© Crown copyright 2015
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-armed-forces-support-for-activities-in-the-uk/2010-to-2015-government-policy-armed-forces-support-for-activities-in-the-uk
This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/maintaining-operational-readiness-to-provide-military-support-for-activities-in-the-uk. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.
The government is constantly refining its ability to provide an effective response to all types of emergencies and major crises at national, regional and local level. This means having a pre-planned, coordinated response from the emergency services, civil authorities and where appropriate, the Ministry of Defence.
If there is an emergency or crisis situation in the UK, local emergency services provide the first response. Government departments or civil authorities can also request military assistance from MOD.
Armed forces support in an emergency or crisis situation, in the UK, is officially known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA).
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA 04) places no statutory responsibility on defence to plan and prepare for civil crises; the statutory responsibility rests with Category 1 and 2 responders. CCA 04 placed a legal requirement on them to think, plan, procure, exercise and generally become more self-reliant in responding to crises within their remit.
As a result, and following significant resilience challenges faced by the UK in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the civil response capability has developed significantly over the past few years. It now manages emergencies that previously required defence assistance, a good example being the response to severe weather and flooding. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) has also been set up as part of the Cabinet Office, and has significantly improved central governments’ coordination of both resilience planning and actual crises.
MOD’s role is concentrated on 2 main areas.
Providing niche capabilities, which defence needs (at least some of) for its own purposes and it would not be efficient for the rest of government to generate independently, for example Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).
Standing ready to support the civil authorities when their capacity is overwhelmed. The armed forces provide this support from spare capacity, so it is subject to the availability of resources (without affecting core defence objectives). It is not typically force driving (i.e. MOD does not generate forces specifically for this task). This is because:
the requirement is unpredictable in scale, duration and capability requirement
experience suggests that we can normally meet requirements out of spare capacity
it would involve using the defence budget to pay for other government departments’ responsibilities, which would not normally happen. There are occasional exceptions to this, such as the agreement to provide fuel tanker drivers for DECC.
This role is included in the Strategic defence and security review (SDSR): securing Britain in an age of uncertainty’ 2010 and Defence Strategic Guidance (DSG) 2012 as Military Task 4 (MT4), ‘Supporting the civil emergency organisations in times of crisis’.
Military Aid to the Civil Authorities
Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) includes:
a. military aid to other government departments (MAGD): assistance provided by the armed forces on urgent work of national importance or in maintaining supplies and essential services
b. military aid to the civil power (MACP): assistance provided by armed forces to the civil power in its maintenance of law, order and public safety using specialist capabilities or equipment beyond that of the Civil Power
c. military aid to the civil community (MACC): assistance provided to the civil community for emergencies, special projects or events of significant value to the civil community, or attachment of volunteers
d. training and logistic assistance to the civil police (TLACP): used when the military is not directly involved in the civil power’s operation but supports their operational activity, for example by allowing the police to use a Army Reserve centre to assemble and brief a large number of police officers
When considering a request for defence support from another government department, MOD generally asks if the support ‘can’ be provided, i.e. without impacting on defence core business. Also, if it ‘should’ be provided, i.e. that it would be an appropriate use of defence resources and that other options, including commercial options, have been considered first.
The principles used to determine whether military aid should be provided include:
a. where the need to act is clear and where other options have been discounted by the civil authorities;
b. where the civil authority lacks the capability to fulfill the task and it is unreasonable or too expensive to expect it to develop one;
c. and/or the civil authority has the capability but the need to act is urgent and it lacks readily available resources.
As there are no standing military forces for these tasks, military support isn’t guaranteed. When it is provided the civil authorities normally have to pay for it.
The armed forces can be brought in to deal with a range of situations including, but not limited to:
natural disasters: helping people in severe weather situations, such as flooding, where there is a need to protect human life, property and alleviate distress (likely to be categorised as MACC)
network failure or disruption, including animal disease epidemics and public service related industrial disputes that affect our safety or security, or disrupt transport or communications links (likely to be categorised as MACP or MAGD)
criminal or terrorist activity, where there is a need, providing specialist expertise in specific circumstances (likely to be categorised as MACP)
bomb disposal: known officially as ‘explosive ordnance disposal’ (this can be related to terrorism, or involve unearthing a bomb from World War 2); well established procedures exist in local areas for the emergency services (primarily the police) to ask for assistance
search and rescue (SAR): helping people in danger, searching for sunken vessels or aircraft, carrying out underwater or mountain rescue tasks; all SAR is currently coordinated through the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at RAF Kinloss (however, it should be noted that MOD’s SAR capability will transfer to a civilian contractor in 2014-16)
UK waters: protecting our territorial waters, ports, ships and energy installations from terrorist attack, protecting fisheries, preventing drug or people smuggling and dealing with pollutants
UK airspace: detecting and deterring aircraft approaching UK sovereign airspace and protecting UK and NATO monitored airspace
Examples of recent emergencies, crises and events that needed help from the armed forces include:
providing security for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games
SAR and other operations during widespread flooding in 2007 and 2009
helping UK travellers stranded overseas by the Icelandic ash cloud in 2010
managing the disposal of infected cattle during the Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001
The ‘Strategic defence and security review (SDSR): securing Britain in an age of uncertainty’ 2010 sets out how defence will contribute effectively to civil crises and emergencies in the UK, balancing against other tasks.
The strategy for deploying the armed forces in the UK
The provision of military assistance is explained in the Defence Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP02) ‘Operations in the UK: the defence contribution to resilience’.
At national level, the MOD Operations Directorate in London is responsible for co-ordinating military assistance. The Standing Joint Command (UK) based in Andover facilitates detailed planning and support. Local coordination is carried out by the Joint Regional Liaison Officers (JRLO) supported by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Liaison Officers.
During a crisis MOD’s Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Military Strategy and Operations) and the Director General Security Policy give guidance to ministers and other government departments. In this way, MOD acts as both a military HQ and a department of state.
Bills and legislation
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA 04) defines how organisations, particularly local responders, prepare for emergencies. In the event of an emergency in which the supply and distribution of the essentials of life to the community are extensively threatened, the CCA can be used to invoke emergency powers on a local, regional or national basis.
Appendix 1: the process for asking for support from the armed forces
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
The Secretary of State for Defence is the government minister responsible for the MOD. He chairs the Defence Council which authorises all defence operations in the UK.
Ministers and the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) are the MOD’s chief representatives within government for managing a crisis. Subject matter experts (SME) can be drawn from within the MOD if necessary.
For operations within the UK, CDS has appointed Commander-in-Chief Land (CLF) as the Standing Joint Commander (UK) responsible for the planning and execution of civil contingency operations within the Joint Operations Area (JOA).
Military assistance is provided on the basis that the relevant civil agency retains responsibility for and control over the situation and/or emergency - although service personnel on UK operations remain under a military command structure.
Asking for help from the military
Military aid is always the last resort, where no other option exists, the civil authority cannot reasonably cope and there is an urgent need to take action. Military resources cannot be guaranteed to be available on-demand and are paid for by the civil authority not the MOD - except for where there is an imminent danger to life.
Overall responsibility for dealing with domestic crises will lie with the relevant lead government department. For example, the Department of Health would lead on matters related to public health. Other departments would provide help as necessary.
The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may also request defence assistance through their territorial departments - eg the Scotland Office.
All requests for military help by civil authorities are made through the MOD’s UK Counter Terrorism and Resilience Directorate and in most cases require specific ministerial approval. In extreme situations, where life is at immediate risk, military resources may be made available by central government without the need for prior ministerial authorisation.
There are a number of published reports that include a lot of detail on how a variety of departments, authorities and agencies work together to deal with an emergency or crisis.
The Cabinet Office has information about the government’s work to prepare for emergencies.
See the MOD’s doctrine for UK operations contained in Joint Doctrine Publication 02 Operations in the UK: the defence contribution to resilience. This document also contains a number of links information about specific types of incidents and crises (eg. spillage of hazardous chemicals). Published in 2007, JDP-02 is currently under review to bring it up to date.
What you can do if your local area is faced with a crisis or disaster: Community Resilience Programme
The comprehensive National Risk Assessment is undertaken annually.
Find out the latest government thinking on dealing with widespread flooding.
If there was a major influenza outbreak: Pandemic Preparedness Strategy
You can also read the ‘Strategic defence and security review: securing Britain in an age of uncertainty’ 2010