LONDON — British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is to remain in the job as part of a Cabinet reshuffle announced by the country’s incoming Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday.
Originally appointed to the post in July 2019 by the then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he is highly regarded in defense circles here for his robust support for the Ukraine and his overall leadership of the Ministry of Defence.
Wallace retained his position in the ill-fated government of Liz Truss, who had a short-lived tenure as prime minister after Johnson stepped down in July.
Wallace’s confirmation as defense chief ends speculation here that he might not make it into a Sunak Cabinet. Those considerations stemmed from the fact that Wallace and Sunak had been at loggerheads during the Johnson era over the size of the increases needed in defense spending.
The Johnson and Truss governments both committed to raising defense spending to the equivalent of 3% of GDP by 2030.
Estimates put the possible spending increase in defense at over £50 billion ($57 billion) by the start of the next decade.
Neither Sunak or new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have so far committed to such high levels of spending at a time when Britain has a huge black hole in government finances.
Howard Wheeldon, a consultant at Wheeldon Strategic Advisory, said Wallace owes his continued role as defense secretary to the perception that he is a “safe pair of hands in defense and was quick to rise to the various challenges” presented by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Having supported the proposed raising of defense to 3% of GDP he will now have to find a way to backtrack,” Wheeldon added. “That will not be easy without losing the inner confidence of those around him in the MoD, military and the wider defense industry,” said Wheeldon.
Separately, the MoD has been conducting an update of the defense and security review introduced by the Johnson Government in 2021. The update, triggered by the changing strategic picture resulting from Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, is expected to be completed around the end of the year – according to the previous government, that is.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.