Military Embedded Systems

Geopolitical realities to drive SOF teams operation changes, says Ben Wallace, former U.K. defense secretary


May 08, 2024

Flavia Camargos Pereira

Military Embedded Systems

U.K. Royal Marines are shown in a U.S. Navy photo by Lt Rob Kunzig

SOF WEEK 2024 -- TAMPA, Florida. The Rt. Hon. Ben Wallace, the former British defense secretary, asserted in his keynote speech at the SOF Week 2024 exhibition that the current geopolitical scenario requires changes in the way SOF [special operations forces] teams operate.

In his keynote speech (delivered the morning of Wednesday, May 8), Wallace explained that countries must modernize their rules around the special operators in order to accelerate authorization processes and enable more agile deployments. “We are governed by permissions and rules of engagement. These need to become much more dynamic,” Wallace noted. “They [special operators] must move into the threat, be able to plug out on their abilities as soon as our enemies.”

From his perspective, threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and terrorist groups need fast responses and will require even more agility in the future; he believes that reducing bureaucracy as well as updating SOF regulations might support military teams to be better prepared for tomorrow’s warfare.

“I used to think that some of our permission sets [Ed. note: authorizations to conduct certain operations] are written by people who think the enemy behaves like us. They don't. We have to think like that,” Wallace pointed out. “We need to make sure that these permissions titles are dynamic, and if necessary, modernized."  

In his opinion, there is “no excuse anymore” for a long and bureaucratic process since he sees “too many enemies of our values around the world today.”  

The recruitment and training of operators is another area to be addressed, Wallace said: Preparing special operators to have a higher level of autonomy to perform their tasks can be beneficial. “It is my experience whether in the army or the civilian world, you get the best results when you devolve authority, not centralize it,” he noted. “Well-trained and properly selected SOF operators allow them to operate independently under their own self-discipline and can achieve extraordinary things.”

Strengthening partnerships and collaborations with other governmental agencies as well as with allies can be also a way to prepare SOF teams for tomorrow’s warfare, Wallace detailed, along with accelerating the implementation of lessons learned from the current international scenario and outlining long-term actions.

“I hope that we learn that quicker, because people on the other side of the world have 100-year plans,” Wallace claimed. “We seem to live on two-year, three-year plans.”

Wallace, a former British army officer, led the U.K. Ministry of Defense from 2019 to 2023. He took part in the domestic and international response to the conflict in Ukraine, being among the first authorities to warn of Putin’s invasion plans; he also established the earliest lethal aid and proactive assistance to Kyiv.

He also published the first Defense British AI strategy, established the U.K.'s National Cyber Force, and was a facilitator in the AUKUS alliance, the trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific region between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.



Featured Companies

U.K. Ministry of Defence

London, England SW1A 2HB
Comms - Communications
Topic Tags