BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — A new Defence White Paper will be released in May to outline Brunei’s strategies in tackling security threats, the second defence minister told the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Thursday.

YB Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Halbi Hj Mohammad Yussof said the updated Defence White Paper spells out Brunei’s defence policy and serves as a guide on dealing with security challenges.

The revised Defence White Paper comes 10 years after the current version was published and 17 years since the first edition was launched.

“Since the publication of the last Defence White Paper in 2011, the geopolitical situation has become more complex and difficult to predict, especially with the increasing number of traditional and non-traditional security threats involving state and non-state actors. This requires our armed forces to adapt,” he said.

The new Defence White Paper will be launched to mark the 60th anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF).

Second Minister of Defence Pehin Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Halbi at the 17th LegCo session. Photo: Infofoto

Uptick in defence budget

YB Pehin Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Halbi announced a budget allocation of $610.17 million for the defence ministry in the 2021/22 fiscal year, a 0.68 percent increase from the previous financial year.

As one of the ministries to receive a large share of the national budget, the defence ministry is expected to focus on enhancing deterrence and response capabilities, promoting defence diplomacy and adopting a holistic approach to defence.

The scope for national defence continues to widen and deepen with globalisation, economic interdependence, technological advancement, and the rise of various man-made and natural threats, the minister said.

Emerging technologies and climate change will further increase security risks, increasing the need for a strong defence policy, he added.

“In this regard, we need to understand that peace and stability of the country is the main key foundation for national development and in achieving the goals of Brunei Vision 2035.”

The bulk of the recurring expenditure in 2021/2022 has been allocated to further strengthen RBAF’s capacity in “strategic capability projects” and finance the maintenance of major assets such as ships, vehicles, aircraft and weapons.

RBAF will also continue to make use of technology and innovation to support research.

YB Pehin Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Halbi said the ministry’s Defence Science and Technology Group will review measures to promote science and technological innovation.

To encourage new research projects that support national security needs, an annual Defence Research Innovation Seed Fund has been set up under the Science and Technology Research and Development Centre.

The Ministry of Defence’s Cyber Defence Unit will also provide support to the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications, especially to Cyber ​​Security Brunei as the main cyber security agency in the country.

‘Time to assess effectiveness of ASEAN defence meetings’

The minister said it is also time to review the effectiveness of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) in promoting security and defence cooperation.

The review will involve “comprehensive stocktaking” of all existing initiatives and meetings will be adjusted according to the current situation, he added.

It is hoped that initiatives under the ADMM would remain sustainable and bring a lasting positive impact to the ASEAN Community.

YB Pehin Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Halbi said military and defence relations among regional partners remain unaffected even though physical interaction is limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of the efforts in strengthening cooperation continue to be fostered through alternative methods including virtual [platforms],” the minister added.