If they said that, they didn't understand PvP at least. It's not that you can't play without them, but if you want to compete with the best, you better don't go without DOFFs. There are certainly no PvE elements in the game that require them to beat anything. But there may be players where you need it.
Then that there is a problem, PvP should NEVER trump PvE unless the games primary purpose is PvP.
STO is not a primary PVP. Despite rumors to the contrary the majority of player play PVE, unfortunately the PvP community tends to be a lot more vocal.