On the occasion of Singapore’s Total Defence Day on 15 February 2019, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing kicked off the inaugural Asia Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers (APPSMO) Alumni Distinguished Speakers Series with a lecture on “The Evolution of Singapore’s Approach towards Total Defence”.
Minister Chan, an APPSMO alumnus himself, discussed how Total Defence has evolved over the years and how the concept of national resilience takes into account changing geopolitical realities, as well as technological and ideological challenges to national security. He stressed the importance of learning from the past, citing Singapore’s historical vulnerability to the vagaries of great power rivalry and the need for Singapore to be proactive in ensuring its security. The concept of Total Defence is, therefore, critical to Singapore’s defence, providing a framework for an all-round preparation and response to challenges that involves all Singaporeans in the five pillars of Military, Civil, Economic, Social, and Psychological Defence, stressed Minister Chan.
However, despite the success of Singapore’s Total Defence framework thus far, the changing security landscape means that Singapore now faces an even wider range of challenges and threats than ever before, Minister Chan warned. Apart from staging military attacks, potential adversaries can undermine Singapore in other areas, such as its economy and social fabric, he noted. In particular, the emerging cyber terrain brings with it potential threats. However, given that it also offers new opportunities, Minister Chan believed that it was imperative that Singapore stay connected to the world. Singapore should approach the new cyber terrain boldly, learning how to operate in and navigate it while remaining vigilant against the inherent risks it poses. To this end, Minister Chan reinforced the importance of Digital Defence, which was officially identified a day earlier by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen as the sixth pillar of Total Defence.