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The United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1, otherwise known as the Cole Protocol was a command enacted by Admiral Preston Cole to prevent the Covenant from finding the location of Earth. Essentially, it was an order preventing Covenant retrieval of data that contains the location of Earth, and forbids retreating vessels from setting a direct slipspace course to Earth, as the Covenant are able to track Slipspace travel and find Earth's location. The policy also states that to prevent capture, any UNSC or Human vessel is to self destruct, after wiping all data matrices, to prevent the advance of the Covenant.

All UNSC personnel were commanded to read the Cole Protocol under NAVCOM UNSC Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1. The Cole Protocol ensured that in nearly 27 years of interstellar warfare, the Covenant never discovered the Human presence on Earth. Unfortunately, the Protocol eventually outlived its usefulness when the Covenant, by pure chance, discovered Earth in 2552.


The Protocol


Article 1

United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1
Encryption Code: Red
Public Key: file/ First light/
From: UNSC/NAVCOM Fleet H.T. Ward
Subject: General Order 098831A-1 ("The Cole Protocol )
Classification: RESTRICTED (BGX Directive)
The Cole Protocol
To safeguard and protect the Inner Colonies and Earth, all UNSC vessels or stations must not be captured with intact navigation databases that may lead Covenant forces to human civilian population centers.
If any Covenant forces are detected:
1. Activate selective purge of databases on all ship-based and planetary data networks.
2. Initiate triple-screen check to ensure all data has been erased and all backups neutralized.
3. Execute viral data scavengers (Download from UNSCTTP://EPWW:COLEPROTOCOL/Virtualscav/fbr.091)
4. If retreating from Covenant forces, all ships must enter Slipstream space with randomized vectors NOT directed toward Earth, the Inner Colonies, or any other human population center.
5. In case of imminent capture by Covenant forces and borders, all UNSC ships MUST self-destruct.
Violation of this directive will be considered an act of TREASON and pursuant to UNSC Military law articles JAG 845-P and JAG 7556-L, such violations are punishable by life imprisonment or execution.

*It should be noted that Lieutenant Wagner broke Article 4, but no action was taken against him as it warned Earth about the state of Reach sooner.

Article 2

This article is never directly stated, though Captain Keyes uses it in Halo: Combat Evolved while his ship is crashing on Installation 04. Captain Keyes says, "I'm initiating the Cole Protocol, Article 2. We're abandoning the Autumn. That means you, too, Cortana." Later saying, "Destruction or capture of a shipboard AI is absolutely unacceptable."[1]

It is possible that Article 2 governs protocol in terms of abandoning a vessel. Article 2 could be theorized to mandate the removal, not destruction, of a shipboard AI if the ship in question will still be intact and its crew is able to protect the AI in question. This does seem to contradict Article 5 of the Cole Protocol, which states that ships in danger of being overtaken by Covenant forces must self-destruct.

This could also imply that Article 2 directs personnel, or at least those with sensitive information, to avoid capture. Whilst it is not apparent to what lengths UNSC personnel are to go to ensure this, apparently in the case of AIs the worst case scenario only allows them to be hidden rather than terminated. Strangely, in Halo: First Strike there does not seem to be any attempt to recover any potentially surviving AIs.

Subsection 7

Subsection 7: No captured Covenant craft may be taken to human controlled space without an exhaustive search for tracking systems that could lead the Covenant to Human bases.

Few had even heard of subsection seven because it was little more than a technicality before the Ascendant Justice was captured. This was due to the chances of capturing even a severely crippled Covenant ship, as its crew would activate their self-destruct anyway. Because the humans could not completely search the Ascendant Justice, they instead planned to take it to Reach and try to return with a more prepared team.[2]


The Cole Protocol's core aim was to prevent the Covenant from locating the precise vectors of Earth or any of the other remaining UNSC colonies. As such, its usage is universal - from warships, to freighters, to even stationary space stations in inertial orbit. For structures that are incapable of leading Covenant forces to a colony, the purging of their navigational data banks is still mandatory, and self-destruct options exist to prevent the capture of any remaining data or crew.


A draft of the Cole Protocol is mentioned in the graphic novel Halo Wars: Genesis. Although not all is seen, it contains the basic instructions set in the final draft of the first articles of the Cole Protocol.
Preston Cole writing up Hypodermic.


" Admiral Parangosky/Office of Navel Intelligence/Routing Sequence: Hypodermic--FXT--1 CODE NAME CLASSIFIED: Pied Piper (Continues from previous page)...

Based on the data revealed by the alien, these new protocols must be immediately implemented:

1) All UNSC and civilian which come in contact with alien assets must have NAV com AI erased--destroyed if necessary--to prevent capture of core world locations. 2)ALL Human vessels fleeing from alien forces must do so on a randomly generated vector away from UNSC core worlds. 3)ONI Section II to immediately begin Slipstream space attenuated broadcast of pre-recorded human carrier signals from antiquity to prevent triangulation of" {page ends here}


  • The priority order, also known as the Cole Protocol, is named after Admiral Preston Cole.
  • In most, if not all, engagements with the Covenant, the UNSC used the Cole Protocol to great effect.
  • Prior to the Covenant's discovery of Earth, the Cole Protocol was extremely effective, as noted by a Sangheili who remarked that, "We do not know where their homeworld is. Their pattern of retreat is either hopelessly random, or brilliantly conceived."[3]
  • In November 2552, the Cole Protocol was no longer totally effective in its usage, as the Covenant had discovered Earth's location. It still had some use, however, as there were many more colonies to protect.[4]


  1. Halo: The Flood, page 25
  2. Halo: First Strike, pages 93/94
  3. Conversations from the Universe
  4. Halo 2

This article uses material from the "United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1" article on the Halo wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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