Hello, new to the game and still learning the ropes of all the "finer" concepts of the game. Several Questions come to mind but perhaps the first would be how many Officer Skill points will we "cap" at? I realize that most people will probably only utilize 4 Officers but I was curious because I like a variety of officer choices and need to know how to best spend their points.
Also what advantages are there to having a rare officer? I realize they come with higher tier skills...but can't we just train lower grade officers to use the same abilities (I also realize that doing this will cost Merits..but isn't that what they are for?)
You get unlimited officer points. You can cap out every BOFF you get, and yes you can train your first BOFFs with new skills. Many people keep their first BOFFs throughout the whole game. The rare and very rare have slightly better traits but its pretty minor.
When it comes to bridge officer abilities, there is no limitation on what they can possibly know (after training) based on rarity. You could theoretically have an entire set of common Boffs with the abilities you listed. All Rank I and Rank II abilities can be trained at the ESD ability trainer. However, Rank III abilities require training via one method or another.
For example, the Reverse Shield Polarity III ability on your Human Engineer would either have to already be present on the officer when you acquired him, or would have to be trained to him by another officer that you acquired. Keep in mind that if you use an officer to train another officer, you only get to do that once then the officer who did the training is gone.
Different example, the Attack Pattern Delta III ability on your Ocampa Tactical officer would, again, either have to already be present, be trained by another officer, or be trained by a Tactical player who has 9 levels of Combat Maneuvers (I think?). If your character is not Tactical, you'd have to trade the officer to someone who is and has the skill point requirement to do the training for you. Some abilities cannot be trained by another officer, as they are not a potential random ability, and can only be trained by another player (examples would include both Emergency Power to Weapons III and Cover Shield III, which can only be trained by an Engineer player with requisite skill levels).
In both instances, if you use another officer for the training, you can only use a bridge officer you have NOT commissioned (still in your waiting list) to do the training.
As to whether your ability selections are "decent," this is going to be very much determined by your own experience, and how you intend to play. One other thing to consider is that, while your officers can use all 4 of their ground abilities, they can only use a certain number of their space abilities based on what ship you are currently in command of. For example, if you were flying a Star Cruiser, you would have access to all 4 of your Engineer's space abilities (provided you have him in the Commander slot), but only the 2 lowest of your Tactical officer's abilities, the 2 lowest of one of your Science officer's abilities, and only the lowest of the other Science officer (you would have room for one more Engineer officer and would have access to all but the highest of his space abilities).
There's a skill planner located here that you can use which will give you a list of all the ship types and the number of corresponding abilities that ship can possess, and it will also highlight which of your personal skills affect those abilities, so you can make them more effective.
Something else to consider is your BOs will not use the Sweeping Strikes very effectively, they either won't use it often or not at all. If you want a melee skill for them then Lunge is amazing. I take a tactical BO everywhere with me when playing my main (Science) for the Battle Strategies 3 and lunge 3. The lunge from that BO regularly hits for over 400 with a highest so far of 1300 on a debuffed target. Definitely worth looking at for such a cheap (they can be picked up for 500EC) skill that's also so effective.