The Operations Department (whose officers are sometimes referred to as operations managers, operations officers or simply Ops) has the primary responsibility of ensuring that ship functions do not interfere with one another. They are part switchboard operator, part linguist, part cryptographer, part broadcast engineer, part scientist, part tactical officer, part navigator, part helmsman, part resource manager. They should have enough technical know-how to be able to adjust various ships systems on the fly. They must prioritize resource allocations, so that the most critical activities have priority. If so required, they can curtail shipboard functions as needed to avoid interfering with or jeopardizing the ship's current mission or routine operations.
During a mission or normal shipboard activity, the operations manager may undertake a wide variety of roles in addition to monitoring departmental status and shipboard activity. The most likely of these would be:
• Transporter Operations. • Repairs of ship board systems and overall damage control. • Sensor Operations. • Life Support and Environmental Systems. • Communications. • Monitoring and allocating the use of ships resources (library computer usage and scheduling usage of ships sensors between departments for example). • Flight Deck Operations. • Tractor Beam Operation. • To act as or fill in for the Science Officer as needed.
The way in which resources for ship’s sensors are allocated is particularly important for exploratory vessels as a number of differing departments require the usage of this resource for a wide variety of reasons. In cases where there is a chance of one department’s use interfering or preventing the success of another, the operations manager may reschedule the allocation of sensor usage, or even request alterations to the vessel’s course. In cases where an immediate scan is required for defensive or tactical purposes by the bridge, the operations officer has the authority to immediately demote all usage and employ the scanners solely for overriding use.
The operation officer’s role may also extend to the preparation and monitoring of away missions. They will notify specific personnel of their assignment and disseminate relevant information as well as finding replacements to cover the duties of crew members who have been assigned to such teams. Preparations for the monitoring of away teams, tricorders telemetry, and communications are also a responsibility, as is the issuance of specific field equipment that may be required.
In order to accomplish their primary duty the operations manager has at their disposal a series of readouts that give a continually updated list of current shipboard activities, thus allowing ops to prioritize resources on request, or alter the balance in cases of emergency or potentially dangerous tactical situations. The operations station’s displays can be configured by the ops manager to present a menu of the most desirable courses of action when a conflict or emergency arises. A great deal of the allocation will be carried out automatically by the computer, at the level of importance determined by the operations manager, however emergency overrides exist for immediate negation of any computer decision.
Many shipboard operations involve scheduling resources or hardware (such as power or the use of sensors) that affect a number of departments. In many such cases, it is common for various operations to present conflicting requirements. It is the responsibility of the Operations Management Officer (normally referred to as the Operations Manager or Ops) to coordinate such activities so that mission goals are not jeopardized. Having a crew member in this decision-making loop is of crucial importance because of the wide range of unpredictable situations with which a starship must deal.
The Ops panel 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 ship's attitude, permitting the Stellar Physics observations to use the upper sensor array. Alternatively, 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 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 panel 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.