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At the end of the year, a new branch of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be launched, as the military aims to move quickly to face the rising threats in the digital world.

This news in Singapore can further elaborate the significance of the new service of the SAF.

The fourth branch

The DIS or Digital and Intelligence Service will be the fourth branch of the SAF after the navy, army, and the air force. The branch will be handling the reconnaissance, cyber and psychological security, and the development of the SAF as a networked force.

The branch will also collect C4I (control, computers, communications, command, and intelligence) and cyber units that have been developed over the past few years under a centralized system.

To further explain about the need for DIS, Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said in the Parliament on March 2 that the digital landscape has become as real as the sea, air and land territories these past few years.

Response to rising digital threats and cyber terrorism

According to the minister on the discussions on the ministry’s budget, he said “The threats that are rising in the digital territories can have a significant impact in the real physical world. The line between the virtual and physical world, when it comes to security, has been blurred and in fact the two are perfectly intertwined.”

There have been real proofs of nations or non-state organizations such as groups of terrorists, that utilize the combination of attacks to both worlds. 

This type of combined warfare initiative has also been witnessed in the current crisis in Ukraine. The minister also said that there have been reports that cyber-intelligence, destruction to computer servers and communication systems has been part of the warfare tactics being used against Ukraine these past few years. 

According to the Ministry of Defense, the DIS will give a precise and opportune early warning if such crises arrives, and it will also help the SAF to be an advanced networked army.

“The new branch will be focusing on realizing the utilization of the rising digital innovations such as cloud, artificial intelligence, and data science. This will develop the transformation initiatives of the next generation of SAF members,” said the ministry.

The new service is the product of a ten-year drive that started in 2012 when the community of C4I was established. The community has gathered employees across the SAF such as image analysts, naval intelligence analysts, and unmanned aerial vehicle operators, although they still report to their respective formations.

Soldiers with special skill set

The ministry also explained that the environment of the digital world and the threats that come with it requires special skill sets and characteristics. The kind of soldiers that will be trained and recruited for the DIS will be special, although some characteristics must be required across all the four branches of the SAF. 

Ng said that the technology will have a huge role in the DIS especially those personnel who are familiar with IT and communications. Aside from computer experts, the branch also needs individuals who are experts on fields such as data science, linguistics, psychology, geography and anthropology, to further understand the means and motives of terrorists that plans to harm the people of Singapore.

“The inclusion of the fourth branch will provide us an integrated organization that deals with all kinds of threats that we know of today whether it is physical or virtual. The new branch aims to protect the digital space of the city-state and its users,” he added.

Final thoughts

The DIS is one of the recent developments in many nations when it comes to cyber security. Perhaps, this innovation in the military of Singapore could be emulated by other nations to further protect their nations in all kinds of threats.