WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress held its first hearings on UFOs in half a century on Tuesday. No, the government still has not confirmed the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Pentagon officials did not reveal more information about their ongoing investigation into hundreds of unexplained sightings in the sky during testimony before a House intelligence subcommittee. But they said they had selected a director for a new task force to coordinate data collection on what the government officially calls “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
Ronald Moultrie, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said the Pentagon is also trying to destigmatize the issue and is encouraging airmen and other military personnel to report anything unusual they see.
“We want to know what’s out there just as much as you want to know what’s out there,” Moultrie told lawmakers, adding that he was a science fiction fan himself. “We don’t just get your questions. We get it from families, we get them day and night.”
Lawmakers from both parties say UFOs are a national security issue. Planes that appear to have no apparent propulsion have been spotted flying near military bases and coastlines, raising the possibility that witnesses may have seen undiscovered or secretive Chinese or Russian technology.
But sightings are often fleeting. Some appear on camera for no more than a split second, and sometimes end up being distorted by the camera lens. The U.S. government is believed to have additional technical information about the sightings, but has not yet publicly disclosed it.
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An interim report issued by intelligence officials last year counted 144 incidents in which aircraft or other equipment apparently flew at mysterious speeds or trajectories. In all but one of the sightings investigated, investigators had too little information to even roughly describe the nature of the incident.
A senior Pentagon official briefly demonstrated the challenge Tuesday. Deputy Chief of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray stood next to a television playing a short clip taken from an F-18 military aircraft. In the video, blue sky and white clouds drift by. In a single frame where staff in the room spent several minutes queuing, there was an image in the shape of a balloon.
“As you can see, finding a UAP is harder than you think,” said Bray, using an acronym for “unidentified aerial phenomenon.”
Rep. André Carson, D-Indiana, who chaired the hearing, called on investigators to demonstrate their “willingness to follow the facts regardless of the findings.”
Republican Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas said the investigation was not “to find alien spacecraft, but to provide mainstream intelligence.”
“The inability to learn about objects in our sensitive operational areas amounts to an intelligence failure that we certainly want to avoid,” he said.