Ministry of Defence Committee of Supply 2019 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered on 28 Feb 2019)

Defence Diplomacy – Sylvia Lim

As mentioned in this year’s Budget Speech, today’s more uncertain world spells greater possibility for tension and even conflict. Unexpected incidents under such circumstances can result in potentially dangerous unintended and uncontrolled escalation.

The Government has rightly continued to stress the need for Singapore to support a stable, rules-based order founded on international law and norms. I would like to ask how MINDEF provides this support through its defence diplomacy efforts and its guiding principles.

When meeting and engaging with foreign counterparts during peacetime, such as in the Shangri-La Dialogue, how does MINDEF seek to contribute to the prevention of unintended and uncontrolled escalation of tensions in the region?

More specifically, what kind of practical cooperation with other militaries regionally have MINDEF engaged in to enhance cooperation and dispel mistrust? Does MINDEF maintain or initiate high-level military hotlines with the military from other countries to ensure that any potential issues on the ground can be discussed quickly?

Managing with Fewer Soldiers – Pritam Singh

Sir, National Service is a key institution in this country we all call home. Hundreds and thousands of men have served in uniform since 1967 and stand ready to defend the country as operationally ready NSmen. In the run up to 2030 however, the effects of our steadily declining TFR will begin to be acutely felt with National Service numbers dropping by about one-third from the current numbers. This outcome will have a significant impact on manpower-intensive vocations and services such as the Army in particular.

Some years ago, Minister shared that part of the solution would be the steady evolution to motorised platforms and equipment that require a lower complement of men and women to man. Can the Minister update the House on how the SAF is preparing itself for manpower-lean future and outline the SAF’s approach over the next few years, so as to ensure a credible and effective fighting force stands ready to defend Singapore from 2030. And to this end, does the Minister foresee an even greater reliance on unmanned platforms and does the SAF intend to procure such platforms in a weaponised form in larger numbers?

Separately, in light of the regional and global environment, it would appear the SAF will continue to play a significant role in various national duties alongside Home Team units. More recently, Minister has spoken about ramping up cyber warfare and cyber defence capabilities. These are likely to stretch the SAF’s manpower requirements even further. How will the SAF manage the manpower imperatives of these new functions in addition to its core war-fighting responsibilities in light of dwindling numbers over the next few years?