O ne does not need to be armed with tanks, manoeuvre sophisticated aircrafts or be on board naval warships to contribute to the defence of our nation. The Defence Executive Officers are the non-uniformed pillar of the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) who work closely with their military counterparts to maintain Singapore’s security. One such officer is Defence Merit Scholarship recipient Josiah Liang, who studies trends and patterns of change across vast domains such as geopolitics, cyber security and technology. Such studies are aimed at understanding and anticipating long-term security challenges and opportunities to fulfil the mission of MINDEF/SAF.
He explains the importance of his role, “We formulate defence relations policies and strategies to protect and advance Singapore’s security interests. Many other countries are watching our decisions and actions closely as these could affect their own interests. Hence, my job requires me to assess the risks and possibilities of reactions and outcomes, and weigh complex trade-offs.”
Realising One’s Potential
The pressure on Josiah to understand trends and potential security implications across a broad range of fields was immensely high at the beginning. “I had to familiarise myself quickly with different trends, understand the myriad linkages and the relationships between them and assess the possible implications for Singapore’s security. Overcoming such pressure would not have been possible without supportive colleagues and bosses, and of course a fair amount of hard work,” Josiah tells us with candour.
One of the more memorable episodes he had was in 2013 when he helped to prepare Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, for his visit to the US. “It was definitely a challenging and eye-opening experience for me. I was fairly new with only six months of experience and the trip required extensive preparation of policy recommendations and briefing materials. However, I managed to overcome the challenges and it turned out to be extremely fruitful and interesting. I also had the opportunity to accompany Dr Ng for his visit to the Pentagon and see a demonstration of some of the US Air Force’s fighter jet’s capabilities,” Josiah muses.
Developing A Curious Mind
Josiah feels that for those who wish to take up the Defence Merit Scholarship, they must have a keen sense of curiosity. This is important in order to effectively address the many different issues that could potentially affect Singapore’s security, such as the growing geopolitical tensions within the region. Apart from this, it is also important to possess a willingness to work hard and a strong sense of integrity in formulating policies that are in line with Singapore’s interests.
His advice to aspiring scholars is “It’s important that you select the scholarship not just because it provides an opportunity for an overseas education, but also because you are enthusiastic about the nature of the work that you will be undertaking. It also helps if you have a strong sense of curiosity about current and international affairs, and about public policy in Singapore – particularly security policies.”