In most TNG, VOY and even DS9 episodes, Starfleet security personnel appear to be slow, unprepared and tactically unimaginative when facing threats, especially intruders and boarding parties. Examples:

  • Rather than convening at the nearest transporter room (because they insist that site-to-site is risky) and transporting strategically to corner the intruder, they walk hurriedly along corridors.
  • They rarely take defensive postures or have quick reflexes and are often shot while standing.
  • During physical struggles, they show almost no martial arts training (only exception is the chief of security)
  • They brainlessly follow standard procedure and rarely use decoys or other indirect or deceptive strategies. They fall for deceptions all the time.
  • They don't bother with amour (we have seen people taking cover behind things such as overturned tables, so there are materials that can at least limit phaser damage without weighing a person down too much).
  • They don't use phasers in wide dispersal mode in situations that it would be useful.
  • Tactical away teams are rarely camouflaged (exception: TNG: Chain of Command)
  • Security teams operate without a dedicated controller guiding them remotely (instead, they haphazardly make radio contact with the bridge chief of security)
  • And many other examples...

Out of universe, we have seen that later personnel, such as the MACOs and the alternate universe security personnel seem to do better. But seriously, after wars with the Klingons, the Borg, the Dominion and various other antagonists, how can Starfleet security be this poor? Surely there must be a clear line between being peaceful and being naive.

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    They only show up to counter a threat in twos. That's considered "a security team". I've never understood that. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 7:24
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    If they're wearing red shirts (TOS, or yellow TNG), it's for the purpose of being cannon fodder, to help the story along. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 7:25
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    Nameless guards acting ineffectively in a TV show? Never seen that before. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 13:56
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    Because the writers and directors are untrained in security tactics is the real answer, I'd think. Does there have to be an in-universe explanation for this? Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 19:43
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    Another one: When guarding a prisoner, Starfleet guards will usually turn their backs to the cell/door that the prisoner is locked into, as if the greatest danger were fellow crewmembers trying to get into the cell rather than the prisoner trying to escape. Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 12:51

3 Answers 3


The main principles of the Federation are diplomacy and research. As such, they do not need armed and trained personnel. Looking at the Federation reveals two things: first, they barely have need for security personnel within their own borders; second, most battles are fought ship-to-ship. As such, you need somebody who can work well with computers and terminals and knows the whole security system, and not necessarily hand-to-hand combat.

A few conversations in Elite Force are covering this topic, too. Especially the one with Picard arguing with someone from the Academy. The consensus is that within Federation space there is no need for such forces. Though Picard counters that there was such a need aboard the U.S.S. Voyager, and that there is need for them aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise (E) as long as they patrol along the borders.

Think about the Navy. Sailors are not exactly the ultimate fighters, either. They are trained to do their job, and it does not primarily include close combat.

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    the point about the Navy -- navy ships usually carry marines which IMO would be the analog to a starships security officers. Marines are supposed to be a lot more badass when it comes to fighting mano-a-mano.
    – Doug T.
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 17:56
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    @DougT.: As far as I know, Marines are only payload, they're not directly part of the crew.
    – Bobby
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 17:57
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    @Bobby: that's my perception too; they're ground troops that originally specialized in deployment by sea, and they don't serve long-term on naval vessels. It would be kind of like calling Airbornes part of the Air Force just because they're deployed from planes. Marines as they exist today are really a bit of everything; they have infantry, armor, ships, hovercraft, helicopters, and fixed-wing planes; the principal requirement of anything under their control is that it and its support infrastructure must be extremely mobile.
    – KeithS
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 18:39
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    Interesting, it seems the US Navy stopped having Marines as shipboard security in the 90s - but they would have been active when TOS and TNG were in production. Similarly, Royal Marines apparently only provide port security abroad (although, historically they protected officers from enlisted men and provided shipboard security). Note, we do see in the movies where we do see what seem to be shipboard "marines" or, at least, specialised security personnel in armour.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 22:20
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    As a former Navy man I should also add that every seaman is trained to repel boarders in the event of an emergency, though only those who have passed their arms qualifications will be granted weapons from the small arms lockers in that event. Every single person in the military should have a basic understanding of how to behave in that situation. On various sized ships there are also additional specific security forces as well. Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 0:25

Uh, I'm pretty sure it's just required to advance the plot.

If Starfleet security really was competent (as they would be in real life), the stories would be pretty short. For example, in ST:ENT, Borderland, the MACO's are defeated in about 3 seconds at the airlock when the augments board the ship. In reality, it's unlikely they would have all just grouped together where they could all be attacked at the same time. Firstly, why didn't they have the door behind them closed, and them OUTSIDE it. Then, if the augments got through the first door, the MACO's would have had plenty of time to figure out how to neutralize them since they would be stuck trying to get past the next door (including blowing the airlock seals if necessary).

On the other hand, if they did that, the augments wouldn't have been able to retrieve Soong, and the story wouldn't have gone very far (since all the augments could have been captured or killed).

Also, why on earth would Malik have been allowed to stand so close to the captain in the ready room? They knew he was fast, they knew he was dangerous, they knew that augments were unpredictable, egotistical maniacs. However, Reed has no problem letting the captain stand between him and Malik (obstructing his line of fire). Again, though, if the captain wasn't taken hostage, the plot wouldn't continue.

Then the security at Cold Station 12 is a joke - two guys, and no codes on the doors. Considering what they store there that's insane. Also, why didn't they scan the Denobulan ship and notice that there were like 15 people on board instead of one?

I believe everywhere we see security incompetence it's entirely to drive the plot.

And those of you that say the Federation doesn't need an armed security force (and that's why they don't know what they are doing) are dead wrong. The Federation needs to protect their way of life. With so many hostile forces - Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Borg, Orions, Breen, Nausicans, Dominion, and even the Maquis on occasion - the Federation need a huge security force. Just like any government they need offensive, defensive, and intelligence divisions. If any of them were as incompetent as it seems the Federation would fall in no time.

It's all about plot enablers...




In ST:TNG "Chain of Command" we get a small canon glimpse of what starfleet ground force personnel wold operate like. Making use of portable forcefield generators, climbing gear, sensor decoys, etc. From the non canon sources we can go a little deeper into details. In ST:Elite Force, we see the use of armour, a wide variety of weapons, combat tricorders, and a really nifty device that stores ALL a soldiers gear in a portable pattern buffer on their combat harness, that can be materialized whenever needed. In the Books, I have read of full armour suits that have built in stealth and medical systems(In a book penned by Shatner, a guy gets his leg severed by a particle beam, and the suit is able to stop the bleeding and temporarily stabilize the wound on its own, allowing alot of time to get to an actual doctor.In the canon ST universe, if there can be a "Section 31" you can bet your ass there is a section of the federation that is all about dedicated ass kicking( couple things to remember that support this argument,ST:VI directors cut, there's a scene where some highly decorated starfleet staff officers was planning a rescue mission for Kirk and Bones, they were adourned with alot of 'today' looking campaigns pins, and one, I believe he was refered to as Colonel West was rather colorfully explaining a rescue operation. Also, in ST:TNG where do you Ro Laren did this advanced tactical training??)

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