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If I understand how many real militaries work (I don't really, so if I'm wrong then this question is moot), just because you outrank someone doesn't necessarily mean you can give them an order all the time. I believe it is correct that a Lieutenant from a different company can't just order a private from some other company to do something, except possibly in exceptional circumstances or if the command has been transferred for whatever reason.

Similarly then, on a starship in Starfleet, I expect that just because someone is a higher rank they can't supersede or otherwise give orders to a lower rank unless they are a direct report. Possibly this is not true in some circumstances, such as emergencies where the immediate supervisor is not available.

Are there any rules dictating the circumstances in which higher ranks can issue orders to lower ranks? Does someone's place on the senior staff affect this?

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  • In my understanding, the Captain can give an order to anyone on his vessel. (i.e. under his chain of command) Obviously it doesn't make sense for every command to be relayed down each step of the hierarchy; if the ranking officer gives a command, everyone obeys.
    – DavidW
    Dec 12, 2020 at 13:10
  • Commands from officers not in the chain of command is trickier. Short of countermanding a direct order, I would expect that most orders would be accepted from other officers in the same command. Think of a staff officer assigning a detail to unload a vehicle, for instance, or another lieutenant giving direction to a platoon missing theirs.
    – DavidW
    Dec 12, 2020 at 13:14
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    I would assume that an attempt by a higher ranking officer to order someone outside of their chain of command to do something contrary to their existing orders would be refused and referred to the individual's senior officer.
    – Valorum
    Dec 12, 2020 at 13:16
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    Does this answer your question? Enterprise Chain of Command
    – WOPR
    Dec 13, 2020 at 0:08
  • What about the episode where Ensign Ro was taking orders from someone outside the Enterprise chain of command? Dec 14, 2020 at 20:08

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