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Joint Mission Command Implementation

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Technical Report

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey recently published Mission Command, a white paper calling for the services to institutionalize the philosophy of mission command in the issuance of orders. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate mission command implementation across the joint force and to posit a theory of why mission command implementation continues to be challenging. The paper will evaluate scientific articles describing trust as, in the opinion of the author, the principle shortfall inhibiting full implementation. The paper focuses only on current doctrine and implementation efforts to date. The thesis reasons that a lack of doctrinal understanding and trust up and down the chain of command challenges implementation. The first argument explores doctrine and supposes that mission command doctrine varies so greatly from service to service, command preferences have not changed. The research finds that joint doctrine fails to establish full understanding of the mission command approach across the services and recommends a broad revision. The second argument evaluates scientific literature regarding trust and examines the biology of trust. Dempsey describes trust in his white paper as a behavior that commanders can choose. The paper finds that trust is strongly influenced by the subconscious brain and treating it like a tool ignores biology and results in further mistrust. The paper looks to the USMC as a possible counter-example, but shows their success implementing mission command could be largely due to trust building mechanisms. Finally, the paper concludes joint doctrine, education, and training are not sufficient to accomplish Dempseys vision.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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