Expanding Chief of Mission Authority to Produce Unity of Effort by Lamb and Marks
"Inter-Agency Essay" Col. Arthur D. Simons Center, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas
"Expanding Chief of Mission Authority to Produce Unity of Effort"
by Christopher Lamb and Edward Marks
The national security system has an authority problem. The problem was highlighted early in President Obama’s administration by the national debate over “czars,” Presidential appointees who oversee a particular issue area without Senate confirmation. The practice of appointing numerous czars was controversial but for the wrong reasons.1 Commentators worried that czars would create confusion and circumvent congressional oversight. What deserved greater attention is why Presidents feel the need to appoint czars in the first place and what, if anything, should be done about it. Busy Presidents appoint czars to reduce the burden of integrating the activities of the departments and agencies. When the interagency process fails to produce the cooperation among departments and agencies necessary to solve a national security (or other) problem, Presidents often designate a lead individual—czar—to do the job because they do not have enough time to do it themselves.
Both President Obama and Congress recognize the chief executive needs help integrating the diverse departments and agencies, but their past attempts to improve interagency cooperation have generally failed because they paid insufficient attention to the difficult problem of authority. New positions or organizations are often created with great fanfare and directed to ensure a coordinated response to some particular national security issue—intelligence, war fighting, reconstruction, or counterterrorism—only to fail because they lack sufficient authority. Ultimately, the departments and agencies in the national security system see little reason to follow the new organization or individual’s lead.
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.
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