Army chief: How SAF will deal with counter-terrorism
On Wednesday, Chief of Army Major General Melvyn Ong spoke to reporters as part of the nation's Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day celebrations yesterday. He tells NG JUN SEN (email@example.com) about the challenges the SAF will face and how it plans to tackle them
Why form a new counter-terrorism unit, the Army Deployment Force (ADF), when there are Home Team units and the special forces to deal with these threats?
The threat has changed. When once we were dealing more with a hostage-type of environment, we find that now, direct-shooter threats are there. People are willing to die for their religion, for their ideologies...
I can imagine that if a Paris-style situation happens in Singapore, when there are multiple sites that are targeted and when things happen, the SAF must be ready to respond.
I call this the "three rings".
The inner ring is our special forces and they will respond to direct-shooter threats.
Outside of that, there is a second ring, which is the outer cordon. The cordon is formed by the new ADF.
The third ring (is for) the day after, when there is a need to maintain public confidence and restore confidence.
We will activate our full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and NSmen for confidence patrols in Singapore for all the soft targets (and) to restore the confidence of the public.
How will NSFs and NSmen be trained to deal with terrorism threats?
We are also going to set up this entity called the Island Defence Training Institute (IDTI).
The IDTI will be the centre of excellence for homeland security in the SAF. They will provide consistent training across the board for NSFs, as well as for NSmen.
All the tactics, techniques and procedures will route through them and they will be the ones that keep improving the way we do business when it comes to homeland defence.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen spoke about how the Army may shrink by one-third of its current size. But with the added role of counter-terrorism on your plate, how will you deal with this?
In spite of knowing that your plate will always grow, dealing with counter-terrorism is important. It is commonly said that it is not "if" it happens, but "when" it happens.
Today, we see it happening in Turkey. A couple of months back, it was Paris and Brussels. This is not something that will go away.
We are built to ensure that we protect Singaporeans and we feel that this is a very clear and present threat that needs us to get involved.
When something happens, sometimes the public will not say to the police, "go and deal with it".
They will say, "Police and the SAF, what are you doing about it?" I think it will be remiss of us to not be involved in counter-terrorism efforts.
What direction will the SAF take to alleviate manpower concerns?
Some things can be done by unmanned technologies, fused together with a new concept of operations, that would allow both to work in synchrony. For example, if you go to some of our camps today, we are changing the way we do business.
Previously, camp patrols were done by people. Today, it is not inconceivable that all the camps have remote cameras.
Not only that, the patrols are done by autonomous vehicles in certain cases, so you save on manpower.
Is there a target for matching success regarding the new ability for pre-enlistees to indicate their interest in various NS vocations?
I am hesitant to put a target on this. The vocation matching is like that - the belief is that if you indicate interest to want to be somewhere, certainly you are going to be more motivated to serve in that place.
Of course, interest is not the only consideration, there are also aptitude and physical attributes. All these things, meshed together, will determine whether or not you are able to be matched to your interest.
Will this open up a can of worms for people who might not get what they want?
I think that if I am a young boy, I would hedge my bets a bit.
I will not just put one. I would put maybe three, because at least I get to state my interest and my interest is probably more than one.
I am sure that everybody at the age of 16 to 18 has certain inclinations that will point to more than one.
So I could put down that I want to be in Signals, and we will see. I will put more than one and (the SAF) will try to meet it.