SAF: Looking at what's next

SAF: Looking at what's next
Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng speaking to commandos during their training session on 26 June 2014.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng spoke to reporters last week ahead of Singapore Armed Forces Day about the state of our armed forces and its future.

Are we done with the 3rd Generation (3G) transformation of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)? What is the next step?

Lt-Gen Ng: I think the 3rd Generation transformation is progressing very well and we are in the advanced stages (of the transformation).

In the past, the (three) services would... stand alone. Today, they come together as an integrated force and we are able to fight as one system to bring the sum of the parts (together)...

But as with all things Singaporean, and in the Singapore Armed Forces, we always look further ahead.

And the SAF is in that natural process of looking ahead. There are no concrete plans, but many of my officers are already involved in thinking of the opportunities for the next round (of change).

To what extent do you think that we have world-class soldiers?

Well, to a large extent, and it is a reflection not just of the SAF but of society. Look at how you are regarded. Singaporeans, or rather the SAF, are a part of Singapore and we are an exceptional country.

The (Indian Ocean) tsunami in 2004. (The 2011 earthquake in) Christchurch. Typhoon Haiyan.

We have always shown up (in times of crises) and have always contributed meaningfully.

When you first took office, you said you wanted to strengthen the "tribe" and its sense of purpose. Sixteen months on, how has it been?

I set very high standards.

This professional excellence that I demand... goes a long way towards meeting the mission objectives that we set or those the Government sets for the SAF.

Now the World Cup is on, you know a winning team garners support and it creates a virtuous cycle.

A successful team like Manchester United, barring last (season), engenders lots of support.

But when they start underperforming, you know that their support will drop.

The SAF has always put great emphasis on professional excellence and we will continue to do so.

This success in professional excellence... creates esprit de corps because people want to be with the winning team.

We can then look into other areas like career schemes where we create the environment where our people can succeed.

How is the relationship with your brothers (younger brother who is Chief of Navy Ng Chee Peng and older brother who is Permanent Secretary for Defence Development and former air force chief Ng Chee Khern)?

Is there intellectual sparring about defence issues when you are together?

The Chief of Navy and I have a professional relationship and we have done so for the last four-plus years.

We hold each other with professional respect, and now as (me being the) Chief of Defence Force, he is one of my principal commanders. I listen closely to his views... so that we can make the best decisions.

And if you refer to my other brother, well, I had good practice serving under him when he was Chief of Air Force.

Again, it was the same relationship that we have enjoyed. And we treat each other as superior and subordinate if the need arises.

We can talk about football and some of us can be very passionate about intellectual... discussion(s).

But we stay away from professional matters. Put on the uniform, discuss it, then I think it will be clearer.

The Singapore Armed Forces has always put great emphasis on professional excellence and we will continue to do so.

- Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng


This article was first published on July 2, 2014.
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