As a hands-on Minister of Defence, Goh Keng Swee was always concerned that the defence establishment from headquarters should always avoid institutional complacency and maintain operational readiness - to leap into battle, not the welcoming arms of an obliging female. Goh conducted an experiment, to test his hypothesis that "anyone could slip chunks of statistics from the National Estimates into an army document and, and no one would notice", by issuing a general circular which was in essence a lengthy quote about the Great Flood from the book of Genesis. The response from the rank and file of the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the armed forces is telling:
Most recipients were perplexed, to say the least - but in a comical bid to conceal their ignorance, they either forwarded the circular to their subordinates, with the words, 'For your necessary action', or 'Noted and filed'. Since the passage had mentioned floods, the Army officers sent it to the Navy officers 'for action'. The more imaginative officers interpreted the extract as instructions to send two representatives from each company to assemble forty days later, as the document mentioned the following lines, 'You shall bring two of every sort into the ark' and 'The rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights'. Only one officer... had the common sense to ask in exasperation, 'What on earth is this circular all about, and who sent it?'
(Tan Siok Sun, "Goh Keng Swee: A Portrait", page 147)
Lim Siong Guan recalled how none of the commanders raised questions on the General Staff Orders containing the story of Noah's Ark. Goh replied that the commanders either were not reading the orders or did not care for them.
The unfolding tragedy is that the lone officer who did ask a question probably did not make it higher up the ranks. It's the other lot that are parachuted into comfortable appointments with government linked companies. The guys likely to be running the transportation companies, shipping lines, government investment houses and holding office in the cabinet. It must be tough to focus on soldiering when the "retirement package" is more lucrative. Goh was prescient about the creep of complacency, but unfortunately for us, nothing can be done about it.