Forty years of Total Defence

A simple introduction to Singapore’s Total Defence concept

Shawn Seah
6 min readFeb 14, 2024


Leopard 2SG main battle tank showcase during NS55 in 2022. Photograph by writer.

This year (2024) marks 40 years since Singapore’s concept of Total Defence was first introduced. Although there have been many national campaigns over the years, many may not still fully appreciate what Total Defence is. So, what is Total Defence and why is it important?

When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept onto Singapore’s shores in 2020, many Singaporeans from all walks of life came together to face this national challenge.

Healthcare workers treated the sick, economic agencies kept supply chains alive, and the broader community sprang into action, including volunteering to help the relatively more vulnerable migrant workers in dormitories, sew masks, or help other vulnerable groups, like the elderly.

Although flexible work arrangements were not the rage in Singapore pre-COVID, businesses adapted quickly to the challenge and provided flexible work arrangements for staff to work from home.

Personal Reflections

What is particularly memorable for me personally is that officers from the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force, and the Ministry of Manpower came together, along with other public…



Shawn Seah

Singaporean writer and public speaker, passionate about education, social issues, and local history and community stories.