Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) were the subject of a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday led by the Committee Chairman, Democrat Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana, and House Intelligence Chair, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Adam Schiff opened his remark, saying that he is committed to "transparently communicate[ing] the work that is being done on this issue [because] secrecy breeds distrust." The last time a hearing was held on UFOs was in 1969. The project was called "Project BLUEBOOK."
The term Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) was used during the hearing to identify those objects which seem to move without "any discernible means of propulsion." Some of the objects observed seem to defy physics. Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence and Security, Ronald Moultrie, mentioned the formation in 2017 of an office within the Secretary of Defense's office called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG). Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray presented the data on UAPs and fielded questions from the Committee. Notably, the U.S. intelligence community released a 9-page preliminary report on UAPs on June 25, 2021. A classified hearing was held after the morning's 90-minute open hearing.
According to Moultrie, the Navy's Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), established in 2020, has "laid the foundation for the efforts" discussed in the hearing. Per the June 2021 report, a new, specific reporting process was outlined to "provide sufficient data for analysis of UAP events. The UAPTF concentrated its review on reports between 2004 and 2021 to better capture UAP events through formalized reporting." The UAPTF identified "a limited number of incidents" that exhibited "unusual flight characteristics."
There were 144 sightings covered by the report, most of which were recorded by Navy pilots. 80 of the 144 "involved observation with multiple sensors," indicating they represented physical objects. The multiple sensors used include "radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation." The report also states that "observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics" in 18 incidents. Some objects seem to defy physics.
Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.
Bray and Moultrie/UFO Hearing Witnesses
Rigorous Standards to Eliminate Stigma Associated with Reporting
The government seems to be taking more seriously what has long been considered by many to be a fringe conspiracy. Carson and Moultrie discussed the challenges of maintaining public trust, identifying the reporting process as one way to combat the stigma associated with reporting such incidents. UAPs are a potential national security threat, and they need to be treated that way, said Carson:
"For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis. Pilots avoided reporting or were laughed at when they did. DOD officials relegated the issue to the backroom or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community. Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained; it's true. But they are real. They need to be investigated. And any threats they pose need to be mitigated."
Moultrie explained that "appropriately structured data with rigorous scientific analysis" can help to more accurately "isolate, characterize and identify objects. With that process, Moultrie added, the "cultural stigma" associated with reporting such incidents can be mitigated.
Limitations on Reporting of UAPs and UFOs
Bray told the Committee that high-quality data and reporting could be limited. He said UAPs generally fall into "one of five potential categories; airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, U.S. government or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems OR an "other bin" that allows for a whole new bin of difficult cases and the possibility of surprise and potential scientific discovery." He said their database has now grown to over 400 reports.
He showed several videos, one of which was so fleeting it was difficult to discern the object being observed. The video of the fleeting "spherical object," he explained, shows just how difficult it is to provide reliable data and reporting on UAPs. He also showed videos recorded by Navy personnel on several separate occasions of triangular objects—some of which flashed intermittently. The triangles showed flight patterns and propulsion methods that today's scientific knowledge cannot easily explain. For several years, the sightings, seen through night vision glasses and recorded by SLR camera, remained unresolved, according to Bray, because the sightings were so limited. However, the Navy now has several in its possession from different locations that seem to corroborate swarms of "unmanned aerial systems in the area."
"In this example, we accumulated sufficient data from two similar encounters from two different time periods and two different geographic areas to help us draw these conclusions," Bray continued.
According to Christopher Mellon, one of the limitations of the 2021 report and ongoing investigations is that there are most likely many more sightings that go unreported. Mellon served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. During the same period studied, writes Mellon:
"Commercial pilots reported hundreds of incidents involving UAP, and civilian UAP organizations received tens of thousands of UAP reports. Yet, all these cases are only a small fraction of the likely total since an estimated 90% or more of all civilian and military UAP sightings go unreported. In light of these numbers, and the vast extent of the Air Force’s air and space surveillance capabilities, the number of USAF incidents from 2004 to 2021 should be extensive."
He has long called on the government to provide a more fulsome accounting of these events. Additionally, DNI Director Avril Haines recognized in a letter to Sens. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Jerry Moran (R., Kan) that the government often errs on the side of the overclassification of important documents, resulting in "harms to national security" and the erosion of public trust. According to Mellon, the same can be said here with the classification of UAP reports. Mellon also states, "[i]n 2015, the Air Force released a document indicating an average of 1,800 unidentified 'tracks of interest' per year," many more than the 144 studied.
Both Moultrie and Bray emphasized the importance of investigating UAPs as they relate to national security. Some have had very close encounters with military aircraft, sometimes causing operational challenges and even danger to personnel. The Navy has to investigate adversarial developments either from foreign terrestrial entities or unknown entities because of threats to national security. When asked whether the UAPs are foreign-owned, Bray stated he is not aware of any foreign entities that employ craft without "discernable means of propulsion." The Navy is looking at beefing up sensor capabilities, seeking integrated intelligence across agencies, and has built a relationship with the FAA to help identify UAPs.
Rep. LaHood Suggests Legal Consequences for False UAP Reports
At one point in the hearing, Rep. Darin LaHood (D-IL) asked Moultrie whether there have been legal consequences for misinformation from citizens who have falsely reported UFOs. Moultrie stated much of the misinformation is being combated by putting "the factual based information back into the mainstream, back into the bloodstream of the reporting media that we have so people understand what's there." LaHood didn't seem satisfied with Moultrie's answer and doubled down:
"So, just taking that a step further. So that misinformation, false narratives, manufactured—so what are the consequences? Are there legal consequences? Are there examples where people have been held accountable by this misinformation or disinformation?"
Moutrie said he had no examples of individuals being held liable for misinformation about UAPs. However, he said he "welcome[d] a dialogue with Congress to talk about that with the members who help legislate the laws to say what should the legal ramifications be to hold individuals accountable."