members and loved ones, for their steadfast support and encouragement throughout this tough journey. I encourage everyone to give them a round of applause.
While today's ceremony marks the end of your training, it symbolises a new chapter for you in the SAF, as you assume critical technical leadership roles. In 2010, the SAF made the strategic decision to set up the Military Domain Expert Scheme (MDES) to build a core group of Military Experts, so as to provide the SAF, and indeed Singapore, with the essential depth of military expertise and breadth of experience. A decade on, with a diverse and unique ecosystem of Military Experts, Officers and Warrant Officers, the SAF is in a position of strength. But we certainly cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must build on.
EVOLVING OPERATING LANDSCAPE
The security threats that confront the SAF today are multi-faceted and ever-changing. This means that our military forces must adapt and take on any challenges as the SAF continues to protect Singapore's sovereignty.
In the digital domain, there are new frontiers beyond the traditional battlefield that we need to tackle. With the proliferation of cyber weapons, malicious actors now have a borderless and asymmetric instrument to launch attacks. Being a highly networked force, it is therefore vital for MINDEF and the SAF to strengthen our systems against cyber threats. Besides cybersecurity, we also cannot ignore the plausible use of the Internet to spread disinformation and seed mistrust among our people. Given that social media has become an integral part of our society's lifestyle, we may be facing a new battlefront that is already upon us.
Beyond security threats, emerging technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning and robotics can potentially disrupt the way we live, work and play in the years to come. Our defence systems will be transformed by this constantly evolving wave of technological advances. So it is not a matter of “Should We?”, but it is a question of, “How do We?” embrace these technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
These are but just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the complex operating landscape that the SAF faces. So as we build the Next Generation SAF, how do we then prepare our Armed Forces to fight against both conventional and hybrid security threats, while reaping the best and the most out of these new and disruptive technologies? There is no easy answer because this is a never-ending cat-and-mouse game. But I know that part of the answer lies within you all – the newly minted Senior Military Experts of the SAF.
A DECADE OF MDES, AND BEYOND
Since the inception of MDES, our Military Experts have proven to be a professional and committed corps. With a range of deep expertise in domains such as engineering, intelligence, medicine and cybersecurity, our Military Experts have been pivotal in ensuring the readiness of our defence capabilities, and keeping our fighting edge sharp.. And we do not have to look far to know that we indeed have the right people in place to be prepared and ready for the future. Allow me to share some examples here.
In light of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, MINDEF introduced the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Expert (C4X) vocation under the Military Experts scheme last year. C4X personnel work alongside the Defence Cyber Expert (DCX) and Cyber Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) to strengthen MINDEF's and the SAF's cyber defence capabilities. Today, I am proud to announce that for the first time, we have with us C4X trainees graduating from this course. Among them is ME4 Chew Tee Chin, who was recruited to specialise in military cyber operations. ME4 Chew performs operational roles in areas such as network monitoring and cyber incident response in the SAF C4 Command. As pioneers of the C4X vocation, cyber “gurus” like him will form the bedrock of our digital defence and will ensure that our systems are resilient against cyber attacks.
Our Military Experts embrace the spirit of lifelong learning, and are relentless in pursuit of their dreams. In the Navy, ME4 Shaanjay Kumar returned to school after nearly ten years, to pursue a part-time degree in Mechanical Engineering, under the SAF MDES Study Award. Powered by strong support from his superiors and family, ME4 Shaanjay was able to balance work, family and study, despite being deployed for several overseas exercises on board the Landing Ship Tank. As ME4 Shaanjay assumes his first Senior Military Expert appointment in the Naval Logistics Command, he is raring to apply his engineering expertise to push operational and technological envelopes, to ensure high operational equipment readiness for our Navy.
Over the years, MDES has positioned itself to attract talented and dedicated mid-career professionals from all walks of life to join the SAF. Case in point, a career switch to the SAF was a natural choice for ME4 Lee Guanwen, who had always wanted to play a part to keep Singapore safe. Guanwen is now an Air Force Engineer in the Air Base Civil Engineering Squadron. With his previous experience in the oil and gas industry, Guanwen aspires to spark indigenous ideas in the development of the Smart Air Base, to revolutionise air power generation for the SAF. I would also like to add that one should never think of technical expertise simply as technical work, because it is what keeps our equipment sharp, ready for use, and reliable. It is what keeps our fighting edge sharp.
The SAF also taps on civilian skillsets under the Expertise Conversion Scheme, which allows NSmen with relevant expertise, such as ME4 (NS) Mohamad Zaki Khan Bin Zulkafri, to become Senior Military Experts. ME4 Zaki was selected to become one in HQ Army Medical Services, in recognition of his medical expertise as a nurse. For ME4 Zaki, the desire to serve has never waned, and he is immensely proud to be able to provide medical services to our soldiers on the battlefield.
While the SAF advances to the forefront of digitalisation and innovation to tackle new security challenges, our people certainly remain our key asset. Ten years ago, the SAF saw the need to create capacity for our people to develop deep specialisations, and that led to the birth of MDES. In closing, I would like to encourage all our graduates to reflect upon the onerous yet critical responsibility entrusted to you, and ask yourselves how you can progress the future of the Military Expert Corps as a Senior Military Expert. I have utmost confidence that you will bring the men and women under your charge to greater heights, in protection of our country.
Once again, congratulations to all the graduates, and I wish you a meaningful and fruitful career ahead. Thank you and have a pleasant evening.