Budget 2019 debate: MHA aims to set up science and technology agency by end-2019

·Senior Editor
Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo addresses Parliament. PHOTO: Screengrab from Gov.sg YouTube channel
Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo addresses Parliament. PHOTO: Screengrab from Gov.sg YouTube channel

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is aiming to set up a new science and technology agency by the end of 2019, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo on Friday (1 March).

Speaking during the Committee of Supply (COS) debate in Parliament, Teo said her ministry intends to table a bill in Parliament to establish the agency as a statutory board under MHA. The new agency will build on recent efforts to transform the Home Team through the increased use of technology to support operations.

It will deepen the Home Team’s scientific and engineering expertise; work on developing new technologies such as threat detection and digital forensics; and integrate science and technology requirements across the Home Team, said Teo.

“The agency will conduct applied research, and develop new systems to be deployed in the Home Team’s various operations. (It) will help to direct our investments in capability development, which will more than double from $979 million in FY2019, to $1.9 billion in FY2025,” said Teo.

The Minister was responding to questions from Members of Parliament about MHA’s plans for and the role of the new agency.

Why the need for a new agency?

Teo, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, elaborated on the reasons for setting the new agency.

  • Capabilities such as forensics, biometrics and surveillance, will become increasingly critical to safeguarding Singapore. “We must stay ahead in these areas,” said Teo.

  • Many of these capabilities are unique to the Home Team, reflecting its distinct operational context and mission requirements. “The Home Team needs organic scientists and engineers,” said Teo.

  • A dedicated agency will boost the joint Home Team approach, with capabilities developed and shared across departments.

She added, “Lastly, centralising science and technology talent that is today distributed across the different Home Team departments, will better support career development for the officers, which in turn deepens organisational capabilities.”

MHA is already partnering other government agencies, such as GovTech, the Defence Science and Technology Agency, DSO National Laboratories, as well as companies like ST Engineering and Singtel, to develop the capabilities.

“But as we look to further leverage technology, we will need to set up a dedicated agency to further develop the Home Team’s science and technology capabilities,” said Teo.

The 50-year-old also spoke about the challenges that the Home Team faces including the persistent terrorist threat, criminals using more sophisticated tactics and the increasing workload of the Home Team, as well as increased public expectations.

Teo said the deployment of technology will enhance the Home Team’s capacity to meet these challenges amid manpower constraints.

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