Committee of Supply Debate 2021

Committee of Supply Debate 2021
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Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, Senior Minister of State for Defence Mr Heng Chee How and Senior Minister of State for Defence Mr Zaqy Mohamad outlined the Ministry of Defence's (MINDEF's) focus areas for the coming year at MINDEF's Committee of Supply (COS) debate in Parliament on Monday, 1 March 2021.


Amid heightened contestation and an increasingly fragmented geopolitical landscape as seen with vaccine diplomacy resulting from COVID-19, MINDEF will continue to enhance cooperation with like-minded partners and forge an inclusive security architecture, in which disputes are resolved through peaceful means.

Some examples of MINDEF/SAF efforts to strengthen defence relations through bilateral and multilateral collaborations include:


Drawing on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, MINDEF/SAF will continue to plan long-term and steadily invest in emerging and new capabilities to address bio-threats.

Some examples of MINDEF/SAF's existing bio-defence and medical capabilities which aided the COVID-19 national efforts include:

  • DSO National Laboratories and A*STAR's RESOLUTE 2.0 kits. These COVID-19 test kits are now commercially available, and will be used with automation to conduct about 4,000 tests a day for the whole of government. Further, DSO and the SAF Medical Corps have validated that saliva tests are as accurate as nasal swabs. We have used saliva tests to complement swab tests for monitoring in SAF units since October 2020.

  • Serological testing. To prevent Community Care Facilities and Quarantine Facilities from being overwhelmed, DSO and the SAF Medical Corps personnel worked with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to validate serology testing. At its peak, the Joint Task Force was testing about 40,000 per week.

Upgrade DSO capabilities

  • DSO and MOH will work together to upgrade existing facilities to the highest biosafety level, BSL-4. This will provide Singapore with the capability to handle biological threats and highly infectious diseases. The upgraded biosafety facility is expected to be operational by end-2025.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.


Despite some delays due to COVID-19, the SAF remains on track for the development of the Next Gen SAF. Some updates on the progress of MINDEF/SAF's existing and previously acquired capabilities include:

Headquarters Sense & Strike

  • As part of the Singapore Army's Next Gen transformation efforts, the Headquarters (HQ) Sense & Strike was inaugurated last November. This was a reorganisation of HQ Army Intelligence and HQ Singapore Artillery under 6 Division. By integrating these capabilities under one outfit, our Army will be able to "See Better" and "Shoot Faster" with less manpower.

Maritime Security Capabilities

Upgraded and Upcoming Air Assets

  • The upgraded F-16 aircraft is expected to roll out in the coming months.

  • The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will receive the new medium- and heavy-lift helicopters, the H225Ms and the CH-47Fs, which will replace the ageing Super Pumas and older Chinooks respectively this year.

  • We also remain on track to receiving four F-35 Joint Strike Fighters around 2026 and for the RSAF to start basing its fighters in Guam from 2029 onwards.

MINDEF/SAF's Next Gen transformation efforts will not just be limited to military platforms, but also enhance collective intelligence and surveillance capability and leverage new technology and innovation to address threats from transnational terrorism and cyber threats.

Counter-Terrorism Information Facility

To close the gap and pre-empt terror attacks, the Counter-Terrorism Information Facility (CTIF) has begun operations. The CTIF will bring together like-minded countries to share intelligence, and provide early warning, monitoring and analysis capabilities in a centralised and coordinated manner.

Cybersecurity Task Force

Following last year's announcement to create an integrated cyber command, the new Cybersecurity Task Force (CSTF) has been stood up under the command of Chief C4I, who will report directly to Chief of Defence Force. This has improved our ability to monitor and actively seek out potential threats and aggressors in the cyber domain.

Moving forward, MINDEF/SAF is exploring the deployment of suitable NSmen to serve in CSTF, and is working with academic institutions to raise their skills through initiatives such as the University Work-Learn Programme with National University of Singapore and the Critical Infrastructure Security Showdown cybersecurity exercises with Singapore University of Technology and Design's iTrust Centre for Research in Cyber Security. In addition, the SAF will hire more cyber-specialists as regulars, mainly through the Military Domain Expert Scheme.

Digital Factory and MINDEF Commercial Cloud

In response to threats in the cyber and information domain, and also to new technologies, MINDEF/SAF is employing Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and data analytics to enable new warfighting concepts and force multipliers for the Next Gen SAF.

MINDEF has established a Digital Factory, a collaborative space, to facilitate experimentation and scaling-up of digital solutions. MINDEF/SAF will also reap the benefits of cloud computing – greater effectiveness and reduced need for manpower – and roll out the MINDEF Commercial Cloud from mid-2021 for administration and maintenance services, which benefit NSFs and NSmen with better and more responsive services. Classified information will also leverage the cloud systems, with more stringent security standards such as the systems physically housed in MINDEF/SAF and separated from other day-to-day functions on the cloud.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.


In addressing climate change, MINDEF/SAF is committed to meet the national targets set under the Singapore Green Plan 2030. By 2030, we will reduce our overall emissions growth by two-thirds and by 2050, we will halve our emissions in alignment with our national strategy.

Reduce Carbon Emissions

  • For buildings, we aim to attain the Green Mark Platinum Super Low Energy standards for all new large and retrofitted buildings where feasible. We will also double the solar adoptions in our SAF camps and bases. These changes are significant and will reduce our carbon emissions growth by about 40% by 2030.

  • The Army will replace its current administrative vehicle fleet with an all-electric one by 2030, and set up charging infrastructure in camps and bases in tandem.

  • 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.

  • The RSAF will commence trials on the use of green aviation fuel for some of our F-16s, so that we can understand the engineering, logistics and infrastructure works needed to scale up its use when it becomes more cost effective.

Reduce Water Consumption

  • The SAF will progressively replace water fittings to 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.

Reduce Waste

  • For food waste, the SAF will extend waste segregation and recycling processes in 14 cookhouses to all our cookhouses by 2024.

  • Waste disposal contracts to recycle and repurpose electronic waste, waste oil, chemicals and scrap metal have also been put in place.

  • The aim is to reduce waste by 30% by 2030.

Governance and Taking Ownership

  • A new SAF Sustainability Office will be set up and 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. This command structure guided by the right advice will put SAF on the best possible trajectory for this long-term enterprise to go green.

  • MINDEF/SAF will also progressively install smart utility metering systems for all camp buildings so that commanders can compare with their peers and benchmarks. This will allow commanders of each unit to take ownership and give directions to support this effort to make the SAF greener, and to reach their required targets.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.


To meet the needs of our Next Gen SAF and adapt to a new generation of national servicemen, the SAF will continue to strengthen the NS system.

Some examples of the NS Review Committee's (NSRC) initiatives include:

Maximising Servicemen's Contributions

  • To optimise the deployment of servicemen, the SAF is establishing new vocations and redesigning existing ones, better matching servicemen to roles where they can be operationally effective, regardless of medical fitness, and helping our servicemen acquire new skills to better perform their roles.

  • The SAF will review the Medical Classification System and Physical Employment Standards, or PES System, to shift away from the binary classification of whether one is Combat-Fit or Non-Combat-Fit and focusing on today's operational context and the latest technologies. The key idea is to deploy every soldier in a meaningful operational role, without compromising safety or operational effectiveness.

  • In September 2020, MINDEF/SAF launched the Work-Study Diploma (WSD) in collaboration with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). This was open to those serving as Air Force and Army Technicians. The first batch of WSD servicemen in these vocations will commence their programme this April. The WSDs are MINDEF/SAF's latest additions to work-learn schemes for our NSFs. We started with Cyber NSFs in 2018 to develop and deploy cyber talents to defend our systems. These schemes support our servicemen's professional development, while allowing them to put their learning into practice to contribute to MINDEF/SAF.

  • MINDEF/SAF will also systematically expand the scale of deployment of NSmen with relevant civilian expertise. We will increase the areas that they can be deployed to, and set up a dedicated deployment centre to oversee this expansion.

Enhancing Training Safety and Medical Support

  • The second External Review Panel on SAF Safety (ERPSS) completed their 3.5-year tenure last December, assessing the progress of the SAF's safety journey, as well as highlighting opportunities for improvement. The SAF will follow up on its recommendations such as benchmarking the safety training of our commanders, trainers and safety officers to industry standards. MINDEF has also commissioned the third ERPSS for another three-year tenure, beginning this year.

  • The SAF Inspector-General's Office recently completed its first two-year cycle of audits of all the SAF formations. It observed notable progress in strengthening the SAF's safety culture and that soldiers have responded positively to the safety measures implemented in the last two years, with our commanders leading enhancements in unit safety processes and influencing their soldiers' safety mindsets.

  • To ensure our medical systems are progressively improved, the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) in collaboration with industry partners have developed a portable electronic medical records system, termed PACES Mobile. This enables our medical officers to access our servicemen's medical information remotely on their laptops. Since its launch in October 2019, it has supported 23 overseas exercises and over 2,000 patient encounters.

Improving Health and Fitness

  • Under MINDEF's Pre-Enlistees Exercise Programme for National Service (PREP4NS), over 5,000 pre-enlistees have been accorded the PREP4NS membership since its first trial in November 2019. MINDEF is expanding the PREP4NS trial to include admission to 24 ActiveSG gyms across Singapore. Registration for the PREP4NS membership to the ActiveSG gyms will be announced later.

  • Since October 2020, MINDEF/SAF has enhanced the Health Screening Programme (HSP), enabling most NSmen to complete the HSP in a single session instead of two. MINDEF/SAF will set up a specialised HSP centre in the MMI campus at NUS Kent Ridge by mid-2021, which will result in greater convenience, with shorter booking and waiting times.

  • Additional ways to provide NSmen with more convenience and flexibility for NS fitness activities will be announced later this year.

Improving Experience through Digitalisation

  • MINDEF/SAF has established an NS digital transformation plan for the next five years, and is committed to developing digital products that better meet the needs of our tech-savvy servicemen. Plans to consolidate all digital services for our servicemen throughout their NS journey on a single digital platform will be shared in due course.

Click on the image below to view the full infographic.


MINDEF will continue to emphasise support for Total Defence and NS to prepare Singapore for the threats of today and tomorrow.

Some of MINDEF's efforts to strengthen societal and family support include:

Expanding Digital Outreach

  • Last year, the Advisory Council on Community Relations (ACCORD) Member and Director of Mums@Work, Mrs Sher-Li Torrey hosted a webinar for mothers to provide insights into what their sons can expect from NS, and assure them that their sons will be well-taken care of. More of such webinars, on a larger scale, will be organised this year in collaboration with ACCORD.

  • Since September 2020, through piloted virtual visits to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), more than 180 families got to explore the BMTC via an online video, and engage in a virtual dialogue with senior commanders, resulting in a better understanding of NS training, and reassurance in their sons' safety and well-being. Following these successful pilot visits, MINDEF will soon expand these virtual BMTC visits to a wider group, including Singaporean families residing overseas.

Revamping Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC)

  • In October last year, SDC reopened partially, enabling visitors to experience augmented reality (AR)-enhanced exhibits in the upper gallery that provide a cinematic journey into Singapore's history. Upon completion of ongoing renovations, the SDC will unveil a refreshed lower gallery on contemporary issues confronting Singapore. Visitors will gain a better appreciation of what we are defending and a deeper understanding of potential threats and challenges confronting Singapore.

  • The SDC will also expand its outreach through new and expanded programmes for different groups, such as students, youth, NSmen and members of community organisations.

  • A new "Friends of SDC" volunteer group will be formed to tap on the energies of volunteers, such as individuals passionate about sharing our Singapore Story.

Driving Public Engagement and Conversations

  • To encourage Singaporeans to be more active in conversations about defence and NS issues, two series of engagements were launched late last year – Strengthening Commitment to Defence and Total Defence for a Future Singapore – in conjunction with the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations.

  • ACCORD will be working with partners to develop fresh content on NSmen's contributions to the COVID-19 national response, in hopes to showcase the invaluable skills of our NSmen, and inspire others who have yet to serve NS.

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