The first lieutenant (head of the deck
department) is responsible for deck functions.
If the ship has a combat systems department but
no deck department
The operations department is responsible for
The commanding officer (CO) has many and varied
duties. The CO has so many duties that one entire
chapter in Navy Regulations, consisting of nearly 70
articles, applies to commanding officers. In general, the
CO is responsible for the safety, well-being, and
efficiency of the command.
The commanding officers responsibilities include
the safe navigation of the ship and the condition and
appearance of the material and personnel. The CO
must also ensure the proper stationing of trained
lookouts and the preparation of the ship for battle. The
CO may delegate authority in these matters, but such
delegation does not relieve the CO of responsibility.
The officer of the deck (OOD), for example, has
authority to run the ship; but if a collision occurs, the
CO is still responsible.
The commanding officer must exert every effort to
maintain the command in a state of maximum readiness
for war. The commanding officer issues the necessary
directions to the executive officer (XO). With the
assistance of the various department heads, the XO then
prepares and conducts exercises and drills needed to
prepare the ship for battle.
During combat, the commanding officer directs the
members of the crew in fighting to the best of their
ability until action is complete. The COs battle station
is where the CO can best direct the fighting. If the ship
should sink, both custom and regulations require the
commanding officer to assure the completion of
abandon ship procedures. All personnel should be off
the ship before the commanding officer leaves.
The COs power is authoritative and complete. With
ultimate responsibility for the ship and everything
pertaining to it, the commanding officer must have
authority equal to the responsibility. To ensure
efficiency, responsibility, and discipline, the
commanding officer must have the power to enforce
prompt obedience to orders. According to the Uniform
Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the commanding
officer has the power to impose limited punishment.
This power is a part of a COs command responsibility
and may not be delegated.
Since the ship has only one CO but many crew
members, a senior enlisted member gives advice on
enlisted policies and informs the CO about the health,
welfare, and general well-being of the crew. The senior
enlisted member acts as a liaison between the officer
and enlisted community. The senior enlisted member
assigned to assist the CO is a master chief, a senior
chief, or a chief petty officer (depending on the senior
rate within the command). This person receives
assignment as the command master chief (CM/C),
command senior chief (CS/C), or command chief
(CCh). This senior enlisted member transmits ideas
and recommendations directly to the commanding
If the CO is absent, disabled, relieved from duty, or
detached without relief, another officer must assume the
COs responsibilities. This person is the next senior line
officer that is eligible for command at sea, and who is
attached to and aboard the ship. In most cases, this
person is the executive officer.
The executive officer (XO) is the aide or
executive to the commanding officer. The XO is
usually the next ranking line officer aboard ship. As
such, the XO is the direct representative of the
commanding officer in maintaining the general
efficiency of the ship. Some of the XOs responsibilities
include the following:
The commands assigned personnel. With the
help of department heads, the XO arranges and
coordinates all ships work, drills, exercises, and
policing and inspecting the ship.
Investigate matters affecting the discipline and
conduct of the crew and makes recommen-
dations concerning these matters to the