Decentralized command is a hallmark of the Navy and Marine Corps team. Its tenets go hand in hand with maneuver warfare, and empowering subordinates to act on commander’s intent is the most effective way to weaponize tempo at both the operational and tactical levels. Through numerous conflicts, the sea services have evolved to appreciate the necessity for mission orders and decentralized command.
With advances in technology, however, national command authorities now can have an active say in military operations down to the tactical level. There clearly is value in instantaneous communications, but the potential downside is alarming. If a senior civilian or military leader were to lose confidence in a particular plan, operation, or commander, he or she no longer would have to use the chain of command but could reach down directly into the fight in real time and direct forces. This would negate almost 250 years of command evolution.
1. Stephen Howarth, To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy, 1775–1998 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 13–16, 30.
2. Ian W. Toll, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 131.
3. Carl H. Builder, Steven C. Bankes, and Richard Nordin, Command Concepts: A Theory Derived from the Practice of Command and Control (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999), 42.
4. Builder, et al., Command Concepts, 32.
5. Jim Storr, “A Command Philosophy for the Information Age: The Continuing Relevance of Mission Command,” Defence Studies (Autumn 2003): 119–29.
6. Thomas E. Ricks, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today (New York: The Penguin Press, 2012), 117.
7. “NATO Airstrike on Afghanistan Fuel Truck Kills 40,” The Telegraph, 4 September 2009; Eric Schmitt and Matthew Rosenberg, “General Is Said to Think Afghan Hospital Airstrike Broke U.S. Rules,” The New York Times, 6 October 2015; and James Joyner, “Why We Should Be Glad the Haditha Massacre Marine Got No Jail Time,” The Atlantic, 25 January 2012.
8. Jamie Crawford, “The bin Laden Situation Room Revisited—One Year Later,” CNN, 1 May 2012.
9. U.S. Marine Corps, Warfighting (San Bernardino, CA: Renaissance Classics, 2012), 23, 52.