The overseers were often aware of their vault's purpose as an experiment and helped coordinate it. Overseers were chosen in a variety of ways, with initial leaders chosen before the war, and subsequent overseers afterward. In Vault 11, elections were held each year to choose a new overseer, who in turn would be killed as that year's "sacrifice."
The overseer's role and extent of their authority varied from vault to vault; in one vault an overseer might serve in a purely advisory capacity, while another vault might have an overseer with absolute control of every aspect of its residents' lives.Dr. Stanislaus Braun distributed sealed orders to each vault's overseer in the weeks before the Great War. According to a letter addressed by Dr. Braun to the original overseer of Vault 101, disclosing the contents of those sealed orders to the vault's residents or deviating from the experiment were grounds for termination of employment from Vault-Tec.
↑Vault-Tec Workshop loading screens: "The Overseer is the person responsible for every aspect of a Vault's operation - including any bizarre social experiments cooked up by Dr. Stanislaus Braun, the Director of Vault-Tec's Societal Preservation Program."
↑The Lone Wanderer: "I just want to know why you won't open the Vault." Allen Mack: "Most of the people in here will just get themselves killed out there. You know that better than anyone. But down here, they've got a safe life. And while we're down here, I'm in charge. Like the G.O.A.T. said: 'To whom do we owe everything you have, including our lives?' The Overseer! And that's me!" (Allen Mack's dialogue)
↑The Lone Wanderer: "I just had a little talk with him and explained a few things. All quite civil." Amata Almodovar: "You and him? Civil? I expected you to change out in the Wasteland, but not that much! But I guess we'll all be learning a bit about the outside now, won't we? As the new Overseer, I'm planning on opening the Vault, this time for good. It's a bright new day for the Vault... but I'm afraid there's one thing that has to change." (Amata Almodovar's dialogue)
↑Gwen McNamara: "We can't risk this pathogen spreading, Dr. Forsythe." Jacob Forsythe: "Yes, Overseer." Gwen McNamara: "How is Austin doing?" Jacob Forsythe: "Not good. The infection has progressed quite rapidly.We need a way to stop it from spreading." Gwen McNamara: "Then let's hope that outsider pulls through and gets us a cure. You and your staff are to make sure every resident remains under stringent medical observation." Jacob Forsythe: "Understood. But Overseer..." Gwen McNamara: "No buts. This is for the good of the Vault. We can't risk this pathogen spreading, Dr. Forsythe." Jacob Forsythe: "Yes, Overseer." (Gwen McNamara and Jacob Forsythe's dialogue)