May 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What Congress learned in its first public hearing on UFOs since 1966

A video of a UAP is paused for display during a congressional hearing on "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" in D.C. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

Congress held its first public hearing on unidentified flying objects in decades on Tuesday, centering on investigations about reported military encounters with unexplained objects.

By the numbers: A database tracking unidentified object sightings has grown to roughly 400 reports. Sightings "are frequent and are continuing," witnesses said.

The hearing follows a U.S. government report on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)

  • The report concluded that UAP could pose a threat to national security but found no evidence of aliens from the incidents.
  • The last hearing on UFOs was in 1966, when then-Republican House Minority Leader Gerald Ford held two hearings regarding reported sightings in Michigan and other parts of the country earlier that year.
  • One now-resolved unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) video captured by the Navy was explained as lens aberrations and the aperture shape of the night vision goggles used to record the footage.
  • Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray played another video of a military flyby with a UAP that has yet to be explained.

Resolved reports fall into five explanatory categories

  1. Airborne clutter
  2. Natural atmospheric phenomena
  3. U.S. government or U.S. industry developmental programs
  4. Foreign adversary systems
  5. "Other," which serves as "a holding bin of difficult cases and for the possibility of surprise and potential scientific discovery," Bray said.

There have been 11 near misses between unknown objects and U.S. military assets

  • U.S. service members have recorded no collisions or direct communications with UAP, Bray said.
  • They also have not found wreckage material "that isn't consistent with being of terrestrial origin," he added.

The House Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation interviewed Defense Department officials about DOD's work looking into the UAPs.

  • The Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG) was established in November 2021 as the successor to the DOD's Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, which was created in response to reports from Navy pilots and other servicemembers about encounters with UAP over several years.
  • Some videos from the reports were released by the Pentagon in 2020, including recorded footage from infrared cameras of fighter jets.

What they're saying: Bray and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security Ronald Moultrie stressed that the Pentagon's primary goals with AOIMSG are to organize and synthesize raw, abnormal data collected by service members and to identify UAP.

  • "We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena, and because UAP pose potential flight safety and general security risk, we are committed to a focused effort to determine their origin," Moultrie said.
  • "Since the early 2000s, we've seen an increasing number of unauthorized or unidentified aircraft or objects in military-controlled training areas and training ranges and other designated airspace," Bray said in his opening statement. "Reports of sightings are frequent and are continuing."
  • The Pentagon attributes the frequency of sightings to the increased presence of commercial drones near military sites and better sensor equipment detecting debris, such as mylar balloons, in military airspace, Bray said.
  • The frequency could also be attributed to AOIMSG standardizing reporting procedures for Navy and Air Force service members and the Pentagon recently encouraging service members to report anything abnormal while at sea or in flight, Bray said.

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Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show Gerald Ford was the House Minority Leader, not the House Majority Leader.

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