Contact was the section of the Culture responsible for foreign interaction and military matters.
Contact was the part of the Culture concerned with discovering, cataloguing, investigating, evaluating and - if thought prudent - interacting with other civilisations. It handled almost all interactions between the Culture and elements non-Culture. It was a relatively small part of the Culture and most normal citizens would never encounter a Contact agent or ship.
The Culture's modus operandi, rather than encourage immigration or wholesale incorporation of other civilisations, was to instead subtly guide less advanced civilisations to fulfil their potential, often by secretly influencing politics and wars via the Contact section. When it was deemed appropriate, Contact handled the transition of individuals, groups or indeed whole civilisations into the Culture.
Contact also oversaw the voluntary departure of citizens from the Culture to the civilisation of their choice and interfered therein where deemed appropriate (in order to remove any unfair technological or informational advantage the citizen in question may use against its new peers).
During the Idiran-Culture War, Contact acted as the Culture's armed forces. Purpose built Culture warcraft were rare in the early years, and were substituted by General Contact Vehicles and General Contact Units. These ships were heavily engaged and outnumbered.
Contact always contained specialist sub-divisions. The Numina, Quietus, and Restoria divisions were formally created during a reorganization during the 3rd millennium CE.
- Main article: Special Circumstances
Special Circumstances was originally a part of Contact. After the early years of the Idiran-Culture War, while still relatively young, SC was formally divested from Contact and became an independent organization. The split occurred because SC's activities could not be morally justified within Contact. Contact was frequently seen as being second best to SC.