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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.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.