San Francisco, Earth
Starfleet is the exploratory and defense service maintained by the United Federation of Planets. Its principal functions include the advancement of Federation knowledge about the galaxy and its inhabitants through scientific discovery, research, and exploration. Starfleet’s ancillary duties include defense of the Federation, and facilitation of Federation diplomacy. Starfleet personnel therefore act as official representatives of the Federation and, as such, are expected to embody its highest ideals. They are highly flexible, and capable of undertaking a wide variety of missions thanks to their extensive training and experience.
The origins of the modern Starfleet can be traced back to the United Earth Starfleet of the 22nd century. Founded first-and-foremost as an exploratory body, this iteration of the interstellar force soon began to undergo a process of militarization, prompted by early encounters with various dangers in deep space. It accelerated considerably following the Xindi incident of 2153 and the Earth-Romulan War of the late 2150s, in which the United Earth Starfleet saw significant military action alongside the forces of other future Federation members.
When the Federation was founded in 2161, early leadership chose to pursue policies of peace and exploration. This quickly led to United Earth Starfleet being selected as the core of a unified interstellar service. The space services of other pre-Federation powers (such as the Andorians, Vulcans, and Tellarites) were folded into the new, combined organization. And subsequently, all operations were overseen by Starfleet Command.
For two-and-a-half centuries, Starfleet has continued its mission of science and diplomacy. They have pushed the limits of Federation knowledge and broadened understanding. At times, they have had to mobilize for war, such as during the Federation-Klingon War of the mid-2250s or the Federation-Cardassian War that lasted through several decades of the 24th century. They have also achieved great acts of peace, including the Khitomer Accords with the Klingon Empire and the Treaty of Algeron with the Romulan Star Empire. In addition, numerous exploratory missions have provided opportunities for colonization and diplomatic engagement with potential member worlds, expanding the Federation’s borders significantly.
Starfleet was once again forced to take on a more defensive posture following its first encounter with the Borg Collective in the 2360s, leading to another period of militarization. However, this proved timely in that it helped them to better prepare for the outbreak of hostilities, first with the Klingon Empire, and then with the Dominion.
Many hoped that, following the end of the Dominion War, Starfleet would once again return to its original mandate. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Threats of secession by certain Federation member worlds over the Romulan evacuation, the synth attack on Mars, and the supernova of the Romulan Sun steered things in another direction. Devastating losses to its assets and fleet power, as well as a shift in public policy and opinion, turned the focus inward.
Starfleet’s exploratory operations were greatly reduced in the latter part of the 2380s. A majority of their remaining resources were re-allocated to domestic research, border patrol, and internal security. Older, previously inactive fleets were reconstituted and redeployed to try to meet these needs. And although there has been some increase in deep space exploration, humanitarian aid efforts, and diplomatic engagement in recent years, such operations remain outliers in a largely internally-focused Starfleet.
Given that Starfleet is a service of the Federation, the Federation President has direct command authority. In addition, the Federation Council often influences the service’s operation and issues orders on occasion.
See also: Starfleet Command
Day-to-day operations are managed by Starfleet Command under a commander-in-chief, who reports directly to the Federation President. As of the mid-2390s, this position was held by Fleet Admiral Kirsten Clancy.
The term ‘Starfleet Command’ is also commonly used in reference to the larger body of Starfleet leadership. This includes the many fleet commanders as well as the directors of the various Starfleet divisions and departments. Adjacent to these are the sector commands, which oversee permanent operations across entire sectors of Federation space. The commanding officers of any vessel, station, or outpost operating within these sectors reported to the sector admiral.
Starfleet has a vast number of starships capable of performing a variety of duties. These range from the largest explorers to the smaller local supply or patrol vessels. The exact composition of these operational forces is determined according to the Federation’s needs as well as the ethos of Starfleet at any given time. However, the most prestigious ships continue to be those capable of carrying out deep-space operations, having been specially designed for missions that expand the horizons of Federation understanding.
While Starfleet often operates ships individually on solo missions, all vessels are also organized into larger fleets, most often during times of war. Fleets usually consist of several hundred ships and are typically commanded by a vice admiral. Each serves a specific role, whether overseeing an area of operations or performing particular duties. In some cases, especially for temporary or ad hoc missions, Starfleet vessels could be formed into smaller battle groups or task forces.
Fleets often retain their own headquarters and administrative infrastructure. This can sometimes include a shipyard dedicated to the maintenance and construction of their own vessels. Other shipyards, starbases, and planetary facilities are maintained by Starfleet across the Federation. These typically fall under local sector command as they are meant to support wider operational forces.
Starfleet Training Command
See also: Starfleet Training Command
Starfleet Training Command oversees the training of all Starfleet personnel, both enlisted crew members and commissioned officers.
Starfleet Academy is the body responsible for training Starfleet officers. While the term is often used interchangeably with the primary campus in San Francisco on Earth, the Academy actually has multiple facilities located on worlds across the Federation. Not only is this meant to support the large number of officer candidates and need for highly-specialized training, it also helps to address the vast distances between various regions of Federation space and provide a more localized presence.
One such campus is located on Cestus III, a major regional hub for Federation governance and Starfleet operations. As a result, the campus is well-positioned to provide support and training to personnel throughout much of the Galactic South, and is said to rival those found on many core Federation worlds. Another Academy facility is the Academy Adjunct on Archa IV.
Training at Starfleet Academy takes a minimum of four years, with an additional four years for specialized training such as the Starfleet Medical Academy. Officer candidates graduate with the rank of ensign (or lieutenant junior grade for the medical academy) and an academic degree.
Enlisted personnel, who often need less-intensive and more practical training, train at Enlisted Training Centers. These can be found across the Federation on major starbases and member worlds. The training lasts between six months and a year before trainees are qualified to serve as crewmen.
Starfleet personnel are organized in a naval-derived rank structure with a chain of command, and are either enlisted personnel or officers.
Commissioned officers are some of the most talented and skilled individuals in the Federation, extensively trained at the Academy, and commit to Starfleet service usually for their entire lives. People become officers because they want to be leaders in the service, in their departments, on their ships, or at Starfleet Command itself.
Enlisted personnel receive shorter training and serve either in more broad roles or in specialized positions. Many do attain academic degrees or professional experience in their given field, but do not aspire to move beyond their specialization. They can have equally long careers to those of commissioned officers, but are just as likely to serve only one or two tours before returning to civilian life. People often become enlisted personnel out of a desire to see the galaxy, to serve the Federation, or simply to take advantage of an opportunity for training and experience they could not easily get elsewhere, while not sacrificing their other ambitions or commitments.
All officers outrank all enlisted personnel. Even the lowliest ensign may give orders to a master chief petty officer. However, in both policy and practice, this is not presumption of young officers’ superior judgment. Rather, junior officers are trained and developing unit leaders, with the skills and education to manage teams and departments. It is their job to deploy sometimes seasoned personnel according to the needs of the assignment, then trusting those personnel to execute their orders with the benefit of years of experience.
Starfleet principles of respect and diversity help ensure the chain of command does not demean veteran non-commissioned officers. Meanwhile, enlisted personnel recognize that young officers have been trained for their duties and given assignments as strong leaders or managers. This structure helps provide well-rounded teams of different styles, experiences, and practices.
Most members of Starfleet are Federation citizens. They must have reached the age of majority in their society to serve as active duty personnel. Minors may attend Starfleet Academy if they successfully apply and are accepted, but are subject to robust scrutiny during their recruitment. Non-citizens require sponsorship from a command-level officer in order to apply. Consequently, such individuals are a significant minority.
Science and Exploration
Historically, most Starfleet operations have been of scientific discovery and exploration. This can take many forms including exploring stellar phenomena, charting new star systems, researching the fauna and flora of the galaxy, and anthropological and archeological study. For this reason, most Starfleet vessels have been designed with at least some scientific capabilities. Even those more militarized in their purpose are still expected to gather knowledge and information as they carry out their duties.
These missions have contributed greatly to the Federation’s growth, both in physical size as well as its knowledge and understanding. Indeed, no other galactic power appears to possess such robust exploratory resources. Not only have they enabled discovery of worlds to colonize and new potential member species, they have also aided in Starfleet’s being at the cutting edge of technological development, which has compensated somewhat for its more recent militarization.
Most Starfleet officers are expected to have some training in a scientific discipline. Even those trained for military operations and security do so while also adhering to principles of scholarship and critical thought. And dedicated scientists are often trained in more than one discipline, given that exploratory missions may involve a wider range of challenges and needs.
The events of the mid-2380s marked a significant turning point in both policy and public opinion. There were some vocal critics who believed it was Starfleet’s deep space exploration that drew the attention of threats such as the Borg and the Dominion. In response to this as well as other factors, Federation policy shifted to demand that Starfleet focus more on internal operations and domestic research. As such, there have been far fewer exploratory missions in recent years.
Another historic quality of Starfleet operations has been an emphasis on diplomacy. For many who have served within the organization over the years, this means more than occasional missions of negotiation and politics. It is an integral principle of their approach to the galaxy.
Many are familiar with the work of the Federation Diplomatic Corps and how its members have traditionally navigated the complexities of treaty negotiations and trade agreements. However, it is often Starfleet officers and enlisted personnel who represent the Federation to the individuals, worlds, and civilizations they encounter in the field. As such, a number of guidelines have been established to assist Starfleet personnel in dealing with these situations.
Chief among them is the understanding that, when aboard a starship, station, or facility, Starfleet commanding officers are usually the highest authority present. Not only are they responsible for the operation and behavior of their crew, they are also empowered to make diplomatic decisions (within the bounds of policy and regulation). And, like any Starfleet officer, they are expected to be conversant in negotiation techniques, strategy, interstellar political theory, and de-escalation. Above all, they are to aspire to Starfleet’s commitment of meeting challenges with discourse and understanding rather than suspicion and violence.
Although Starfleet is not a military in the strictest sense, it is responsible for the defense of the Federation against enemy incursions and has (in the past) mobilized for strategic deployment in times of war. It also oversees internal security, protects shipping routes, and ensures the safety of civilian populations.
Despite this being a part of Starfleet’s mandate, it lacks many of the more traditional elements of military culture often found in other organizations. Its structures and its forces are not oriented (primarily) around combat activities. Its overriding purpose is not the preparation for and conduct of war. And its personnel are not defined (nor do they identify) as soldiers or warriors, either in ethos or in name.
Starfleet does maintain an organized chain-of-command. However, discipline within that chain derives from mutual respect and commitment to shared ideals, rather than conditional training or the use of force. While most Starfleet personnel are expected to be able to defend themselves when necessary, there are many who cannot or will not fight.. Yet, they are still able to serve as respected members of the organization.
This sort of commitment has served Starfleet well in its primary missions of science, exploration, and diplomacy. However, it has occasionally left them ill-prepared for more major conflict when it has broken out. The Federation-Klingon War of the mid-2250s, for example, resulted in massive Starfleet losses at the hands of the Klingon Empire. Likewise, early encounters with the Borg in the mid-2360s proved devastating for Starfleet and prompted a major paradigm shift, resulting in new starships and technologies being developed exclusively for war.
The new wave of militarization begun in response to the Borg threat continued throughout the Dominion War. While it diminished slightly in the war’s aftermath, the experience of warfare as well as the subsequent events of the mid-2380s had a significant impact on Starfleet culture. An emphasis on border defense and internal security have persisted since, changing Starfleet’s focus to one of greater caution and protectionism.