A government task force charged with explaining mysterious lights and objects in the sky patiently told Congress this week that its job is to keep U.S. aircrews safe from drones launched by U.S. adversaries, private sector gadgets and other airborne clutter that fills the atmosphere.
But all anyone really wanted to do was talk about UFOs.
The House Select Intelligence subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness on Tuesday hosted the first public hearing in 50 years that raised the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Scott Bray, U.S. Naval Intelligence Deputy Director, said sightings of UAPs (the government prefers Unidentified Aerial Phenomena over UFO) near U.S. military installations have increased over the last 20 years because there is more stuff in the air and military sensors are better able to detect it.
The job of the UAP task force, formed in August 2020, is to collect as much data as possible so officials can better explain these events, instruct pilots how to counter these measures and take steps to neutralize our adversaries when they are behind it.
One hurdle to this project was that many pilots were worried that reporting unusual phenomena would make them look like crackpots that watch too many movies about aliens from space. Bray said the task force has been working hard to take the stigma away from reporting UAPs, and he said the rising number of reports shows the stigma is gone.
“Since the early 2000s, we have seen an increasing number of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft or objects in military controlled training areas and training ranges and other designated airspace. Reports and sightings are frequent and continuous,” he said. “The stigma has been reduced.”
Video evidence collected by the task force is spotty – in most cases, officials don’t have enough data to explain what happened. Bray played one video for lawmakers that showed a metal sphere shooting by a plane, and another showing triangle-shaped lights in the sky.
Bray said in most cases these objects are “airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, U.S. government or U.S. industry, or foreign adversary systems."
When pressed on whether there’s any chance military sensors are picking up signs of alien life, Bray said whatever is out there appears to be manmade.
“When it comes to material that we have, we have no material, we have detected no emanations within the UAP task force that would suggest it’s anything non-terrestrial in origin,” he said.
“The UAP task force doesn’t’ have any wreckage that isn’t… consistent with being of terrestrial origin,” he added.
Some lawmakers liked this answer and said the point of the task force should be to protect military assets and prevent intelligence failures, not to get distracted with Twilight Zone possibilities.
“It’s not about finding alien spacecraft, but about delivering dominant intelligence across the technical, operational and strategic spectrum,” said Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AK).
But others were intrigued about the possibility of alien visitors. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) pressed Bray repeatedly on objects caught on video without any discernable means of propulsion. And Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said the task force needs to balance the job of protecting pilots from manmade objects and being ready to accept more mysterious explanations.
“No one knows whether there is extraterrestrial life. It’s a big universe. If there is, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that there is some exploration coming here, and that underlies a lot of the reports you get,” Welch said. “But on the other hand… you have the responsibility to make sure our national security is protected.”
Members of the task force themselves admitted to being hooked on the idea that something bigger might be out there. Ronald Moultrie, Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence and Security, explained in detail how the task force is working with several federal agencies to collect data and keep pilots safe from terrestrial junk, but acknowledged he’s open to bigger explanations.
“My generation grew up looking at space sagas and the Apollo program,” he said, noting he was “thrilled” when man landed on the moon.
“I enjoy the challenge of what may be out there,” Moultrie added. “I have followed science fiction, I have gone to conventions, I’ll say it on the record. But there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t necessarily dress up, but I do believe that it’s important to show that the Department of Defense has… we have character. We’re people just like you.”
Those who think the government might still be hiding information about alien visitors can point to the confidential non-public session of the hearing, which followed soon after the public session ended. Who knows what they might have admitted in private?
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