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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Defense Department revealed its Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) on Friday, charging the group with examining unexplained encounters with unidentified flying objects, per a statement.

Why it matters: The task force, to be led by the Navy, comes after the Pentagon earlier this year released a number of videos of "unidentified aerial phenomena" captured by Navy pilots over the last decade.

  • The footage appears to show unidentified flying objects moving rapidly while being recorded by infrared cameras of fighter jets.

What they're saying: "The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security," the DoD said.

  • "The Department of Defense and the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously and examine each report."
  • "This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as UAP when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing."
  • The department said its chief concern is the safety of its personnel and operations.

Reality check: By establishing this task force, the Pentagon and the Navy are not concluding or even suggesting the existence of aliens.

  • Rather, the military is concerned that the objects could be highly advanced aircraft flying near sensitive military facilities and in military-controlled ranges, dangerous flaws within American military technology or unknown natural phenomena that could damage aircraft or hurt service members.

The big picture: The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on legislation in June that would require the Pentagon and intelligence community to provide a public analysis of the encounters captured by the pilots, according to CNN.

Go deeper

Pharmacies, not the military, will handle COVID-19 vaccinations

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Although President Trump has said the military is “all mobilized” to help distribute a coronavirus vaccine, in the end that process will almost certainly rely heavily on the pharmacies, doctors and community hospitals we’re all familiar with.

The big picture: Deciding how to distribute a vaccine is, for now, a government-driven task, and Trump has invoked the logistical expertise of the military as a way to do the job. For the public, though, this won’t feel like a military exercise, with heavy trucks rolling into town and people lining up outside medical tents. It’ll feel like going to CVS.

Updated 3 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.