On Monday, Singapore inaugurated a new institute designed to train personnel to undertake homeland defense and security operations. The move is just the latest step the city-state is taking to equip its armed forces with the necessary skills to undertake a wider range of security tasks amid growing threats including terrorism.
Though Singapore possesses a highly capable military, its policymakers have long recognized the need to further modernize its armed forces to deal with the diversification and hybridization of threats in the 21st century ranging from terrorism to cyberwarfare to fake news; what defense officials have called a transformation into a 3rd Generation Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Some signs of this had already been visible following the September 11 attacks, when the city-state had established an Island Defense Task Force (IDTF) where SAF forces would work with police, immigration and other authorities to protect key installations from potential terrorist attacks. But with a series of bold, orchestrated urban attacks by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) in European and Southeast Asia as well as the increasing use of cyber as a domain for warfare, the city-state has redoubled its efforts to confront heightened security threats.
As part of that response, particular focus has been placed on enhancing the ability of the SAF to be deployed for operations further away from the barracks and towards the heartlands, as Commander of the 2PDF/IDTF Colonel Dinesh Vasu Dash has put it.
Various moves have been underway in this respect, including equipping first responders with arms, mobility means, and supporting surveillance to counter terrorist threats more quickly and efficiently; the construction of a new urban training facility; boosting jointness between various units as well as institutions most notably the defense ministry (MINDEF) and the home ministry (MHA); and addressing projected manpower challenges by introducing more unmanned systems and changing the way personnel as well as national servicemen are utilized.
The inauguration of the Island Defense Training Institute (IDTI) at Clementi Camp on Monday is yet another move in this respect. The IDTI, as defense officials see it, is effectively a center of excellence (COE) for island defense training, designed to provide personnel with the competencies to for this wider range of homeland defense and security operations.
According to Singapore’s Second Minister of Defense Ong Ye Kung, who inaugurated the IDTI on July 31, IDTI is expected to train up to 18,000 soldiers from active and national service units in homeland security operations as well as a further 15,000 personnel for other island defense roles.
The IDTI will comprise of two centers that will train and develop SAF units for missions – the Homeland Security Training Center (HSTC) and the Island Defense Training Center (IDTC) – and two schools that will focus on military security and policing duties – the Security and Policing Leadership School (SPLS) and the Security and Policing Vocational School (SPVS).
To be sure, the IDTI is just part of a much wider and more comprehensive effort being undertaken by Singapore to prepare itself against changing and rising security threats. But at a time when the city-state is trying to deploy its armed forces more in the public domain in concert with other personnel, there can be few more important things to get right than their training.