Ops (Duty Post)
The Operations Duty Post has the primary responsibility of ensuring that ship functions are coordinated in such a way that mission goals are not jeopardized. Many shipboard operations involve scheduling resources or hardware (such as the use of non-emergency sensors) that affect a number of departments. In many such cases, it is common for various operations to present conflicting requirements. They must prioritize resource allocations (including physical resources like phasers, technical resources like energy, and personnel resources like Away Teams) so that the most critical activities can have every chance of success. Having a crew member in this decision-making loop is or crucial importance because of the wide range of unpredictable situations with which a starship must deal.
Personnel in this role are called the "Operations Manager," "Ops Officer," or "Chief of Operations." Typically, Ops is manned by a member of the command staff of a starship, regardless of seniority. On the USS Enterprise-D, Ops Manager Data (who doubled as second officer) was the most senior member of the ship's staff save the captain and XO, but on USS Voyager, Ops Manager Harry Kim was the most junior bridge officer. As analytical operations relied upon knowledge of science and engineering disciplines, operations managers sometimes performed the additional duties of a science officer, as exemplified by both Lieutenant Commander Data and Ensign Harry Kim. On space stations, the chief of operations usually commands the maintenance and engineering staff, since stations do not require the large number of propulsion engineers typically found working under the command of a chief engineer on a starship. Chief of Operations Miles O'Brien was a senior chief petty officer who filled this billet on Deep Space 9.
A StarFleet-configured Operations station presents the Operations Manager with a continually updated list of current major shipboard activities. This list permits Ops to set priorities and allocate resources among current operations. This is especially critical in cases where two or more requests require the use of the same equipment, entail mutually exclusive mission profiles, or involve some unusual safety or tactical considerations.
An example might be a situation where the Stellar Physics department is conducting an experiment using the lateral sensor array to study a nearby binary star. Simultaneously, part of the same array is being time-shared with a long-range cometary population survey. A request from the bridge for a priority scan of a planetary system might jeopardize both studies unless Ops authorizes a minor change in attitude, permitting the Stellar Physics observations to use the upper sensor array. Alternately, Ops may weigh the option of placing one of the ongoing studies on a lower priority to provide the bridge with immediate use of the lateral array.
Priority and Resource Allocation
Most routine scheduling and resource allocation is done automatically by the Ops program. This frees the Operations Manager from routine activity, leaving him/her able to concentrate on decisions beyond the scope of the artificial intelligence software. The level of these decision filter programs can be set by the Operations Manager, and also varies with the current Alert status of the ship.
In cases where priorities are ambiguous or where specific Ops approval is required, the panels will display a menu of the most probable options for action. In virtually all cases, the Operations Manager also has the ability to input choices beyond those presented by the action menus. This is important because it is impossible for mission planners to anticipate every possible situation. Action menus may be displayed for any current activity (even those which would normally be handled automatically) upon keyboard request from Ops.
During crisis situations and Reduced Power Mode operations, Ops is responsible for supervision of power allocation in coordination with the Engineering department. Load shedding of nonessential power usage in such situations is based on spacecraft survival factors and mission priorities.
The Operations Manager is also responsible for providing general status information to the main computer, which is then made available to all departments and personnel. Ops routes specific information to specific departments to inform them of anticipated changes and requirements that may affect their operations.
An example is a scenario where an Away Team is to be sent on a mission to a planetary surface. Typical Ops responsibilities might include:
- Notification of Away Team personnel of the assignment and providing said personnel with mission objective information. When Away Team personnel are drawn from operational departments, Ops will sometimes coordinate to provide cross-trained replacement personnel from other departments.
- Coordination with Mission Ops for assignment of comm relay frequencies and preparations to monitor Away Team tricorder telemetry.
- Notification for issuance of tricorders, phasers, environmental gear, and other mission specific equipment.
- Assignment of personnel transporter room to handle transport operations, as well as the assignment of a transporter chief to the mission. If available, Ops will also provide transport coordinates to the transporter chief.
- Notification of Engineering to prepare for power allocation for transporter operations, as well as deflector shield shutdown, if necessary.
Such notifications are generally accomplished automatically without the need for active intervention by Ops. However, because preprogrammed functions cannot be expected to anticipate all possible situations, Ops is responsible for monitoring all such coordination activity and for taking additional action as necessary. Such flexibility is particularly important during alert and crisis scenarios, during which unpredictable and unplanned conditions must frequently be dealt with.
Role of Communications
Before the advent of the universal translator, a communications officer who was well versed in the universal rules of language was a staple aboard any starship. With the implementation of the universal translator, the communication officer's role became more narrowly focused on calibrating the complex software which handled translation. As the translator became more integrated and automated, this position was phased out, and the role of handling communications began to be handled by either the Tactical office, or the Operations officer. As a ship may require either of these officers to handle this specific role, it is important that the Operations officer be well versed in communications protocols.
Other Specific Duties
Essentially, the Operations Department monitors and controls the use of all ship systems not ostensibly involved with propulsion, navigation, or combat. Although the transporter systems are Engineering Department assets, it is the Operations Department that puts them to use. In regards to special environmental conditions required for alien crewmembers or visitors, the Operations Officer must coordinates with the ship's Chief Medical Officer. The Ops Department head position is in charge of the recreation areas of the ship as well, such as the various recreation rooms, gymnasiums and holodecks. The Ops Officer will also work very closely with the ship's Conn Officer with respect to the use of the ships shuttle bays, since the Conn Officer is responsible for flying the shuttles and training shuttle pilots.