Harry Kim is an ensign, the most junior of post academy officers. Voyager is Harry's first posting after the academy (VOY: Non-sequitur). Kim is the primary operations officer even before half of Voyager's crew is killed, from Caretaker transcript:

KIM: Captain, I'm reading a coherent tetryon beam scanning us.
JANEWAY: Origin, Mister Kim.
KIM: I'm not sure. There's also a displacement wave moving toward us.
JANEWAY: On screen.
(The viewscreen shows a narrow band of energy heading towards them.)
JANEWAY: Analysis.
KIM: It's some kind of polarised magnetic variation.
CAVIT: We might be able to disperse it with a graviton particle field.
JANEWAY: Do it. Red alert. Move us away from it, Lieutenant.
STADI: New heading, four one mark one eight zero.
CAVIT: Initiating graviton field.
KIM: The graviton field had no effect.

Recall that, on the Enterprise, Data was the primary operations officer, and he was a Lieutenant Commander, the #3 man on the ship. This is the same rank that's held by Tuvok on Voyager, who has Worf's job.

This is all fine, but what I don't get is why Kim is considered Senior Staff while only being an Ensign, and all indications are that this is Kim's first duty posting.

This gets even more confusing in The Omega Directive, where Harry is present when Janeway decides to inform the "Senior Staff" about the Omega directive, but B'Elanna is not:

Senior Staff Briefing Omega Directive

Some major character officers who are higher ranking than Kim for most of the show (aside from B'Elanna's unusual absence in the Omega Directive briefing). Note that a Lieutenant is two ranks above Ensign and a Lieutenant JG is one rank above.

Those are just the ones that get screen time. There are even higher ranking officers that appear on certain crew manifests, such as "Commander Rick Berman" in "The Killing Game" (yes, I know that Rick Berman is the name of one of the producers of the show)

Voyager Crew Manifest

So, given Harry's relatively low rank, is there an in-universe reason why he's considered Senior staff / bridge crew from basically day one?

  • Is there any indication that he was considered a member of the Senior Staff prior to the Gateway incident? It was my understanding that he was simply a bridge officer at the time, and Janeway kept him in that spot due to his performance.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:49
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    @Omegacron are you suggesting there was a higher ranking operations officer on Voyager that was off duty / not on the bridge during the initial caretaker transport, who was then killed before they were introduced to the audience? It certainly fits the facts, but this is pure speculation.
    – durron597
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:52
  • 4
    Possibly, or that the "normal" Operations office hadn't been assigned yet. Keep in mind that they had a small, almost skeleton crew to begin with. The mission was supposed to be a quick jaunt off to The Badlands and back - effectively a shakedown cruise.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:54
  • Options: It might be a diversity-thing because of his asian ethnicity. It might be a way to have him be able to attend "young guy in the old guys club" with senior staff AND also able to attend "newbies club". It might be that ranks were semi-frozen when Voyager got lost, but Voyager is a meritocracy and Harry does some great work - so maybe he is given respect though not rank? Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:16
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    INVERSE - I suspect they kept him around in hopes he could take a phaser hit for someone important or to make fun of how he never got promoted because Harry Kim is the worst... and that's saying a lot as he was on the worst Trek series (Enterprise doesn't count, no one expected it not to suck). Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 10:47

3 Answers 3


Harry Kim may well only have a relatively low rank but he's still the senior Operations Officer with a staff of (presumably higher ranked) officers and (lower ranked) crewmen reporting to him. As such, attending the "Senior Staff" meetings would be essential.

It seems pretty clear that Harry is a fast-track Academy hot-shot, being groomed for greatness. His rank belies a superb technical knowledge (in one alternate reality he designs shuttles), an intimate knowledge of flight operations and a solid Starfleet Academy record before he ever stepped aboard.

On top of all of that, Janeway doesn't seem averse to playing favourites. With a highly limited crew to choose from, she decides to give Kim control of the Ops Dept almost as soon as Lt Cavit died, one assumes largely because she finds him reliable.

In-canon (according to the TNG: Technical Manual) the Ops Manager, latterly described as the "Ops Officer" is actually a pretty important role and one that certainly merits a seat with the 'Senior Staff'. Not only are they responsible for liaising between the Captain and the various departments but they're also expected to anticipate what needs the ship will have (often in realtime when a crisis occurs) and then to determine who gets priority:

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.

  • I agree that, in TNG, it's extremely obvious that Operations head would be a Senior Staff member, because it's Data, who's #3 in seniority in the whole ship. Is there anyone else that is known to be in the "operations department" in all of Voyager that survives the Caretaker?
    – durron597
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:21
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    @durron597 - Note that Data was not only Ops Officer but also Science Officer and 2nd Officer. I put that (mostly) down to his ability to multi-task and his ability to operate on a 24/7 basis.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:24
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    My gf asked me this question and I had to take a guess. Seems I got it right! Lucky girl.
    – n00dles
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 0:19
  • The other on-screen answer is that Janeway didn't find anyone better, and Kim was an easy officer to keep on her side in the early seasons, when she didn't fully trust the Maquias. With him in charge, she could have absolute faith in his department following her lead, so long as he didn't alienate his subordinates.
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 2:52

I served in the US Coast Guard (3rd Class Petty Officer) and agree with DavidW. The original OPS Officer (LT Cavit) (S1;E1) is killed, his "Deputy OPS Officer", Ensign Kim, is placed in that position - not because of his rank, but his training. Voyager took a big hit in S1;E1, and lost a LOT of people. It doesn't surprise me that the CAPT decided to go with the next in chain of command for that department. Admittedly, I find it hard to believe they would have made an Ensign a deputy Ops officer, but hey, Kim could have just graduated from an 'advanced ops officer' course right out of SF Academy - something similar to the 'Advance Tactical/Command Course' you see Admiral James Kirk teaching (and LT Savak taking) at the begining of ST2:TWOK.

What has ALWAYS bugged me is the fact that after several years, when they FINALLY make limited contact with Starfleet Command (S4:E14 "Message in a Bottle"), Harry Kim doesn't get promoted to LT(jg) at least! I can remember several patrols out to sea when the promotions list would get transmitted out to the fleet (no, the Captain does NOT just decide who gets promoted). My older brother was a 1st Class Petty Officer who got his (from 2nd Class to 1st Class) when he was out to sea in the US Navy - and he was on a sub!

The 2nd or 3rd data packet they got in the Delta Quadrant would have had the promotions list.


Kim held this position from his first day. There is the rank chain of command and the position chain of command called positional authority. Happens all the time in our military. Chief O’Brien is a Master Chief Specialist and senior staff on DS9.

  • 2
    Isn't he a Senior Chief Petty Officer/Specialist? A Master Chief would outrank him.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 4:02
  • @DavidW - Sir, yes Sir!
    – Valorum
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 6:31

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