BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Defence has proposed a budget of $606.02 million for the 2020/2021 fiscal year, which will be focused on long-term defence strategies.

The budget allocation is a $1.618 million or 0.27% increase from the 2019/2020 financial year and a five percent increase from the 2018/2019 fiscal year.

Speaking on the fourth day of the Legislative Council meeting, Second Defence Minister YB Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Halbi Hj Mohammad Yussof said the ministry has set up a cyber defence unit to handle online threats.

The establishment of a cyber defence unit will fully equip the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) to tackle global threats that are dynamic, rapid and borderless, he added.

The minister, who did not provide a breakdown of his ministry’s budget, said the interconnected nature of challenges such as geopolitical tensions; COVID-19 pandemic and the South China Sea disputes can jeopardise peace and stability in the region.

“Given that the geopolitical situation at present is interconnected, there is no one country that can function effectively without addressing complex issues collectively,” he said.

YB Pehin Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Halbi reiterated that an updated Defence White Paper will be published next year in conjunction with the ministry’s diamond jubilee celebration or 60th anniversary.

The Defence White Paper outlines defence strategies and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces’ capacity development plan. 

He said the revised Defence White Paper is important to ensure the country’s defence policy can address current and future challenges and the publication is also timely with the country’s ASEAN chairmanship next year.

During the budget readout, he outlined the ministry’s three main thrusts: enhancing deterrence and response capabilities; promoting defence diplomacy and creating a holistic approach to defence.

Enhancing deterrence and response capabilities

The minister said special attention is given to defence capabilities, armaments and the training required to realise its development plans.

Reliable and trained human resources remain a priority for the ministry, with the Office Cadet School and RBAF Defence Academy producing 523 officers while a new RBAF Recruitment Office was formed last year to ensure sustainable recruitment. 

He added that his ministry is working on acquiring an unmanned aerial system (UAS) for  intelligence, surveillance and monitoring of RBAF’s reconnaissance.

Defence diplomacy

The minister said bilateral and multilateral defence diplomacy will enable Brunei to expand the country’s role and influence in the international arena.

To date, the ministry has signed memoranda of understanding with 18 countries in defence, technology and military cooperation.

In terms of regional security, he said the ministry remains active and committed to the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting and its related meetings.

“Through this mechanism and platform, we have succeeded in building trust and cohesiveness among the armed forces of friendly nations as well as uphold the country’s policies and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, he said.

Engagements in the form of peacekeeping operations, international missions, exercises, joint working defence committees, humanitarian aid and contributions will shape the ministry’s diplomatic endeavours in promoting regional peace and stability, he added.

The minister also highlighted the need to advance the country’s direction towards leveraging technology in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

He said this can be seen with the publication of the Defence Digital Strategy Framework and Defence Science and Technology Policy Framework, including collaborating with Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Universiti Teknologi Brunei in research, innovation and technology.