Speech by Second Minister for Defence Mr Ong Ye Kung at the 13th SAF Senior Military Experts Appointment Ceremony
Graduates of the 13th SAF Senior Military Experts Course,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is a proud occasion for 117 of you, who are now Senior Experts of the Military Experts (ME) Corps in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). This ceremony marks a new phase in your professional career. It is a milestone of recognition, of the deeper domain expertise that you bring to the SAF. Congratulations to all of you.
To your families and your loved ones, thank you for joining us today. The SAF is especially appreciative that you have stood by them in their leadership and professional journey. You have given them the needed peace of mind (to focus) on serving the nation. In fact, you are probably the reason why they serve the nation, because everyone must have a raison d’A�tre to begin this journey, and one of the strongest reasons is (that) we want to protect our families. May I ask that we put our hands together to show our deepest appreciation to all your loved ones.
Previous ceremonies in the past years were held at SAFTI-MI, the professional home of SAF officers, today’s appointment ceremony is held at Temasek Club for the first time. It is a nice location but also it is very significant because while SAFTI MI is your professional home, this is your social home, for SAF officers and also Senior MEs. It is at this Club that members and their families forge closer camaraderie and deepen their ties with one another.
Complexity of Threats
MEs are a core pillar of competency in the SAF. We started the scheme in 2010, in recognition of the increasingly complex challenges, and the broad spectrum of security threats that we face.
One is cyber-attacks – they are an increasing threat. Just a few weeks ago, cyber-attacks paralysed computer systems globally. It is purportedly for collecting ransom, but actually the amount of ransom collected is quite low (and) the deeper motives are probably more sinister. Unlike conventional warfare, the targets are not necessarily military. Cyber-attackers have many points of intrusion, and vast potential to cause harm. There are large-scale coordinated attacks as well as smaller-scale interruptions. One such example would be the recent large-scale attacks that limited the operations of Ukraine’s companies and key services, and some of America’s health networks. These attacks will likely grow in frequency, intensity and signature.
Extremist terrorism is another endemic, rising and long-term threat. Earlier this year, we have seen terror attacks in Manchester and London. Each time there is an attack, our Government agencies will run checks on who are the Singaporeans in those cities. In the Ministry of Education, we will also check if there are any students -and often(times) there are – and we will check on their safety. So such attacks are no longer other people’s problems.
In May this year, extremist militants seized the city of Marawi, in the Southern Philippines. Marawi is quite near home, in fact (only) slightly further than Singapore to Bali. The key worry is that terror groups will gain a foothold in our region through Marawi, from which they can traffic weapons, set up training camps, attract terrorists from all over the world, and spread their vitriolic ideology in the region. This is essentially, a foreign influence and an external threat to peace and stability in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), one that deserves a united response from ASEAN member states. We have a moral responsibility to do what we can, (and) work with the Philippines’ Government to deny extreme terrorists a foothold in our region.
In addition, we face a significant challenge in the coming years, of falling cohort sizes due to fewer babies. The intake of national servicemen is falling, and the SAF will now need to accomplish more with less manpower. To achieve this, we need an unprecedented leap in productivity and efficiency, by leveraging technology, and enhancing human know-how and skills. This will be the SAF’s major enterprise for the next decade.
Role of MEs
The capabilities of the SAF therefore need to evolve as circumstances and the nature of threats and challenges change. We have to remain a strong and credible force that gives confidence to Singaporeans.
The Military Domain Experts Scheme is a key component of the SAF’s response. The September 11 attacks gave a strong impetus to further develop this scheme, as the SAF formed high readiness task forces for rapid response to terror threats from air, land and sea. These task forces work hand-in-hand with Full-Time and Operationally-Ready National Servicemen to safeguard homeland security, and protect key installations such as Changi Airport and Jurong Island round the clock.
These task forces also require specialised domain expertise – ranging across intelligence gathering, surveillance, cyber defence, engineering, and military medicine. Our Intelligence MEs specialise in threat assessments and updates, while MEs in the air, land, maritime, and cyber domains manage and maximise the effectiveness of our defence capabilities. Medical MEs provide the best care of our injured. Over the years, the scheme has enabled us to build a range of deep expertise across our Services.
For example, ME3 Ganasekar is trained in naval sensor systems, and was previously an Ops Watch Controller at Maritime Security Task Force Hub. Ganasekar was on watch when he noticed a small boat attempting to board an anchored vessel, near Horsburgh Lighthouse at 2 in the morning. His careful coordination of the situation and calling in of a patrol vessel to investigate the scene led to the small boat fleeing, foiling what could (have been) a sea robbery or worse, a possible terrorist attack, in the Singapore Strait.
Another member of the ME community is ME3 Lim Zhi Cheng from 1st Army Maintenance Base. ME3 Lim contributed to the creation of a new diagnostic device to troubleshoot fuel system faults in the Bionix II Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This device replaced tedious processes involving swapping vehicles’ working components to determine faults, and reduced diagnostic time from ten hours to thirty minutes. It has significantly enhanced productivity and efficiency.
There is also ME3 Jimmy Yu, an air force engineer, who had worked on enhancing the F-15SG’s capability. He was part of the team that operationalised our first batch of F-15SGs in the US. Being a new aircraft, maintenance was challenging as there were no previous defect experiences to rely on. ME3 Yu’s deep expertise in previous aircraft maintenance enabled him to devise new procedures and ensure the high readiness of the new F-15SGs. This contributed to the overall mission success for Exercise Forging Sabre, with successful firings on moving targets for the first time by the F-15SGs.
All of you are here today because you have worked hard and demonstrated dedication and professionalism. Going forward, the SAF will entrust you with heavier responsibilities, and I am confident all of you will rise up to the challenge and demands. With all your efforts, we will build an SAF of tomorrow that is stronger, better, and that we can be very proud of.
Once again, my heartfelt, heartiest congratulations to all of you, and all the best in your future endeavours.
Source: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MINDEF)