The Government have recently released a policy statement on Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) (here). This states that the military support to overwhelmed local authorities is provided from “spare capacity” and that “MOD does not generate and maintain forces specifically for this task … because … the requirement is unpredictable in scale, duration and capability requirement” and “experience suggests that requirements can usually be met from spare capacity“.
This is sensible and reasonable and, to date, very successful. During the 2007 summer floods in Gloucestershire floods the military responded to requests to help with over 1000 personnel deployed over an 11 day period. Helicopters and assault boats were used to rescue 193 people and reassure other cut off communities; Chinooks were used to transport a much needed high volume pump and aggregate and personnel filled sandbags, built barriers and distributed drinking water where the water board was struggling. (Pitt Review)
Recommendation 47 of the Pitt Review states that “The Ministry of Defence should identify a small number of trained Armed Forces personnel who can be deployed to advise Gold Commands on logistics during wide-area civil emergencies and, working with the Cabinet Office, identify a suitable mechanism for deployment.”
The government claims that this recommendation has been implemented (here) with the development of “the existing central response mechanisms” but in JDP 02 Operations in the UK: The Defence Contribution to Resilience you find that the military support is still described as “provided on an emergency basis and fielded from irreducible spare capacity“.
MACA is a valuable tool in the UK’s emergency response tool box and has been very effective on numerous occasions the fact that it is not obvious that Pitt Recommendation 47 has been fully implemented is a minor concern.