Defence Preparedness in Non-Traditional Security

By Muhamad Nur Lokman bin Redzuan (Analyst, Penang Institute)



Non-traditional security (NTS) is an umbrella term for security issues such as terrorism, environmental degradation, and so on; and why the term is important is that most countries do not give the threats involved sufficient consideration. They are mainly concerned with traditional security conflicts between national armies.

NTS has to be seen and acknowledged as the war of the future due to its unpredictability, and the fact that domestic and external factors both come into play.

Malaysia is no exception, and has its share of non-traditional security threats to handle. Lahad Datu intrusions, the human trafficking camp at Wang Kelian, kidnappings for ransom at Sabah by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are examples of these threats, which have alerted the Malaysian government, especially the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) to the new dangers at hand. Several points are highlighted below for preparedness in non-traditional security and in fighting “the war of the future”; which the Defence White Paper should consider.


Enhancing Collaboration with Other Agencies

Strategic collaboration between the MAF and agencies such as the Department of Environmental, the Malaysia Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and others, is imperative in ensuring that NTS threats such as industrial contamination, pollution and cyber threats, which the MAF lacks expertise to deal with, can be managed safely. There are several ways the MAF can enhance collaboration with other agencies. The first has to do with the exchange of knowledge between the MAF and other agencies. MAF officers can be dispatched to other agencies to learn about methods, procedures and guidelines for dealing with issues that are not within the traditional purview of the MAF. Secondly, the MAF and other relevant agencies should establish a coordination centre that has the ability to immediately activate containment or defence measures without red tape or processes that can delay proper response.  Swift communication and decision making between the agencies and the MAF must be possible. Without strong coordination, countering NTS threats will be difficult and ineffective.


Ongoing Training

NTS events are difficult to foresee. Nevertheless, the government needs to prepare to handle them as and when they occur. Fire-fighting such situations would be easier if the MAF undergoes constant and consistent training. Regular training involving NTS elements such as logistics, communication and strategic planning will raise MAF officer skills and individual awareness in facing threats at all times. Besides, the exposure to various elements of non-traditional security in training can equip MAF personnel with the right knowledge to act appropriately and respond immediately—especially matters of life and death. Regular training also allows the MAF to figure out their own weaknesses and how to surmount them; and devise plans to neutralize threats within a shorter span of time.


Modern Technology & Equipment

With the rise of modern technology, conflicts will take new forms and become very challenging to train for. Even now, the usage of modern equipment by perpetrators of non-traditional security threats have become a norm. A case in point are the attacks in cyberspace known as Ransomware WannaCry, which affected more than 150 countries including Malaysia. It holds a system to ransom by locking its computer encryption; unlocking it only on payment of specified amounts of money. Hence, the MAF must be well equipped to ensure that future threats of this nature can be countered without limitations and drawbacks. With Industrial Revolution 4.0, wars of the future will no longer be limited to just physical territorial wars, but will advance into cyberspace where availability and accessibility to information decide the winner—and only with advanced military equipment can Malaysia be prepared for what’s to come.



The areas of NTS appear to be where many challenges to the defence forces of the country will come from and where many wars of the future will be fought. The MAF must hurry to prepare for this since there is no telling when such threats will arise. That era is already upon us. The MAF especially, must be prepared for what seems to be the unpredictable, if futures dangers to the nation and to citizens are to be minimised.

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