AI Military

(Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Singapore military to enhance digital defenses with AI

Countries around the world are looking at how they can fortify their military defenses with AI. Unlike Skynet, the fictional AI from the Terminator film series which annihilated the human race and took over the world, AI in defense today will be about how the technology can enhance a national military’s digital security and defense.

In fact, to avoid any uncontrollable incidents with AI, in February 2023, more than 60 countries including the US and China signed a modest “call to action” endorsing the responsible use of AI in the military.

However, the growing concern for governments is how much AI will be used in military and defense. According to a report by Reuters, human rights experts and academics noted the statement signed by the countries wasn’t legally binding and failed to address concerns like AI-guided drones, ‘slaughter bots’ that could kill with no human intervention, or the risk that an AI could escalate a military conflict.

While the rest of the world race towards implementing AI in defense, the adoption might be a little slower in Southeast Asia. Apart from Singapore and Indonesia, most nations in Southeast Asia aren’t as advanced in their defenses, especially in military AI.

The reality is, innovation in AI can’t be slowed down and nations need to be prepared to deal with threats that are leveraging AI to launch attacks, be it cyber or physical. As such, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) department has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with AI Singapore (AISG).

The MOU between AISG and the DIS was signed by Head of LearnAI at AISG, Koo Sengmeng and DIS Chief Digitalisation Officer Military Expert 7 (ME7) Guo Jinghua. Senior Director of AI Governance at AISG, Prof Simon Chesterman and Chief of Digital and Intelligence Service/Director Military Intelligence, Brigadier-General Lee Yi-Jin witnessed the signing of the MOU.

The MOU is expected to further collaborate and strengthen the DIS’s capability development in Data Science and AI (DSAI). The DIS will need to keep pace with and agilely harness the rapid pace of AI innovation in academia and industry, to complement the strong AI capabilities of the Defense Technology Community. This is crucial for the DIS to better exploit the vast and growing volume of data in the digital domain, and effectively detect and respond to the increasing digital threats facing Singapore and Singaporeans.

The DIS will leverage AISG’s industry and talent development programs including the 100 Experiments (100E) and AI Apprenticeship Program (AIAP) to expand the DIS’s capacity to deploy advanced AI techniques, such as the use of Large Language Models and Reinforcement Learning and integrate them into operations of the DIS and the SAF.

The DIS will also work with AISG to develop and expand its workforce. Through the introduction of AISG’s LearnAI courses, the DIS will expand its course offerings for DIS personnel’s professional upskilling. The DIS will also leverage AISG’s existing networks of students to sustain the DSAI talent pipeline while supporting AISG’s mandate of growing and developing a national digital workforce.

Delivering the opening address at the ceremony, Singapore Senior Minister of State for Defense Heng Chee How Heng said, “Outside of the defense-specific sector partners, DIS is also enlarging its engagement with the wider technology ecosystem, including engagement with the commercial sector and academia…  This MOU is another example of DIS’s pursuit in this direction of engagement, augmenting  our ongoing efforts to build and sustain a strong and capable workforce and talent pipeline  to strengthen and sharpen the SAF’s digital cutting edge.”

Highlighting the importance of the MOU for Singapore’s digital defense, Koo  Sengmeng, Head of LearnAI at AISG explained, “Our partnership with the DIS will ensure that Singapore has a robust and resilient pipeline of  AI talents that have knowledge of issues related to national defense and possess the relevant expertise to protect our digital borders and safeguard Singapore. We look forward to working closely with the DIS to collectively deepen the core competencies of our next-generation Singapore Armed Forces to stay ahead of the threats of tomorrow.”

DIS Chief Digitalization Officer Military Expert 7 (ME7) Guo Jinghua added, “The DIS and AISG are working towards our common goal of strengthening digital capabilities to safeguard Singapore. The effective use of AI is crucial for the SAF’s mission success. We need to better reap the dynamic AI innovations in academia and industry, and integrate them into SAF operations. Our partnership with AISG is therefore an important part of our approach to leveraging cutting-edge AI innovations. Beyond AI  capability development, our partnership with AISG will help grow the DIS digital fighting force  to defend Singapore in the digital domain, and contribute to the national AI talent pipeline  through various schemes such as the Digital Work-Learn Scheme.”