Gold Fleet- Chain of Command

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Chain of Command


This document was designed to give non-military writers a crash course in how the chain of command on a starship or starbase works. Some units follow more detailed Tables of Organization- check your unit's documentation to see of there is a Tsable of Organization created for it.

Basic Organization

Each ship of Star Fleet is under the authority of a commanding officer and his assistant, the executive officer. Furthermore, ships are subdivided into the following major departments:

  • The operations department
  • A flight operations department
  • The navigation department
  • The combat systems department
  • An engineering department
  • A supply department
  • A medical department
  • A science department

The Commanding Officer

The commanding officer is the officer actually in command of a vessel. He is a line officer, and in case of his absence or death he is succeeded by the line officer next in rank. Whatever his rank may be, the commanding officer is always called "the Captain."

The captain represents the ship; he speaks for it. He is accountable for it. He is responsible for all members of his crew and all their acts. He does not make excuses or pass blame to others. Since he is accountable for all that the ship does, for the quality of training aboard, and for the conduct of the crew at all times, he is likewise given full power to enforce Star Fleet Regulations aboard the ship and to insure that the crew behaves accordingly. In short, since his responsibility is complete, his authority must also be complete.

Though all authority, command, direction, and responsibility ultimately rests with the captain, in practice the captain delegates the duties necessary for carrying out the functions of the ship to the executive officer, to the heads of the departments, to the officer of the deck, and through them to the crew.

The Executive Officer

The executive officer is the line officer next in rank to the captain. Under the direction of the captain he has entire charge of all matters relating to the personnel, routine, and discipline of the ship. All orders issued by him are considered as coming from the captain. In case of the absence or disability of the captain, the executive officer assumes command. He is, by virtue of his position, senior to all staff officers on board.

Assistants to the executive officer. Depending on the size of the ship, certain officers or men are detailed as assistants to the executive officer. Among them are:

  • Administrative officer or aide. The administrative officer or aide relieves the executive officer of as many details as possible. He also performs such other duties as may be assigned him.
  • Personnel officer. The personnel officer assists the executive officer in the assignment and berthing of personnel, and maintains the necessary personnel records.
  • Counselor. The counselor's duties pertain to the mental, moral, and physical welfare of the ship's company. The ship's counselor is considered to be part of the medical department.
  • Chief master-at-arms/Chief Security Officer. The chief master-at-arms (if the person is enlisted) or the chief security officer (is a warrant officer or officer) and the men assigned to him are responsible for the internal discipline of the crew. Ship's security is not, technically, a department. However, when the chief of security is a junior officer, he is often included in staff meetings for exposure to the departmental level job that he may one day hold. Ship's security is generally a small group of enlisted persons except when a ship lacks a marine contingent. The CMAA/CSO works closely with the Marine Officer, if one is present, to insure the security of the ship and away missions.

Ship's security is not, technically, a department. However, when the chief of security is a junior officer, he is often included in staff meetings for exposure to the departmental level job that he may one day hold. Most security personnel are cross trained in tactical operations and may be used to supplement the combat systems department.

The Groups and Departments of a Ship

Each group of the ship is comprised of different departments; each department of a ship is under a department head who is responsible for all matters pertaining to the department, such as: organization, training, safety, security, material conditions, maintenance, cleanliness, and the conduct of assigned officers and men.

The Operations Group

The operations department is headed by the operations officer. He is responsible for collecting, evaluating, and disseminating combat and operational information. He may be assisted in his duties by any or all of the following:

The Navigation Department

The navigation department is headed by the navigator. He is responsible, under the commanding officer, for the safe navigation and piloting of the ship. Most of the actual handling of the ship is done by a quartermaster, an enlisted person with a rating in starship handling.

The Combat Systems Department

The combat systems department is headed by the tactical officer. This department is in charge of the defense of the ship from external threats. It is responsible for all general maintenance and handling of the weapons systems, fire control computers, targeting systems, electronic countermeasures, and other combat systems aboard ship.

The combat systems department is also responsible for the training of personnel who man the local fire control stations for all weapon, ECM, and point defense systems.

Note: While much of the fire control is normally handled remotely, ship's weapons systems are capable of operating under local control. This allows the ship to continue to fight even if links between the bridge and weapons stations are severed. Local control is not as efficient or effective as centralized control, especially in the case of ECM and point defense systems, but it can be the difference between life and death if the bridge is hit.)

The commanding officer may assign the following to act as assistants: main battery officer, fire control officer, space defense officer, torpedo office, Marine officer, CIC liaison officer.

Communications Department

The communications officer has charge of visual and electronic communications and of classified publications and devices. This officer is in charge of the communications center which, on most modern starships, is not located on t he bridge. Often, the communications officer's tasks are highly automated. However, certain secure transmissions never enter the ship's main computer system for security reasons. The handling of this data and its storage devices is the primary responsibility of the communications officer.

The Supply Department

The supply department is headed by the supply officer. The supply officer is responsible for the procurement, receipt, stowage, and issue of, and accounting for equipment, repair parts, and consumable supplies required by the ship. The supply officer is also responsible for disbursing Federation funds, payment of bills, paying the crew, and accounting for funds. He is in charge of the general mess and also supervises the ship's store and the issue of clothing and small stores. Additionally, the supply department handles all items shipped to individual persons aboard the ship until they can be delivered.

Note: First, it is inefficient when on long range missions to use replicators to create all food consumed aboard a starship. In fact, while senior officer's quarters and guest quarters have these luxuries installed, most quarters do not. All enlisted personnel eat at the enlisted mess. Second, even replicators themselves need raw material. They consume enough energy without having to create matter from energy. Replicators simply rearrange matter according to a predetermined formula. Third, not all engineering supplies can be replicated, let alone replicated in an energy-efficient manner. Therefore, most repair parts are stored aboard ship rather than replicated as needed. Fourth, yes, the Federation does pay its personnel. There is little or no need of money aboard a Federation ship or a Federation station as voice and palm print identification make automatic deduction from a computerized account a simple matter.)

When there is more than one officer of the Supply Corps aboard, one serves as the disbursing officer under the supply officer. The disbursing officer is directly responsible for the procurement, custody, transfer, and issue of Federation funds. Additional assistants. Other assistants that may be assigned to the supply officer are: a stores officer, a mess officers, a ship's store officer, and a mess deck master-at-arms.

Combat Information Center (CIC) Group

The CIC officer is charged with the operation and maintenance of the combat information center. He is responsible for collecting and distributing operational information by whatever methods are available, such as sensors and probes. The CIC officer may have assistants to act as spacecraft control officer, intelligence officer, and sensor officer and operators. The CIC officer (or his assistant) is also responsible for the training of sensor operators. While the primary mission of Star Fleet is the peaceful exploration of space, its responsibilities in the defense of the Federation cannot be ignored. The presence of a CIC officer is a constant reminder of this fact.

The Flight Operations Group

The flight operations department is concerned with the function of the all embarked craft. It is charged with shuttlecraft launching, landing, and handling operations, with the service maintenance, and repair of shuttle craft, and with the handling of shuttle fuel and ordinance.

The Engineering Group

The engineering department is headed by the engineering officer. He is responsible for the operation and maintenance of all propulsion and auxiliary machinery, the control of damage, the maintenance of shuttlecraft systems, the repair of the hull and its fixtures, and all repairs beyond the capacity of other departments. Assistant to the engineering officer are:

  • Main propulsion assistant. The main propulsion assistant is in charge of the main propulsion plant and such additional machinery as may be assigned him. He is responsible for its upkeep and for training the men who operate it.
  • Damage control and repair assistant. The damage control assistant is charged primarily with assisting the engineering officer in establishing and maintaining an effective damage control organization, and in the supervision of repairs. His duties include the preparation of damage control and stability bills, training of men in damage control, repair, and other defensive measures, and operation and maintenance of ship's repair facilities.
  • Electronic materials assistant. The electronic materials assistant is charged with the maintenance and repair of all electronic systems aboard the ship, such as sensors, consoles, CIC equipment, etc.

The Medical Group

The medical department is headed by the senior officer of the Medical Corps serving on the ship. He is known as the medical officer. He is responsible for maintaining the health of the officers and crew; the treatment and care of the sick and wounded; the sanitation and hygiene of the ship and its company; the inspection of the ship, food, and water insofar as the health of the crew may be affected; and for training and directing personnel assigned to the medical department.

Note: Since the medical officer has the authority to relieve another officer of duty, the medical officer is not eligible to command a starship. This restriction extends to counselors and all other officers in the medical department. This would constitute a clear conflict of interest should the medical officer be able to inherit command of a unit in which he had the authority to relieve an individual of duty in.

The Science Group

The science department is headed by the bridge science officer. This officer is the senior line officer in the science department, though he may be neither the most senior science officer nor the most accomplished. The science officer is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the bridge science terminals and scientific sensor arrays. He is also responsible for resource allocation within the sub-departments (astrophysics, xenobiology, botany, etc.) which make us the science department.

Marine Officer

The commanding officer of the ship's Marine detachment, although not a department head, occupies a somewhat similar position with respect to the administration of the Marines aboard in matters pertaining strictly to the Marine Corps. He is one of the division officers of the combat systems department inasmuch as the Marine detachment is a regular part of the ship's company.

Note: In practice, the Marine officer usually reports to the ship's executive officer. When his men are detached for duty with other shipboard departments, they answer to the authority of the departmental officers. The Marine officer is almost always included in senior staff meetings.

Marine officers are not qualified to command a starship and, hence, like medical officers, not eligibility for starship command.

The Marine detachment commander is responsible to the ship's captain for the efficiency of his detachment and for the phases of ship's internal administration that are applicable to the detachment. He is responsible to the tactical officer for training conducted under his supervision, and for the care, preservation, and operation of such equipment, supplies, and spaces as are assigned to the Marine detachment by the department head.

Marines serve as ceremonial and security guards in space or in part. Marines may be detached for other duties in space, such as communications, staff, liaison, and flight duty.

The functions of a Marine detachment detailed for duty aboard a ship are:

  • To provide a unit organized, trained, and equipped for operations in dock or as part of the ship's landing party.
  • To provide gun crews.
  • To provide internal security for the ship.


This document was compiled by Jeffrey Jenkins, using excepts from The Bluejackets' Manual. 15th ed. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1957.

This document was edited- lightly- by Scott Lusby.