SINGAPORE: Countries need to reshape their militaries to deal with more non-conventional threats today - including terror attacks, threats from cyberspace and the effects of climate change, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Wednesday (Jun 26).
Speaking at the opening of the Singapore Defence Technology Summit, Dr Ng said militaries will have to work closely with the defence technology sector to respond to these newer threats.
"Whatever the changes required, one aspect is clear – our militaries will have to do more, sometimes with resource constraints. There will have to be closer interactions between the operational units and the defence technology community to optimise resources and improve responsiveness," he added.
The summit, in its second year, will address also issues like the trade-offs between digitisation, ethical issues surrounding AI and the impact of automation on jobs in the military.
"These problems are complex, and even more so the solutions with hard trade-offs," said Dr Ng.
"But strengthening legislation and pre-agreed OB markers will certainly form part of our tool-box to tackle these challenges. Here, it is important for leaders in defence technology to be involved in the process early, to have your views clarified and sharpened before they get caught up in the legislative and political machinations of individual countries."
MILITARIES ADAPTING TO CHANGE
Dr Ng cited a few examples of militaries that are already adapting to change. For instance, Germany has significantly scaled up its cyber defences, investing 1.6 billion euros (S$2.5 billion) on digitalisation and IT. In 2017, the German armed forces launched a new service with more than 13,000 personnel tasked with protecting and defending critical networks and information systems.
The US Department of Defense has been given the mandate to launch cyber counterattacks against aggressors, he noted.
In Singapore, the defence ministry is working with scientists, engineers and military operators to develop new capabilities to solve problems. An example is ST Engineering's Force on Robotic Target (FORT), a next-generation robot that can be used for urban tactical training at close quarters.
"It gives soldiers a more realistic live training scenario and enhances training effectiveness," said Dr Wilson Oon, Division Manager, Training and Simulation Systems at ST Engineering.
Delegates from 23 countries are present at the summit. This is an increase from 17 last year, a development which Dr Ng welcomed amid a "more contested technology environment" where he said secrets are more likely to be closely guarded.
"The militaries that will serve this generation will have to deal with traditional rivalries, as well as expanded challenges related to terrorism, cyberspace, outer space and the forces of nature," Dr Ng concluded.
"Increasingly, we will need the power of technology to amplify our efforts and improve our effectiveness to deal with such challenges."