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Because they ARE on a "ship". Besides, if you replace water with open space, it's not that different.

It has been suggested that, at least in ST:TOS, that Starfleet ranks are more similar to the ranks in the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps. USNOAACC uniforms are similar to the Starfleet uniforms in ST:ENT, and Starfleet is explicity shown to not be the military. ProfessorTrek 04:56, July 1, 2011 (UTC)


In which episode is it explicitly show to not be the military? I'd go so far as to say the exact opposite. It's explicitly shown to be the primary military department of the Federation. --StarkRG 07:34, February 4, 2012 (UTC)


Infact, in Star Trek VI, it is explicitly or implicitly referred to as a military organization on several occasions. Most notably when Kirk is discussing with his Klingon guests the implications of the detante and the enevitable draw down of the starfleets on both sides.-Cpthunt 09:25, February 4, 2012 (UTC)


In the "Prime Universe" Starfleet was the exploration and sciece arm of the United Federation of Planets, yes they have ships with weapons that can wipe out planets, I've always thought of them as the U.S. Coast Guard in peace time they protect the borders of the US, in a time of (major) warfare the are/become part of the US Navy. In ST:DS9 season 6 or 7 we see Starfleet ground forces (black uniforms with the department color as a stripe across the chest, not the black & grey uniform with the colored undershirt) and before anyone comments that that was an alternate uniform for Starfleet why is it that Sisko's crew (who had the time) did not change into that style uniform (I'm thinking it would be like the Coast Guard (Starfleet) putting on the uniform of a Marine (Starfleet Ground Troops/MACO's)

in the JJ Universe (or whatever it's called) Starfleet is a "Peacekeeping Armada" per Alternate Pike in my mind an armada is a naval fleet, is a large formation of warships, and the largest formation in any navy. so in that universe it is the military. - Marc


Starfleet's primary purpose is exploration and science, but they are also the only military force of the Federation. The fact that Starfleet had warships (like the Defiant) and that during every major battle we ever hear about it's always Starfleet ships involved pretty much eliminates any possibility that they aren't the primary military force. I figured the ground troops were still part of Starfleet (the division colours are the same), just specially trained for ground combat. As for the reason Sisko's crew didn't change uniform: because it was an emergency situation, presumably replicator power would have been better suited for medicine and food, and they weren't actually assigned to that task (otherwise they would have already had the uniforms when they beamed down). --StarkRG 20:10, February 4, 2012 (UTC)

In-universe: Starfleet is not itself the military. The last thing Roddenberry would ever have wanted was for Starfleet to be the military. Fans who have some misinformed over-attachment to the military have tried to pervert Star Trek into something that is pro-military, when clearly it is not. The introduction of the MACOs in Star Trek: Enterprise was meant to drive that point home.

"Borrowing" some military traditions such as officer ranks and mild military discipline does not make Starfleet the military. An analogy would be found in the present-day U.S.: the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps and the venerable U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps both are uniformed services, and both integrate precepts such as officer ranks and quasi-military discipline, but they are not the military.

The military have their place, but it is not in Starfleet. It is not the fact of using starships and photon torpedoes that defines Starfleet as "military". It is its mission that defines it. And Starfleet's mission is not a military one, even if there is occasionally a photon torpedo fired in anger.

Real world: It is civilian authority that wields military power. Civilian authority over military power is a bedrock principle upon which America was founded and built. Somehow we have progressed to the point where ex-military think they are somehow more righteous than other Americans. They are wrong. Not one conscripted soldier has fought in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Serving in the military is the career that they chosen, not one that has been imposed upon them. The righteousness is collective to all Americans, and it is comprised in our society making allowances for them and their sacrifices, and in taking care of them medically and financially, as some continue to fight the Vietnam War and the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War and the Korean War and World War II, war after war after war, long after they are repatriated.

It is the enthusiasm for the military that has almost bankrupted, and ultimately will bankrupt America, if we are not careful. Ron Paul is right on that issue, and anyone who ignores that point, and those of his supporters, do so at their peril. The American economy can no longer afford expensive, pointless, destructive wars that the military bring home to America after their war is "over"--the military war then becomes a civilian war. The civilian Iraq War is only beginning. America is learning that the price of its wars is too great, both fiscally and societally. The people are speaking.

--ProfessorTrek 05:38, February 5, 2012 (UTC)

You are correct that the primary mission of Starfleet is not one of conquest, but that is not what makes a military a military. What makes a military is that it is authorized to use lethal force to defend its patron state, in this case the Federation. The MACOs were only in Enterprise because they, and their mission were eventually absorbed by Starfleet. Starfleet is the Federation's sole means of defence, therefore it is their military. That its primary mission is exploration, science, and diplomacy only means it's not just a military, but it still functions as a military when needed. --StarkRG 06:54, February 5, 2012 (UTC)

There is no reason a military force cannot be at least partially dedicated to peaceful science. The US Air Force conducts high atmospheric research, the US Navy explores the depths of the worlds oceans. A service does not have to be militaristic to be a military.-Cpthunt 07:22, February 5, 2012 (UTC)


Except that all of the nonsense immediately above is offensive to the Star Trek Roddenberry and his successors clearly have envisaged. Starfleet is not the military, has never been, nor will it ever be--regardless of it having been referred to perjoratively as the military, on a single misinformed and politically-motivated occasion in canon.

Starfleet is a defensively-armed, uniformed, service, but it is not an "armed service". The military do not take their spouses and children along for the ride on military campaigns, unlike the complement on the Enterprise-D. Not only a military, but a massively socio-politically expansionist military, broadly usurping civilian commercial and research activity and command authority? Not likely. While it may be true that the military has in the past maintained limited parallel ancillary services for reasons of practicality and expediency, even in this context, these are more often provided by civilian contractors than directly by the military, and it is military-budget spending on civilian contracts that will be prime meat on the chopping block. We simply cannot afford massive military spending anymore. There are a lot of well-trained and well-financed civilian law-enforcement authorities involved in the maintenance of homeland security. Like it or not, the downsizing of the U.S. military that is coming will be a ball-squeezer without precedent, regardless of what the politicians say.

--ProfessorTrek 04:41, February 6, 2012 (UTC)


In what way have we referred to it "perjoratively" as the military? The word "military" has a specific definition, any judgement you place on it above that is your own doing. Nobody said it was expansionist, in fact we said the exact opposite. Who said it was "broadly usurping civilian commercial and research activity"? Starfleet's primary purpose is scientific research, exploration, and diplomacy, its secondary purpose includes defence of Federation planets, outposts, bases, citizens, etc. Whether or not it's referred to by name as a military doesn't negate the fact that it operates as one. I think you're bringing your own prejudices of what a military is and does to this coversation. At its most basic a military is an organization which has the authority to use deadly force to defend the interests of its patron state. If you want to just go ahead and ignore this definition then I guess there's just no point in discussing it with you.

Additionally I don't see why you keep bringing the US military into this conversation. We're not discussing the US military, we're discussing the Federation military, which is also known as Starfleet. --StarkRG 04:50, February 6, 2012 (UTC)

I was referring to Dr. David Marcus, in STII:TWOK, when he complains that "scientists have always been pawns of the military". It isn't even clear there that he was specifically referring to the then-current Starfleet, and not making some sweeping, generalized, political statement. And it is an axiom that your definitions are not going to make my argument--only concession to logic and common sense will. That said, you must agree that it is an offensive ability and inclination that defines a military as such. The Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. §1385, which has been federal law for over 135 years, ordinarily bans the military from participation in civilian law-enforcement activity. Even so, it is not only the U.S. for which this holds true: there are a lot of heavily-armed non-military uniformed services, serving many countries and international organizations. Fortunately, these organizations respect military training and abilities, and are satisfied to integrate them into its civilian-to-civilian command structure.
If Starfleet were the military, the MACOs in ST:ENT would have been in Starfleet uniforms. The Archer/Starfleet-MACO dynamic was written in to reinforce the notion of a limited, special-purpose military, decidedly under civilian authority--that of Starfleet. Although there are more than likely some reservists serving in Starfleet, there is a Federation military, and it has not been seen chronologically since the MACOs. Not in ST:TOS, ST:TNG, ST:DS9, nor in ST:VOY. Starfleet is analogous to NASA: there were many ex-military employed by NASA--but it doesn't make NASA the military or a part thereof.

--ProfessorTrek 05:06, February 6, 2012 (UTC)

And, I'm not prejudiced against the military. They've done a wonderful job fulfilling civilian nation-building objectives for decades. But the runaway spending on, and growth of, the military is just getting out of control. And the military is not going to disappear, not by a long shot. But it is going to be redefined. The military should be about national defense only, and not about American expansionism, anymore.

--ProfessorTrek 05:34, February 6, 2012 (UTC)

No, I do not have to agree that it is an offensive inclination that defines a military. The wikipedia article on Military defines it as "an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats." Starfleet fits this definition. It goes on to say "The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g. communism during cold war era, supporting or promoting economic expansion through imperialism, and as a form of internal social control." Clearly Starfleet fits this rather well, its additional functions (actually its primary functions, which I've said before), are scientific advancement, exploration, and diplomacy.
If you read what I wrote above I said that it's likely the MACOs were absorbed by Starfleet after the Federation was formed. It could be reasonably argued that Starfleet was not a military organization during the run of Enterprise, but I'd probably disagree with that assessment too. However I don't see how you can argue that during the 23rd and 24th centuries it didn't act as the Federation's military. Additionally the MACOs would not be in Starfleet uniforms because they weren't part of Starfleet, they were part of a completely different organization. When one military organization combines forces with another for a particular mission the members don't change their uniforms, they keep using the uniforms of the organization they belong to. Since the MACOs were specifically a United Earth organization and we don't ever see or hear about them after the formation of the Federation it's reasonable to assume they no longer exist.
Just because something isn't used offensively doesn't mean it's not a military. The Australian military is called the "Australian Defence Force" but it's still a military. The defining characteristic, to put basically, is that it's an organization with the purpose of defending its patron state with all force up to and including deadly force. That defence is not its only, or even primary, purpose doesn't stop it from being a military.
I don't see why you insist on bringing up current politics, they really have nothing to do with what we're discussing. In general I agree with you on this subject, I just don't think it has any place in this discussion. To paraphrase the Borg: it's irrelevant. --StarkRG 05:37, February 6, 2012 (UTC)
I don't mean to offend the Australians; nobody messes with Australia because they've proven themselves and paid their dues. Australia is no-one's client state (certainly much less so than as with Canada's client-state relationship with the U.S.) and although Australia has offensive military capabilities, these have historically only been used in concert with other countries--a credit to the brand of political restraint Australia has historically practiced militarily, and there are a lot of little Pacific Rim and South Pacific countries that Australia could mess with if it wanted to. Australia's military is among the most highly-trained and best-respected militaries in the world, with many successful campaigns to its credit. You could do a lot worse than to live and breathe Australian.
That said, Starfleet discipline is a profoundly attenuated version of military discipline, kind of what is seen with civilian law-enforcement agency. Starfleet's primary mission is exploration and research, not militarized defense, although that is certainly a secondary function, of necessity. Lots of civilian law-enforcement personnel and agencies do "military things". This brings us back to the misguided, misinformed and ill-advised conception of a socio-politically expansionist military usurping civilian function and authority. It's possible; it's simply not desirable. And one of the best political ways to limit that definition is that Starfleet is a non-military, uniformed, defensively-armed service. And the military do not take their spouses and children along for the ride. It's the only contextually-consistent definition that makes sense.
Starfleet does military things, but it is not the military.

--ProfessorTrek 05:48, February 6, 2012 (UTC)

This is nonsensical. You're arguing that Starfleet doesn't represent what you subjectively define as an ideal military, hence it objectively isn't one. Throwing around this spiel about an 'ill-advised conception of a socio-politically expansionist military usurping civilian function and authority' is just blatent obfuscation, and further you seem to want to use a Star Trek discussion to make your socio-political ideals and values known for a reason that escapes me. Starfleet as it is shown in ST is entirely unlike any organisation that currently exists for very obvious reasons, however it functions as, amongst other things, the Federation's military. This is a question of semantics, not political ideologies about the correct role of the military. Deadly force is used in combat situations, it's main ships are equipped with heavy weaponry and shielding, it is the primary line of defense for the Federation for several hundred years: It is a military force, amongst it's other functions.

This has everything to do with political ideals about the correct function of the military in a particular society--it is not about defining the word "military". Doing military things, as police organizations often do, does not make them the military, just as Starfleet doing military things does not make it the military, although it is innovative and, to some such as yourself, nonintuitive that a primarily scientific organization would include within it a militarized functionality. I know, it's tough to see how scientists and academics would see a need to have the support of a militarized functionality, but in Star Trek, they do. It is when a military does only military things that it becomes a military, and not the larger organization that Starfleet is, with a primarily non-military objective, but that has a quasi-military component, to fulfill a secondary objective best suited to military capabilities, but not inclinations.

However, the most powerful and central assertion is this: nobody connected with the true ideals of Star Trek would ever want Starfleet to be considered the Federation's military.

--ProfessorTrek 06:14, February 6, 2012 (UTC)

I disagree with your definition of what makes something a military, therefore this has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the definition of the word. As, clearly, you're the only person with these "true ideals" of Star Trek I guess you're always correct. (in case you didn't understand, this is sarcasm) Regardless of what you want Starfleet to be, it clearly is the Federation's military. It also has scientific and exploration directives, but it isn't the Federation's only scientific and exploration organizations (just its most powerful and most, for lack of a better word, well funded), there are civilian organizations as well. Starfleet officers aren't civilians. --StarkRG 06:24, February 6, 2012 (UTC) {C} {C}

"This has everything to do with political ideals about the correct function of the military in a particular society--it is not about defining the word "military"."

Well then this is where you're wrong. Your ideals are entirely subjective and evidently informed by whatever political ideology you subscribe to. Your whole argument is based on the premise that if you can redefine the word military then you are correct. Unfortunately, the word has a definitive meaning as has been stated before. The comparison with police is facetious. Starfleet acts as the predominant military force of the federation. The only way that the analogy to police would be accurate is if Starfleet called in 'The Federation Army' (or any organisation fitting such a role) to defend the Federation from the Borg, the Dominion etc. They do not. Why? They are the primary military force responsible for defending the Federation. The whole MACO matter becomes obsolete before the Federation even exists so this is irrelevant also. You can keep your bullshit about 'true ideals of ST', because once again you're bringing your ideals into an argument on the word military. It is not an abstract concept, so it is open to only the most limited form of interpretation, unless you want to throw the language out the window and start calling apple's oranges because the name appeals more to your ideological leanings. Semjaazah 06:56, February 6, 2012 (UTC)


You forget the original question... Gene Roddenberry used naval ranks because he thought it would be more relatable to the viewers then some made up SF rankings

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