Defence budget up this year, as MINDEF spent less than planned in 2020 due to delayed projects: Ng Eng Hen
SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) is spending more this financial year as it spent less than planned last year due to delayed projects, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday (Mar 1).
The ministry is expected to raise its spending to S$15.36 billion, up 12.7 per cent from S$13.63 billion in the last financial year. It is also the second-highest budget among ministries, behind the Ministry of Health.
Dr Ng said this is the first time that MINDEF's budget will see a year-on-year double-digit growth since 1998.
"Mainly because MINDEF spent about S$1.5 billion less than planned in 2020 – about 10 per cent less – due to the delay of some projects," he said in his ministry's Committee of Supply speech in Parliament.
This includes big-ticket items like SAFTI City, which will be completed by 2024 instead of 2023, and the Invincible-class submarines, which are expected to be delivered six months late in mid-2022.
"If the post-COVID recovery ensues, MINDEF expects its budget to stabilise and return to a growth trajectory targeted and announced in previous years – about 3 to 4 per cent nominal growth each year, to keep pace with inflation over a period," Dr Ng added.
Nevertheless, Dr Ng reiterated that the Republic of Singapore Air Force is on track to receive four F-35 fighter jets around 2026 as scheduled.
Moving on the Army, Dr Ng said the Headquarters Sense & Strike was inaugurated last November.
This involved a re-organisation of HQ Army Intelligence and HQ Singapore Artillery under the 6 Division, which comprises a number of infantry brigades.
This allows the Army to "integrate capabilities from both (headquarters) to 'see better' and 'shoot faster' with less manpower", Dr Ng said.
MINDEF said the new Headquarters Sense & Strike will spearhead cross-domain expertise to integrate the Army’s tactical intelligence and fire capabilities with manoeuvre forces.
"The new formation will focus on developing and strengthening the Army’s sense and strike elements to operationalise new capabilities and fighting concepts," it added in a fact sheet on Monday.
"NOTABLE PROGRESS" IN STRENGTHENING OF SAFETY CULTURE
Moving on to safety, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How gave an update on the SAF Inspector-General’s Office first two-year audit of all SAF formations, which has just been completed.
The office was formed in 2019 to scrutinise and enforce the SAF’s safety processes following four NS training deaths in 18 months.
READ: 70% of SAF formations audited, emphasis on safety can be better communicated: Inspector-General
Mr Heng told Parliament on Monday that the office has observed "notable progress" in the strengthening of SAF's safety culture.
"There has been a sustained uptrend in open reporting received in the past two years, where servicemen, regardless of rank, report near-misses and safety hazards," he said.
"Our units have also made significant adjustments to their training schedule to permit time for safety, including conducting daily safety briefs and catering dedicated training time to obtain feedback from soldiers on safety."
Mr Heng said IGO’s audits also found that soldiers have responded positively to the safety measures implemented so far, with commanders leading improvements in unit safety processes and influencing soldiers’ safety mindsets.
"Nevertheless, given the constant turnover of servicemen, it is crucial that the SAF sustain these efforts, keeping our soldiers updated on the latest safety incidents and lessons learnt to avoid repeating mistakes and doing all we can to prevent accidents," he added.