Ministry of Defence
MINDEF Cluster | Ministry of Defence

Different Line of Defence

Defence Executive Officer Kenneth Soo contributes to the important work of the Ministry of Defence in ways less-imagined.

In his role as a Manager in the National Service Policy Department, Kenneth Soo harnesses data and applies the latest technologies to improve the NS experience for our national servicemen. He was awarded the Defence Merit Scholarship in 2013 and holds a Bachelor’s in Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics, and Economics from the University of Warwick, as well as a Master’s in Statistics from Stanford University.

Defence Executive Officers (DXOs) are non-uniformed professionals in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), who work alongside their counterparts in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in various areas such as data analysis and policy formulation. They enjoy a wide range of career options and the opportunity to contribute to Singapore’s defence in a very unique way.

A career as a DXO came as a natural choice for Kenneth Soo, who has a strong interest in defence-related issues. “I believe that Singapore’s peace and security cannot be taken for granted. The DXO scheme allows me to work hand in hand with the SAF and the defence community to advance Singapore’s defence interests.”

Under the Defence Merit Scholarship offered by MINDEF for non-uniformed personnel, Kenneth read a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics, and Economics at the University of Warwick. He went on to pursue a Master’s in Statistics from Stanford University.

Kenneth is an example of someone who benefitted from the varied career paths available to DXOs, as each of his appointments is nothing like the one before it. He recently completed a job rotation reviewing financial governance policies, and is now thoroughly immersed in using data analytics to review National Service (NS) policies and improve the NS journey.

Specialising in Uniqueness

Kenneth’s first appointment, in the Defence Finance Organisation (DFO), saw him formulating and reviewing finance policies to ensure strong financial governance.

From investing in defence technology research to ensuring administrative protocols are in place, DFO makes sure that capital is going to the right places in the right way.

“I found my role highly fulfilling. Financial governance is often about balancing the considerations of financial risks against operational requirements. When carefully balanced, it results in a strong public confidence that the Defence Budget has been well spent and creates an efficient financial process for operational units,” he explained.

Unexpectedly, his work also involved overseas travel. Kenneth had to be on the spot during the signing of training agreements and treaties, where he kept a keen eye on the proceedings to ensure that Singapore was represented fairly, and that our investments are safeguarded.

Recently, he was deeply involved in a training treaty with Australia, which meant many trips back and forth between Singapore and Canberra as they negotiated terms.

“My role in DFO was to ensure that the training agreements we were signing with foreign defence partners had sufficient clauses that protected Singapore’s financial interests,” he said.

His hard work has yielded visible results. Kenneth described: “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some of our overseas training had to be suspended. Having negotiated strong safeguards, we protected our financial position in unexpected situations like this.”

“The DXO scheme allows [one] to work hand in hand with the SAF and the defence community to advance Singapore’s defence interests.” Kenneth Soo

Embracing Potential

The DXO scheme springboards its talent into various job categories that cater to a wide range of skills and experience levels. There is the flexibility to try out a wide range of functions for people to uncover their potential and discover their ideal roles.

And MINDEF always places its people first. When Kenneth’s superiors recognised his talent in data analytics, they were quick to assign him a project that suited his interests.

“I am passionate about data science and computer technology, and I even published a book on this subject while I was studying in Stanford,” he related. “Which is why I’m glad that the DXO scheme offers the flexibility for me to pursue my interests, and for me to exercise and hone my skills.”

Currently, Kenneth has settled into his new role as a Manager in the National Service Policy Department working on NS policies and digital transformation. In this appointment, he focuses on building advanced analytics capabilities to augment policy reviews and the management of NS resources. Drawing on the NS database and the latest technologies, his work will make NS more engaging, targeted, and useful for the servicemen.

While Kenneth is looking forward to transforming the NS journey for our youths, he also looks forward to welcoming new DXOs joining the organisation. “For people who are passionate about shaping the future of Singapore’s defence, this is a career they should definitely consider.

“The DXO scheme has a robust framework to manage the careers and progression of DXOs. It empowers DXOs to explore a diverse range of roles, seek new challenges, acquire new skills, and further their careers in a fulfilling environment.”

Kenneth ended on the most important benefit of all – the opportunity to serve the people of Singapore in a direct and meaningful way. He concluded: “Contributing to Singapore’s peace and stability also means that I am protecting the people who matter to me the most.”