New institution to train NSmen for homeland security
Defence Minister Ng says changes are required to deal with multiple terrorist attacks
Amid the mounting threat of terrorism here, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be opening the Island Defence Training Institute (IDTI), to prepare National Servicemen (NSmen) to be operationally ready for homeland security.
Speaking in an interview ahead of SAF Day today, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that when it opens later this month, the IDTI will train about 18,000 Full-time and Operationally Ready NSMenannually to conduct joint operations with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) agencies.
Dr Ng said: "Previously, we were training smaller numbers, but our assessment is that homeland security (capabilities) for the SAF may be required when there are multiple terrorist attacks, for example."
Since last year, SAF's active combat and combat support units have undergone training to conduct homeland security operations.
With the IDTI, the SAF will expand the roles of its NSmen to include homeland security operational duties.
The training at the IDTI will cover scenario-based simulation and live-firing for homeland security operations, search-and-arrest procedures, knowledge of legal powers and rights of private defence and retractable truncheon or baton drills.
Selected army NS units will also take on homeland security operations during their in-camp training (ICT), on top of existing operational duties, in the event that national security contingencies occur.
NSmen activated for homeland security operations could be deployed for islandwide patrols with the police, coastal surveillance operations, protection of key installations, cordon and search operations and public order operations.
Dr Ng added that the SAF has also increased its linkages with the Home Team.
He said: "We are now validating our various plans, working closely together with them, and also developing a common Command and Control Information System with the Home Team so that agencies can talk.
"We recognise that when multiple attacks occur in Singapore, you have to be very swift, coordination time needs to be shortened and various units need to know what to do. So the command centre must be nimble, flexible and decisive."
An MHA spokesman told The New Paper that the Home Team already "works closely" with the SAF to deal with the terrorism threat, under its Homefront Crisis Management framework.
Dr Ng said that changes are being made against a backdrop of "changing assumptions" that attacks in Singapore may increase in scale, frequency and impact.
"It is a sobering change of assumptions, but I think we (had) better change to meet a heightened need, rather than be caught with inadequate resources," he said.
He added that the changing face of terrorism makes it an "endemic" threat to Singapore, something that will take a long time to eradicate - one which "may never happen in our lifetime."
Between 2000 and 2015, the number of terror incidents around the world increased more than eight-fold, from about 1,800 to 16,800.
This longevity, he said, was because the terror threat has morphed into one that has gone from "wholesale to retail" - from the past threats of Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which specifically targets individuals, enabling them to pick and hone their own skills to commit these crimes.
More than 460 NSmen from about 380 companies and their employers gathered for the SAF Day combined rededication ceremonies held at four locations around Singapore yesterday morning to reaffirm their commitment to the defence of the island.