Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased to be here today at the Global Security Asia Conference and Exhibition 2007 which is the second such event organized by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
2 Since the first conference in 2005, interest in this conference has steadily grown as can be seen by the key national pavilions representing the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Singapore, as well as the presence of leading industry players like EADS, Rapiscan Asia, Singapore Technologies, Thales, Motorola and NEC. Prominent experts and leading security practitioners will present some 40 papers, sharing their insights, experiences and perspectives on technology and security, with this year’s theme of “Emerging Threats – New Technologies”. It is very important for us to keep abreast of latest developments in various countries as we all have a common interest in tackling security threats.
3 This year’s theme is very relevant in the context of today’s global security environment. Even as Governments leverage on technology to enhance our security, the terrorists themselves are also exploiting technology for their own sinister ends. They use the Internet to communicate and also use encryption technology to secure their exchanges. Not only that, they also study existing security systems to test for weaknesses.
4 Governments must harness the advantage we have of greater access to resources and control over territory, which makes it possible for national-level systems to be implemented. Working together, like-minded Governments can cooperate to implement world-wide systems to enhance global security. A good example is the enhancement of passports to carry biometric features.
Enhancing Border Security with Technology
5 The International Civil Aviation Organisation or ICAO has promulgated standards on biometric passports making impersonation and forgery much more difficult. However, in order to maximize the benefits of such technology, international inter-operability of such passports is needed. Singapore has worked closely with ICAO on devising these technical standards. The Singapore Biometric passport or BioPass was launched in Aug 2006 and fully meets all ICAO standards. The BioPass is part and parcel of our ongoing efforts to combat trans-national terrorism. Terrorist elements usually tap illegal passport networks to procure false identities and passports. A strong passport control and border security regime impedes and disrupts such terrorists. Countries must collectively focus on developing and enhancing their passport controls as well as their border surveillance. This way the counter-terrorism dividend from such efforts will be significant. We can deter and disrupt the movement of key terrorist elements, including couriers of funds or smugglers of material.
6 Another example of how border security could be further enhanced by common technological standards is the IMO requirement to install identifying transponders on ocean-going vessels above 300 tonnes. Singapore was among the first to comply with this requirement. Apart from larger vessels, numerous smaller craft also operate in our waters as well. In this regard, we have established the Harbour Craft Transponder System (HARTS) to monitor and track the movements of small harbour and pleasure craft in our waters. To date, about 2800 craft have been fitted with a HARTS transponder.
7 An event such as this GSA 2007 provides the opportunity to harness knowledge, experience and innovation from both the government and the private sectors. Close public-private collaboration will help the industry understand the practical operational needs of governments so that it can better create customized solutions. In turn, Governments can gain insights into ideas and solutions offered by the private sector.
8 Technology is however, not the total solution. Governments, as a major user of security technology, also need to invest more resources in training staff to maximize the use of technology. No single scanner in the world, however good, can detect everything. An alert and well-trained officer, knowing the strengths and limits of his machine, should also be observing the person screened even as he mans the scanner. This combination of vigilance – of the trained professional and technology - is a formidable barrier for any would-be terrorist or criminal. This is why we need to integrate more training with technology deployment.
9 In this regard, the Home Team Academy is developing a suite of counter-terrorism training facilities which seeks to do precisely this. Trainees are not taught just in classrooms or see videos and photos of bombs and chemicals. They are trained to use the actual technical equipment they would be deployed to work with. They will be given hands-on exposure to close simulates of explosives and precursor material. There is even a smell lab to help sensitise front-line officers to recognize tell-tale chemicals used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.
10 The front-line officer is the first and most important element in hardening targets and preventing attacks. If he or she gets it right and responds effectively, incidents will be averted or at least have their impact reduced. Our front-line officers must develop sharp reflexes and keen instincts. To do this, the training provided must allow these officers opportunities to experience important indicators of threats in a palpable manner, on a day-to-day basis. One possible area for our technical experts to explore is how to develop systems which would maximize such real-world training efforts through sophisticated simulators and other means.
11 Knowing how to exploit the potential of technology will help us to create new solutions to deal with emerging security challenges. The increasing sophistication of IT systems now makes it possible to conduct complex analysis of massive amounts of data. Data mining, link-analysis technologies and sophisticated intelligent systems can help to provide us with early indications of threats and opportunities. In this regard, Singapore has proceeded to develop the Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning System or RAHS. Again, in a complex endeavour such as this, Governments have to partner with and tap the creative strength of industry and private sector R&D.
12 Today’s event provides a platform for more of such partnerships to be made and forged. I am confident that the Conference and the Exhibition of new products and technologies will be a success. I wish you all fruitful discussions and, our friends from overseas, a pleasant stay in Singapore.