Speech by Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, at the Committee of Supply Debates 2021

Speech by Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, at the Committee of Supply Debates 2021

A Volatile Security Environment

Let me thank Members of this house for your comments, input, feedback and positive comments about the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) contributions in the fight against COVID-19. My Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) colleagues, Senior Minister of State (SMS) Heng and SMS Zaqy, and I are very thankful for your comments and I am sure our senior officials and commanders will be greatly encouraged by your positive comments. This year's Committee of Supply (COS) and Budget debates are being held in truly extraordinary circumstances. Mr Alex Yam, Ms Cheng Li Hui, Ms Joan Pereira talked about this. To wit, COVID-19, a once-in-a-century disruptive change agent, has become the defining issue of our time, with its spread to all corners of our world. Rustle through the pages of history and very few epochal events have had that kind of impact. I think World Wars I and II certainly; the advent of the steam engine, electricity, the telegraph, and the internet – but those changes evolved over decades, not precipitously. Just barely a year later and our lifestyles have been changed here and everywhere; some turned upside down. Singapore needed one Circuit Breaker, but many countries had two, three, even four or more imposed to contain this dreaded disease. Experts think that the post-COVID world will never revert to status quo ante. The new normal beckons and it is to this future for which we must prepare and position Singapore.

The phrase "never waste a good crisis" comes to mind. I will share during this COS the lessons we are learning from the pandemic and the adjustments, even new directions that MINDEF/SAF will take. Our traditional security challenges remain, and I will provide updates of those plans, but we must also deal decisively with additional threats on the horizon.

The first obvious fact is that MINDEF's budget will see double digit growth year on year – not seen since 1998. But mainly because MINDEF spent about 1.5 billion dollars less than planned in 2020 – about 10% less – due to the delay of some projects. Let me mention some big-ticket items – SAFTI City to be completed by 2024 instead of 2023; our Invincible-class submarines delivery expected in mid-2022, six months late. If the post-COVID recovery ensues, MINDEF expects its budget to stabilise and return to a growth trajectory targeted and announced in previous years – about three to four percent nominal growth each year, to keep pace with inflation over a period.

But more importantly, how does Singapore prepare for the security environment of a post-COVID world? Many of the Members of Parliament (MPs) have talked about it and asked rightly – Dr Wan Rizal, Mr Abdul Samad, Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Shawn Huang. The pandemic stress-tested the existing global system, and not all components will survive unscathed. Take the US-China strategic rivalry. It was already deteriorating before COVID-19 struck, but change of US administrations notwithstanding, the rivalry has in fact sharpened as a result of COVID-19. Instead of global cooperation, the geopolitical landscape became more fragmented. Vaccine diplomacy was one clear example. One could draw a coloured map of the world based on the vaccines they are using, whether produced in the US, Europe, Russia, China or India. This is the map MINDEF staff came up with. I think it will be too much of a stretch to say that this will be the world henceforth, but these "vaccine blocs" – blue, red or multi-coloured – are instructive about affiliations and even directions in our future.

Vaccine diplomacy, as we see it, can extend to other systemic levers too. It has already involved technology, namely 5G, semi-conductor chips, but other areas like debt financing, supply chains, purchase of arms and defence equipment, are up for grabs. It is difficult to conceive of a wholly-bifurcated world, but neither will the post-COVID world be a rainbow-coloured one hoped for, à la Globalisation 1.0.

The US-China strategic rivalry will shift the global centre of gravity to our region, and I mean this physically for defence and security. Since 9/11, now two decades old, the US and its allies have been committing resources and troops to the Middle East. This generation will witness a shift of hard assets to our regions in Asia. Previous US defence secretaries have progressively committed more assets to the Indo-Pacific area. France and Germany have followed suit. The UK has declared that it would send a carrier strike group to the South China Sea this year. The Quad – Australia, India, Japan and the US – conducted Ex Malabar, off the coast of India, for the first time in 13 years. I have previously furnished details of Asia's military spending, which surpassed Europe's a decade ago and is now 40% higher. I do not need to embellish these trends as Members of this House can readily imagine the potential consequences from the increasing militarisation in Asia, both from countries within and outside. What does it spell for Singapore? Greater uncertainty and risks.

Defence Diplomacy Efforts to Keep Singapore Secure

MINDEF's response to the heightened contestation is to remain friends with all. We continue to work with like-minded partners to forge a security architecture that is inclusive for big or small countries, and in which disputes are resolved through peaceful means. We encourage countries to dialogue, cooperate, and respect a rules-based international order. This is a motherhood statement of policy, but as Members here can well imagine, the actual implementation can be difficult and tricky. For Singapore's voice to be heard amid the cacophony, we must be useful to stronger voices, especially when tensions rise. Members would have read of our many interactions with other countries. Bilaterally, apart from strong relationships with both US and China, we are friends with many countries in areas of mutual interest. Some recent examples – with Australia, our Prime Minister signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2015. For defence, the expanded Shoalwater Bay Training Area and the Greenvale Training Area are under construction and on track to being completed by 2024 and 2028 respectively. With India, we signed agreements to enhance collaboration in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, and Submarine Rescue Support and Cooperation. We also inaugurated the Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise in 2019. Apart from the ADMM-Plus, this year, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, which remain strategically important to the regional security architecture.

All these multilateral engagements increase Singapore's mindshare. Another signature security event that achieves this is the Shangri-La Dialogue. We had to cancel it last year but this year it is on track to being held physically, barring unforeseen circumstances. These engagements are not merely good to have, but necessary to protect our interests. MINDEF/SAF will step up these efforts even as contestation increases.

MINDEF/SAF's Fight Against COVID-19

Another epiphany from this COVID-19 pandemic is that we must continue to plan long-term and, more importantly, steadily invest in emerging and novel capabilities precisely when we think we least need them. I think this was Mr Alex Yam's point. And nowhere has this wisdom been more vindicated than in MINDEF/SAF's ability to respond to COVID-19. I do not want this House to misunderstand. This is not hubris speaking, but deep gratitude for the commitment to defence spending over many years. Let me illustrate. The virus first entered Singapore at the end of January 2020. Within the same month, DSO National Laboratories (DSO) managed to get the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests up and running, fully operational. At the same time, general staff with medical input from SAF Medical Corps doctors had to ensure continuity of operations. Through the waves of infections last year, and despite on-going SAF operations apart from the brief suspension of Basic Military Training during the circuit breaker, only a small number of COVID-19 cases arose within the SAF. Ms Joan Pereira asked about this. But they were detected, contained effectively, with no clusters formed. Mass testing by DSO for SAF soldiers, practical medical advice for cohorting, and other safety measures were key weapons and confidence boosters in our fight against COVID-19.

DSO has also gone on to improve PCR and antigen testing. DSO and A*STAR's RESOLUTE 2.0 PCR kits are now commercially available, and will be used with automation to conduct about 4,000 tests a day for the whole of government. Within MINDEF/SAF, DSO and the Medical Corps validated that saliva tests that are shown to be as accurate as nasal swabs. As a result, the SAF has been using saliva tests to complement swab tests for monitoring of its soldiers since October last year. The RESOLUTE 2.0 PCR kits were also essential in dealing with the outbreaks in the migrant worker community.

Apart from PCR and antigen testing, serological testing of large numbers was needed to prevent our Community Care Facilities and Quarantine Facilities from being overwhelmed. The Medical Corps and DSO staff worked with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to validate serological tests. At its peak, the Joint Taskforce worked with MOH to test 40,000 sometimes each week. We have had other breakthroughs. In March last year, DSO bio-staff harvested convalescent plasma from our COVID-19 patients here, then isolated and identified their neutralising antibodies. These antibodies are starting clinical trials with government agencies, research institutes, and biomedical companies.

The key question is "where did this bio-defence and medical capability come from and how was it maintained?" The answers are simple: people and facilities. Over the years, we have kept up our investments to maintain 40 bio-personnel in DSO and about 250 doctors and paramedical staff in the Medical Corps. After SARS, we did not let that crisis go to waste, learnt the right lessons and built more secure bio-labs in DSO. Quietly and without fanfare, this group of men and women has stayed true to their mission. And it is not just against bio-threats; our capabilities against chemical threats have also been strengthened. Few Singaporeans know that DSO is a designated lab by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). OPCW is the leading international organisation – 193 member states – that heads investigations when toxic substances are suspected to be present. Some examples are chlorine, sulfur mustard, sarin and even Novichok. There are only 12 OPCW-designated labs around the world capable of verifying chemical agents in both environmental and biomedical samples, and DSO is one of them. The fact that DSO is designated as part of this network speaks highly of our standards and competence internationally, not to mention the resources we would have locally if ever such an episode occurred in Singapore. There is another feather in our cap. The current Laboratory Head of the OPCW – this is based in The Hague – Ms Chua Hoe Chee, is the first Singaporean to be appointed to this role. She is a long-time staff from DSO.

Members would agree with me, at least I hope you would agree with me, that those investments from our defence budget that went into building medical and scientific capabilities have paid for themselves many times over. Had we not learnt the right lessons following SARS, sarin, anthrax, and other lethal chemical and biological incidents over the years, DSO would not have had the facilities, let alone the people and expertise to produce tests and other breakthroughs, when COVID-19 invaded our shores. I thank this group of dedicated professionals in the bio-defence and medical community, in MINDEF/SAF and nationally. We owe them a great debt.

Dr Wan Rizal asked what we can learn from this. I think learning from this pandemic, MINDEF will further build up our laboratories and capabilities to deal with biological threats. As an infectious agent, COVID-19 could have been much worse. Let me explain that. For example, mumps and measles are four to nine times more infectious. For lethality, SARS and MERS cause many more severe cases and deaths. We may get a virus that is just as infectious as mumps and measles, and just as lethal as SARS and MERS. Unthinkable, but we should think about it. Can we plan on the basis that future pandemics or biological attacks will not be worse than COVID-19? Or can we "outsource" to or call another country for help when it happens? I think Members of this House would unanimously say surely not. It would be foolish to depend on others and we need to build capabilities within Singapore to protect ourselves.

Many developed countries already have labs with the highest biosafety level – we call it the Biosafety Lab Level 4 (BSL-4) – and these were built many years ago. Since 2015, countries in Asia like China, Japan and Korea have also built these BSL-4 labs. In ASEAN, there are none. Singapore has BSL-3 labs, which prior to this pandemic, were assessed as adequate protection. MINDEF will therefore invest about $90 million for DSO to work with MOH to upgrade our facilities within DSO to the highest bio-safety level, BSL-4. The BSL-4 labs will require more stringent levels of air separation and must have the ability to quickly shut down and isolate that facility, when needed.

It goes without saying that safety is paramount, and DSO will work with MOH to ensure that we will have the highest standards of protection required for BSL-4 labs. We will bring in third-party and overseas experts to advise us on the entire process – beginning from design, to construction, and thereafter to validate the systems periodically. We will maintain our record of absolute safety of our bio-labs built so far.

There is another area in which steady investments paid rich dividends – our ability to exercise command and control over complex operations. At the height of our efforts against COVID-19, we deployed over 6,000 MINDEF/SAF personnel across a wide range of operations that MPs here described in your speeches. They include the packing of five million masks in two days, stabilising the outbreak in foreign worker dormitories, helping to set up Community Care and Recovery Facilities, supporting contact tracing, and medical logistics operations. Senior SAF commanders assumed leadership of several national taskforces, reporting to the Multi-Ministry Task Force. DSTA developed command and control systems for the national COVID-19 operations. These smooth operations occurred because that is what the SAF does, day in day out. All of us here who have served our National Service (NS) and In-Camp Trainings (ICT) know this. We may grumble sometimes about these mobilisations as Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen), but it keeps the machinery warm, so that when the SAF is activated, it ramps up into the lean and mean machine it needs to be.

Even as the SAF contributed to the fight against COVID-19, it continued to maintain operations at a high level of readiness to keep Singapore safe from external threats, and Mr Alex Yam talked about this in his cut. Protection of key installations, maritime security, air defence, and counter-terrorism efforts continued around the clock.

On training which some Members have asked about, some overseas training and large-scale exercises like the Republic of Singapore Air Forces' (RSAF) Darwin detachment and multilateral naval Exercise RIMPAC have resumed, enabled by strict adherence to safe management measures, robust testing, and enhanced medical protocols. Others will take time to restart or reach pre-COVID levels. Locally, ICTs have progressively picked up, up to 80% of pre-COVID levels, I think Mr Abdul Samad asked this and I expect it to resume fully by the later half of this year. The nation-wide vaccination programme will facilitate this resumption.

There have been questions asked about the RSAF's training. Miss Sylvia Lim filed a cut and I have addressed questions in this House last year as she had pointed out, which were put forth by Mr Sitoh Yih Pin and Mr Lim Wee Kiak. I do not intend to reprise those remarks, which Members can look up in the Hansard. But I can give an update for RSAF training this year. The impact of COVID-19 was precipitous and to keep our fighter pilots current, the number of local training flights increased in 2020. Since October last year, we have brought down the number of local training flights to what they were before the pandemic – an average of 600 sorties each month. How did we do this? We had to call on the generosity and goodwill of foreign partners so that more of our pilots can train overseas. Please be reminded that they too have local populations in overseas training detachments, perhaps not as densely populated as Singapore, but communities there will have to bear with the noise generated by our planes. I want to thank the defence establishments and communities of these countries for helping us build our capabilities to defend Singapore – they are true friends. With their help, the RSAF local training this year will be brought down to pre-COVID levels.

But let me sound a gentle note of caution. We have good friends overseas, but if for any reason – whether it is a worsened COVID-19 outbreak or complaints from their local community – Singaporeans must be prepared for local training to be stepped up. The SAF will do all it can to minimise this, but Singaporeans must be willing to make some sacrifices for our own security.

SAF Transformation

Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Shawn Huang have asked for an update on the development of the Next-Gen SAF. I am happy to report that despite some delays due to COVID-19, the SAF remains on track. For the Army, Headquarters Sense & Strike was inaugurated last November. This is essentially a reorganisation of HQ Army Intelligence and HQ Singapore Artillery under 6 Division, to integrate capabilities so that the Army can "See Better" and "Shoot Faster" with less manpower.

We also inaugurated the Navy's Maritime Security and Response Flotilla, made up of refurbished patrol vessels. Four new purpose-built vessels will replace them in due course. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will also deploy Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) and complete their sea trials later this year to complement manned ships for maritime security.

For the RSAF, upgraded F-16s are expected to roll out in the coming months. The RSAF will also receive new helicopters this year – H225Ms to replace our Super Pumas and CH-47Fs to replace our older Chinooks. We remain on track to receiving four F-35 Joint Strike Fighters around 2026 and for the RSAF to start basing training in Guam from 2029 onwards.

Addressing Emerging Non-Conventional Threats

Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Shawn Huang made very incisive remarks about how we should not be distracted by COVID-19 against existing threats, and they were talking about terrorism. And they are spot on. The terrorist groups in the Middle East, particularly Al-Qaeda and ISIS, have been weakened. But paradoxically, success there can increase the threat here especially when the number of terrorists coming into our region has gone up, either returning or foreign, bringing with them networks, tactics, and expertise in violent crimes and explosives. Our concern is that the collective intelligence and surveillance capability of ASEAN is a fraction of what the US and allies have in the Middle East. This gap can cost precious lives here. To close the gap and pre-empt terror attacks, MINDEF decided to stand up a multilateral Counter-Terrorism Information Facility (CTIF). I am happy to announce to this House that the facility has been completed and has begun operations despite COVID-19. The CTIF will bring together like-minded countries to share intelligence, provide early warning, monitoring and analysis capabilities in a centralised and coordinated manner.

Mr Shawn Huang and Ms Rachel Ong asked about emerging areas, technology and the like. Let me deal with them. We are already employing artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics to enable new warfighting concepts and force multipliers for the Next-Gen SAF. MINDEF has also recently established a "Digital Factory". It allows our people, product developers, and designers to come together under one roof and collaborate on designing, testing, and scaling secure digital solutions. And as a result, we will be able to build and deploy software up to three times faster than before.

The Cloud will play a greater role in this digital future. I think no one disagrees with that. But for defence establishments, there will always be security concerns as we move to cloud-based systems. Nevertheless, after careful study, MINDEF/SAF has decided that cloud computing is a key component to enhance effectiveness and reduce our need for manpower. I think these were the points touched on by Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Patrick Tay. Security concerns will be addressed through tiering. First, a MINDEF Commercial Cloud will roll out in mid-2021 starting with administrative and maintenance functions. This will benefit Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and NSmen with better and more responsive services. Beyond this, classified information will also leverage cloud systems. This was a big decision after much study and debate. As the security standards for these areas need to be more stringent, such systems will be physically housed in MINDEF/SAF and separated from other day-to-day functions on the cloud.

Mr Henry Kwek asked about the Cyber Command. Let me give updates. I am happy to report that the Cybersecurity Task Force (CSTF) has now been stood up under the command of Chief C4I, who reports directly to the Chief of Defence Force. This has improved our ability to monitor and actively seek out potential threats and aggressors in the cyber domain. We have already announced that more NSmen will serve in the CSTF and we are working with academic institutions to raise their skills through initiatives such as the University Work-Learn Programme with NUS, and the Critical Infrastructure Security Showdown cybersecurity exercises with SUTD's iTrust Centre for Research in Cyber Security. I think this is something that Ms Rachel Ong mentioned. In addition, the SAF will hire more cyber-specialists as Regulars, mainly through the Military Domain Experts Scheme.

As our platforms in the SAF evolve to run on new technology, and as we add new roles such as cyber-specialists and drone operators, indeed more opportunities are created for our NSmen. A number of MPs have made this point and they reminded us that last year, I announced the set-up of the NS Review Committee, headed by the Chief of Army and MINDEF's Deputy Secretary for Administration. They have done good work and SMS Heng will provide an update in his speech shortly.

But let me address points asked by Mr Chong Kee Hiong, Mr Mohd Fahmi bin Aliman and Mr Shawn Huang. That with more jobs redesigned and using new technology, indeed a larger pool of servicemen will now be able to contribute in areas for which they were previously not eligible or capable. And this has less to do with our manpower constraints, but the expansion of capabilities and avenues in which they can contribute. For example, being deployed for maritime security and protection of installations, through the use of USVs and unmanned watch towers.

More fundamentally, the NS Review Committee has highlighted that the old binary classification that many of us grew up with – of Combat-Fit and Non-Combat-Fit – makes little sense when applied to roles such as unmanned vessel operators. The old system is outdated and retrogressive for many roles in the Next-Gen SAF. Moving forward, the SAF will use an updated and refreshed Medical Classification System, which together with its Physical Employment Standards (PES) system, will better match vocations and deployment of national servicemen. The new system will take into account their civilian jobs and skillsets which MPs have asked about. Of course, these changes must not compromise safety or the operational readiness of the SAF and as I have said, SMS Heng will give more details.

Improving Environmental Sustainability

Mr Seah Kian Peng, Mr Henry Kwek, Mr Don Wee asked about climate change and sustainability. I would like to touch on this last topic. I spoke about some changes by MINDEF/SAF at last year's COS. Since then, the Government has unveiled the Singapore Green Plan (SGP) 2030, a Whole-of-Nation movement to advance Singapore's national agenda on sustainable development. And rightly, MPs have asked what is MINDEF/SAF's response and involvement in SGP 2030?

I want to assure this House that MINDEF/SAF will more than do our part for SGP 2030. Let me first state why, before going into the details. The COVID vaccine was developed in the fastest time in human history, never seen before. What used to take years was accomplished in weeks with the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. But the consequences of extreme climate change are existential and cannot be mitigated, let alone solved, in weeks, months, even years.

MINDEF/SAF has gone through a thorough evaluation of our carbon and waste footprint and determined that we can meet, and in major areas exceed, the national targets set out under the SGP 2030. By 2030, MINDEF/SAF will reduce the growth of overall emissions by two-thirds compared to, using current systems. By 2050, we aim to halve the 2030 emissions in line with national strategy. Let me give details on how these specific goals will be achieved.

We will have three major green initiatives – carbon emissions, water, and waste – with key targets for the SAF to go greener. First, carbon emissions. Today, our main sources of emissions are building infrastructure and military platforms. For buildings, we aim to attain the Green Mark Platinum Super Low Energy standard for all new large and retrofitted buildings where feasible. We will also deploy more solar panels in SAF camps and bases by 2025, so that our solar adoption will be doubled from 20 to 50 mega-watt peak, equivalent to the electricity consumed by 12,500 four-room households. These changes are significant and will reduce our carbon emissions growth by about 40% by 2030.

For platforms, it is harder to reduce emissions, but we will do so, when replacements are available and cost-effective, without any loss of operational effectiveness, compromise in security or sharp rise in defence spending. Let me repeat that because it is important. We will do so when replacements are available and cost-effective, without any loss of operational effectiveness, compromise in security or sharp rise in defence spending. I choose my words carefully not to over-promise unrealistic goals, but neither to evade responsibility to show results. We will do what we can. The Army will replace its current administrative vehicle fleet with an all-electric one by 2030. In tandem, charging infrastructure in camps and bases will be set up. The RSN will equip newer vessels like the Littoral Mission Vessels with energy-efficient LED lights, ozone-free water-mist fire suppression systems, and look into using garbage converters to reduce waste volume.

For air combat platforms, green fuels that meet the criteria of cost-effectiveness are not yet fully developed. Nevertheless, the RSAF will commence trials of green aviation fuel for some of our F-16s, so that we can better understand the engineering, logistics and infrastructure works needed to scale up when these green fuels do become more cost effective. I have finished with carbon emissions, now let me talk about water.

We will take further steps to reduce water consumption. We will progressively replace water fittings with more-efficient ones which are at least 3-ticks under the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme. We will also continue to invest in water-recycling systems, such as those for vehicular washing. The goal is a 10% reduction in water consumption by 2030.

Third, waste reduction. We will step up the "3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" initiatives significantly. For food waste, we have already implemented segregation and recycling processes in 14 cookhouses. We will extend this to all cookhouses by 2024. We have also put in place waste disposal contracts to recycle and repurpose electronic waste, waste oil, chemicals and scrap metal. The aim is to reduce waste by 30% by 2030.

To succeed in this SAF-wide initiative, we must empower all units to contribute their best efforts. And central to this strategy is for each unit to know how much it produces in emissions, in waste or water consumption. Just imagine if we ask our population to save water or electricity without measuring it. Therefore MINDEF/SAF will install smart utility metering systems progressively for all our buildings. This will allow commanders of each unit to take ownership and give directions to make the SAF greener. When the smart metering is complete, unit commanders will be equipped to compare themselves with their peers and benchmarks, and to reach their required targets. I must add that MINDEF/SAF is able to do this because we have direct command and control over all our units.

This initiative to go greener needs to be sustained for the long term, and Mr Seah Kian Peng calls it "a long game", but it can be derailed by a few forces. Apathy and lack of awareness are two that I hope will be alleviated by the use of smart meters. But there is another force that can dissipate our efforts. If each group champions its favourite environmental cause, the SAF could be pulled in different and sometimes unproductive directions. So MINDEF/SAF must start off on and maintain the correct trajectory, guided by science, data and evidence on effective outcomes. We must put in a structure to achieve these outcomes and not get distracted along the way. MINDEF has therefore decided to set up a new SAF Sustainability Office. It will report to the SAF's Chief of Staff-Joint Staff, who will assume the role of the SAF Chief Sustainability Officer. The office will be advised by an External Advisory Panel made up of experts in various fields. I believe that this command structure guided by the right advice will put us in the best possible trajectory for this long-term enterprise.


My colleagues SMS Heng Chee How and SMS Zaqy Mohamad will address other points that Members have brought up. But Mr Chairman, I want to conclude on two points. The clarion call that we have heard in this House again and again, indeed for this generation of Singaporeans facing the globally destructive and disruptive COVID-19 pandemic, is to emerge stronger. But can we? For MINDEF/SAF, we must if we are to secure our defence for another generation. Much of what I have talked about is looking far ahead, to a future in which we continue to have a SAF that can protect Singapore's interests and the well-being of Singaporeans despite the uncertainty and rising risks in our region and globally.

I am deeply conscious, Mr Chairman and Members of this House, that defence takes up a sizeable share of the Government's budget, and not just the resources of the budget but more importantly the personal commitment of national servicemen and their families, something that Ms Joan Pereira and Ms Hazel Poa have talked about. I thank Members of this House and Singaporeans for your trust, unstinting support and commitment to maintain our strong defence. All MINDEF/SAF can offer in return to you and the Singaporeans that we serve is this pledge to be good stewards of these investments and to keep Singapore safe for many years ahead.

Thank you.

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