InterAgency Essay 11-02, May 2011
by Christopher Lamb and Edward Marks
The national security system has an authority problem. At the heart of the problem is the inability to reconcile a desire for a clear chain of command from the President down through the heads of the departments and agencies with the need to empower new mechanisms (individuals or organizational constructs) with sufficient authority to integrate efforts across the departments and agencies in pursuit of specified national missions. “Unity of command” down through the functional departments and agencies seems to preclude “unity of effort” for missions that are intrinsically interagency in nature and cut across those same departments and agencies.
In this essay we argue that the interagency integration problem can be rectified by expanding the President’s power to delegate a modified “chief of mission” authority similar to that granted ambassadors to oversee and direct the activities of employees from diverse government organizations working in a foreign country. The chief of mission model requires modification to work well beyond the bilateral setting of a U.S. embassy, but it does point a way forward to escape the dilemma the current system imposes on Presidents who want unity of effort without sacrificing unified command.
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