Starfleet is the military and scientific arm of the United Federation of Planets, and one of the three most powerful armed forces in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. Since the Federation's inception, Starfleet has protected the UFP's borders and represented it in hostile action, and in doing so has expanded Federation territory to encompass new heights before eventually running into its logical limits with the Romulan and Klingon Empires. In recent years, Starfleet has been able to assure the stability of Federation borders, but has not been able to grow into foreign space, drawing some criticism about the lack of offensive spirit in Starfleet Command.
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Starfleet StructureStarfleet Command, based on San Francisco, Earth. The overall commander of the fleet is appointed by the President of the United Federation of Planets and holds the title of Commander-in-Chief. The CinC holds the rank of Fleet Admiral and presides over the three major arms of the Fleet: Starfleet Academy, Starfleet Naval Command, and Starfleet Base Command. The top of the Starfleet command chain is largely centralized, with the SFA, SFNC, and SFBC commanders controlling virtually the entirety of the Fleet's assets through their direct commands, and all with offices within a few dozen metres of each other on Earth. Ship and base commanders take care of actual individual operations for their vessels, while Fleet Captains can be appointed to command larger groups on occaison.
The Starfleet command structure is designed to both provide an efficient process while preventing an individual or small group from assuming command of the Fleet and turning it to evil ends. If the top ranks of Starfleet Command were to turn against the ideals of the Fleet, individual ship commanders would be in a position to restore a proper command system by force, if needed. Conversely, if a ship commander turns against the Fleet, the higher-ups in Starfleet Command would be able to get the word out and prepare a proportional response. As a result, the command structure in Starfleet has proven extremely durable and capable of sustaining even severe shakeups.
Starfleet usually has more commissioned starships than it has crew to serve onboard them. As a result, the Fleet almost always has a considerable reserve of additional ships available for emergencies, large-scale fleet operations, or in the event that another vessel is damaged beyond usability. The battleship USS Federation, for instance, has usually been in reserve since shortly after the end of the Ikaran War, but has flown several times since then on missions to represent the Federation or to participate in major battles.
The command structure onboard Starfleet vessels closely resembles that of Starfleet itself, except in miniature. A single commanding officer is in overall command of the ship and delivers his orders on what he wants the ship to do. Below him, department heads command their respective departments (such as science, security, or engineering) on how to carry out the commander's orders. Most active duty ships also have a first officer, who takes care of mundane tasks and takes over for the captain when he is off duty. Large ships also have a second officer (also known as an executive officer), who is merely a further specialization of the first officer.
Starships are commanded by officers of the ranks Lieutenant Commander up to Commodore, and important ships that see much duty are never commanded by anything less than a full Commander. First officers are usually Commanders or Lieutenant Commanders, while department heads range from Lieutenant Commander to Lieutenant. The rest of the ship's officer staff is made up of Lieutenants, Lieutenants Junior Grade, and Ensigns, with cadets serving in internship capacities at various times until their graduation.
The three major Starfleet departments are Starfleet Academy, Starfleet Naval Command, and Starfleet Base Command. Starfleet Command itself retains a small group of bureaucrats to see to overall Fleet business, as well. There are several other minor departments through the Fleet, most noticeably Starfleet Logistics (in charge of supplying the Fleet's assets), Starfleet Operations (which handles miscellaneous operative duties throughout the Fleet), Starfleet Intelligence (which conducts espionage and counter-espionage operations), and the Starfleet Judge Advocate General's Office, which takes care of military justice. Starfleet also has self-contained research and development divisions, and various other aspects of its structure that are too minute to mention.
In 2156, the United Earth Space Probe Agency (or UESPA) encountered, for the first time, a hostile species. The Romulans were a faceless threat, striking swiftly and without mercy against Earth forces. Human and Romulan starships fought each other in a war of attrition for four long and extremely bloody years, until the destruction of the vast majority of the Romulan fleet at the Battle of Cheron.
The Romulans, humiliated, sued for peace via subspace radio. In response, a one light-year wide buffer zone, termed 'The Neutral Zone' was created between the Humans and the Romulans in the hopes that such a wasteful conflict would never be fought between the two powers again.
Earth, itself a united government for only a decade when the Romulan War ended, had been forced to look into an abyss which it had not contemplated in its push into the cosmos. In 2161, it joined with the Andorians, Tellarites, and Vulcans to form the United Federation of Planets.
As part of the Federation charter, it was established that there would be a body of peacekeepers and explorers, grouped collectively into a single Starfleet. The humans, having, by far, the most powerful space defense force, allowed the assimilation of the UESPA to form the backbone of Starfleet; to this day, the vast majority of Federation starships are crewed and designed by humans (With contributions from the other member worlds of the Federation, of course.).
Starfleet's primary mission is a fivefold tasking, as envisioned by the Articles of the Federation: peaceful exploration of the galaxy, defense of Federation member worlds and territory from aggressors, aid in the development and advancement of scientific research, patrol of the spacelanes, and promotion galactic communications.
Starfleet currently has five major vessels in service (see List of Federation ships) as well as one starbase. The current flagship is the Constellation-class cruiser USS Tardis, under the command of Fleet Captain Rigley O'Connor. Other ships currently seeing significant active service are the USS Inquisitor under Captain Slate Grey, USS Pericles under the command of Commander Michael Smith, and the older USS Morse on specialized operations. Starbase One remains the center of Starfleet's operations and supply apparatus, and Starfleet has also been tasked with protecting the new outpost FSY Relativity.
The current temporary Commander-in-Chief is Admiral Josh Limboch, who succeeded the deposed Alexander Riley when he was removed by the Federation Council. The commander of Starfleet Naval Command is Rear Admiral Rigley O'Connor and the commander of Starfleet Base Command is Commodore Charles Abernathy. Admiral Richard Tulani is the Commandant of Starfleet Academy, while former CinC Admiral Roger Wilco heads Starfleet Logistics.