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The Buck Stops Where Aligning Authority to Strategy in Homeland Security

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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This thesis examines how having authority to make decisions in different levels of an organization affects performance. The homeland security implications of this study are that the agencies responsible for homeland security are commonly structured along a rigid hierarchy with authorities accumulated at the top. This slow-moving structure is compared to more decentralized and flexible organizations found in private industry and in some foreign governments. Organizational performance can be predicted by examining how the level of operating environment instability is matched to an organizations decision-making authorities. Using case study analysis, coupled with an extensive literature review, this thesis concludes that the more turbulent the potential environment, such as in the case of a terrorist threat or natural disaster, the more decentralized the organizations should be.The conclusion recognizes the political reality that Congress and executive leaders are not going to easily devolve authority to lower levels in organizations. Therefore, the study concludes with recommendations that agencies dealing in uncertain and changing environments be more loosely coupled at lower levels, allowing more decision-making authority to street-level operators while maintaining ultimate authority at upper levels. Finally, the thesis also recommends additional study of decentralizing strategies specific to homeland security agencies.

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