Fragmentation in the Department of Defense

A recent article described a problem of drug-resistant bacteria infecting wounded troops in Iraq. As specialists attempted to track down the cause of infection, “reforms ran into a major obstacle: each link in the evacuation chain was owned by a different branch of the DOD.”

The lack of coordination within the DOD evacuation chain hearkens back to a similar issue within the Intelligence Community. As Mike Wertheimer, a senior DNI official, describes:

“I am unable to send email, and even make secure phone calls, to a good portion of the Intel community from my desktop because of firewalls.”

Fragmentation within government agencies is due in part to the principle of Unity of Command, a management concept in which each member reports to only one supervisor. This leads to clear and linear control structures and operational effectiveness within a small organizational unit; however it limits interaction at the outer edges of the command chain, where an individual at an outer branch is unable to coordinate (and in some cases even communicate) with individuals at another branch.

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