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U.S.-Singapore Cooperation on Tech and Security: Defense, Cyber, and Biotech

Issues & Insights Vol. 21 SR4, pp. 5 – 15

About this Volume

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.- Singapore Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy Singapore. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Singapore relationship. Between September 2020 and August 2021, cohort members engaged with senior experts and practitioners as they developed research papers addressing various aspects of the bilateral relationship.

The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective organizations and affiliations. Pacific Forum’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its staff, donors and sponsors.


The partnership between the United States and Singapore is founded in no small part on the shared recognition of the value that technology has for national security. Over the last 55 years, Singapore has become an established purchaser of U.S. defense technology, but the past 20 years have also seen the U.S.-Singapore relationship mature into an increasingly collaborative one, tackling newer fields like cybersecurity and biosecurity. However, current geopolitical tensions present a challenge for Singapore, which strives to retain its strategic autonomy by maintaining positive relations with all parties. Paradoxically, the rise of non-traditional security threats may pave the way for greater bilateral cooperation by allowing Singapore to position itself as a hub for cooperation on regional security issues in Southeast Asia at large. In such spirit, this paper recommends that the United States and Singapore do the following: 1) in defense technology, co-develop niche capabilities in C4ISR and unmanned systems with peacetime applications; 2) in cybersecurity, improve their domestic resilience against sophisticated nation-state actors while also building regional capacity to counter cybercrime in Southeast Asia; and 3) in biosecurity, strengthen regional epidemiological surveillance to brace against possible future pandemics.

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Shaun Ee is a nonresident fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, working at the nexus of security policy, emerging tech, and U.S.-China relations. He is also a Yenching Scholar at Peking University and writes for TechNode, a Beijing- and Shanghai-based publication covering China’s tech ecosystem. Previously, Shaun was assistant director of the Scowcroft Center’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, and served in the Singapore Armed Forces as a signals operator in an artillery unit. He holds a BA from Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied cognitive neuroscience and East African history.

Photo: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen stand at attention for the playing of both countries national anthems during a bilateral exchange at the Pentagon, Washington D.C., Nov. 3, 2021. Source: DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys