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Total Defence (or TD) is the name of Singapore's comprehensive defence strategy, adapted from countries like Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Ukraine and Russia. It is based on the understanding that besides military action, aggressors can also attack the country by wrecking its economic systems, tearing its social fabric apart, targeting Singaporeans' beliefs and commitment to defence, and its ability to recover from disasters, both natural and man-made. Total Defence encompasses six key pillars – military, civil, economic, social, psychological and digital defence – and focuses on the need for each Singaporean to play his or her part to keep the country strong. These six pillars are very similar to the "4 Defences" of the Austrian "Comprehensive National Defense" (Umfassende Landesverteidigung) strategy of 1975.
The Six Pillars of Total Defence
"Military Defence" is about "Keeping Singapore secure". This pillar emphasizes the need for a strong Military Defence to defend Singapore when attacked or to deter foreign intervention and prevent an attack. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is a conscript armed force, depending on not only its Regulars but also the commitment of its National Servicemen with the support of their families and employers. The mission of the SAF is to "enhance Singapore's peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy, and should these fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory over the aggressor". As part of the mission, the SAF strives to maintain a high state of operational readiness 24/7.
"Civil Defence" is about "Taking care of our family, friends, and people around us in times of crisis". Civil Defence emphasizes the need to learn what to do in an emergency before it happens - such as taking part in emergency exercises and attending first-aid and emergency preparedness programmes that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) conducts to order to respond more effectively in times of crisis. Looking out for and reporting anything suspicious in response to the threat of terrorism is also part of Civil Defence.
"Economic Defence" is about "Having a strong and resilient economy". It involves building up a strong and robust economy that can sustain Singapore through economic challenges and national emergencies. It means that the government, employers and trade unions working together to ensure there is good infrastructure and the economy is competitive. Individuals play a part by retraining and upgrading, and by keeping up with new technologies and new ways of doing things.
"Social Defence" is about "Living harmoniously and looking out for one another". This pillar emphasizes the need to prevent extremist ideologies and racial prejudice and discrimination to endanger social cohesion and harmony. It involves befriending, accepting and helping people of different ethnicities as well as showing consideration for one another, respecting and being sensitive to the needs and religious and cultural practices of others.
"Psychological Defence" is about "Being a resilient people". While being prepared is the key to Total Defence, it is always the fighting spirit, the will, the resilience of Singaporeans that determines whether or not Singapore will overcome a crisis. It involves understanding the history and the principles that helped Singapore succeed, and having a strong resolve to stay united and keep Singapore strong and special.
On 4 October 2018, Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen announced that MINDEF was working through the details with other agencies to introduce "Digital Defence" as the sixth pillar in the light of threats from the digital domain. Digital Defence was officially added on 15 February 2019, as part of the 35th anniversary of the Total Defence policy.
The Total Defence Campaign
Total Defence Campaign Poster and Theme
Each year, Nexus, a department within MINDEF, will launch a year-long campaign to promote public awareness and generate ground-up initiatives for Total Defence. The earlier campaign posters and themes were primarily focused on Military Defence and Civil Defence. In recent years, as the threats to the country evolve, the campaign posters and themes have also shifted towards non-conventional threats.
The theme for the 2006 campaign was "Stay Vigilant, Be Resilient."
The theme for the 2008 campaign was "Total Defence. It's Personal. Play Your Part."
The theme for the 2009 campaign was "What Will You Defend?"
The theme for the 2010 campaign was "I Will."
The theme for the 2011 campaign was "Home - Keeping It Together."
The theme for the 2012 campaign was "Total Defence - It's My Turn."
The theme for the 2013 campaign was "Will You Stand With Me?"
The theme for the 2014 campaign was "Because You Played A Part."
The theme since 2016 is "Together, We Keep Singapore Strong."
Total Defence Day
Total Defence Day is marked annually on February 15 in Singapore to commemorate the anniversary of the surrender of the British to the Japanese on February 15, 1942, precursoring 3 years and 8 months (44 months) of Japanese Occupation.
Schools frequently organize activities, such as quizzes or fire drills, for students to remind them on the importance of Total Defence, to remind students that Singapore is defensible and is worth defending, and only Singaporeans would have the will to defend Singapore.
At 1820 hours, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will sound the Important Message Signal through the island-wide Public Warning System (PWS) sirens. Simultaneously, 10 local radio stations will sound the important message signal and explain to the listeners on the appropriate measures to be taken for the three different types of PWS signals. After the sounding, schools will read out a Civil Defence message in which students were reminded of the significance of the PWS signals and appropriate measures.
- "The 5 Pillars of Total Defence". www.mindef.gov.sg. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
- "Economic Defence". NEXUS. 2009-02-02. Archived from the original on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
- "Total Defence 2018". www.mindef.gov.sg. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
- verasng@st (2016-02-16). "See how Total Defence Day has evolved through the years". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2019-03-11.