|Delta Exploration Initiative
Delta Quadrant exploration
The Delta Exploration Initiative (DEI) is the Starfleet division that oversees and administrates all operations within the Delta Quadrant. It rarely runs missions directly, instead liaising with exploratory or scientific Starfleet units and civilian experts, and maintains strategic oversight of Starfleet interests in the quadrant.
The DEI was formed after the return of the USS Voyager and incorporated knowledge, resources, and personnel from the Pathfinder Project that had established the necessary long-distance communication with the ship. Initially, its purpose was to debrief the crew of Voyager and analyse all knowledge of the Delta Quadrant gathered on her seven-year journey.
With Starfleet eager to return to deep-space exploration after the Dominion War, and access to the Gamma Quadrant consequently limited, the Delta Quadrant drew great interest as a new frontier. Nascent experimentation on transwarp and quantum slipstream modes of transport showed that these technologies were still decades away from being viable, but related experiments in advanced long-range sensors and navigational techniques meant to take advantage of new propulsion technologies provided star-charts of safe and valuable potential destinations in the Delta Quadrant. Without the means of reaching these distant reaches, however, the DEI’s operations remained largely analytical and hypothetical for a decade after Voyager’s return.
This changed with the stabilisation of the Barzan Wormhole in 2389. Initially, the stabilisation granted Starfleet only limited and unreliable access to two Delta Quadrant apertures, one in the Nacene Reach and the other in the Gradin Belt. Task Force 38 of the Fourth Fleet was assigned directly to the DEI with the mandate to evaluate the suitability of the wormhole for long-term exploratory operations, along with securing diplomatic connections in the region.
Throughout the 2390s, long-term missions of deep-space exploration were launched into the Delta Quadrant under the authority of the Delta Exploration Initiative. However, the limitations of the Barzan Wormhole and Starfleet’s reluctance to commit resources to distant operations kept these missions low in number. Only the further stabilisation of the wormhole in 2395 gave the DEI the justification it needed to push for further exploration.
The DEI’s great victory came in early 2399, however, as its diplomats established an exploration agreement with the Turei Alliance of the Gradin Belt. Not only has this provided local Starfleet operations with greater security and support, but it included limited access to the Underspace corridors. Through these, select missions can travel to almost any reach of the Delta Quadrant.
With its primary mandate complete, Task Force 38 stopped being the DEI’s sole operating force, and as of 2399 the DEI is able to issue missions to ships across Starfleet, but particularly to ships in the Fourth Fleet.
The Delta Exploration Initiative is an office within Starfleet Command, but it doesn’t fit neatly into the chain of command as either reporting to a specific fleet under Starfleet Operations or a specific department under the Starfleet Chief of Staff. Instead, it has representatives from all of Starfleet’s departments (along with the First Contact Office and the Federation Diplomatic Corps) and reports jointly to the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet and the Federation Council, given that the missions it conducts have wide-ranging implications for Federation security and foreign policy.
With Starfleet reluctant to commit extensive resources to the far-flung Delta Quadrant and the delicate power balances of many of the quadrant’s regions, missions are few and far between. The DEI carefully prioritises, develops, and proposed missions through the Barzan Wormhole and Underspace, many of which require starships travelling into deep space without Starfleet support for months, if not years at a time.
Because of this, the DEI has limited resources under its direct command. Its main offices at Guardian Station, at the Alpha Quadrant mouth of the Barzan Wormhole, are geared towards analysing the findings of missions and plotting further operations, taking a strategic view of the many individual starship assignments. Several relatively mid-range starships under their direct authority operate on the far sides of the Barzan Wormhole, but their primary purpose is maintaining the fixed verteron arrays in the Delta Quadrant that keep it stable, as well as local relations with friendly powers such as the Turei to enable future operations. Despite their best efforts, Starfleet has not seen fit to grant them further permanent resources.
Otherwise, the DEI operates with whatever starships it can beg, borrow, or steal for Delta Quadrant missions. This has led to Starfleet ships from across fleets and task forces travelling to the depths of the quadrant, though the largely independent nature of these assignments has avoided any subsequent problems with cohesion. Mission proposals are drawn up based on the findings and reports of all Delta Quadrant assignments, at which point DEI officers headhunt possible ships, often from units with a focus on exploration and science. Due to its history with Delta Quadrant operations, ships from the Fourth Fleet are the most commonly sought-out.
- The DEI is a largely organisation and analytical wing of Starfleet that plans and oversees Delta Quadrant missions. They are independent of the Fourth Fleet and draw on ships from across Starfleet.
- While Task Force 17 has historic links to the Delta Quadrant, ships from other task forces and fleets can and do conduct Delta Quadrant missions. These will happen at the request and recommendation of the DEI.
- Most Delta Quadrant exploration is written and developed by members and Task Forces. The DEI acts as a central body to give assignments and analyse findings. They also oversee simple but necessary jobs like maintaining the stability of the Barzan Wormhole or diplomatic engagement with allies like the Turei.
- If your story needs an NPC starship in distress, or a Starfleet diplomat sent on assignment, or Federation civilian specialists for a specific mission, these will have been briefed and assigned - and report to - the DEI.