or years, the U.S. government has repeatedly changed its tune regarding its official involvement with UFO research.
As recently as February, a Pentagon spokesperson told Popular Mechanics that, while a government program did investigate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and other unexplained aerial phenomena for some time last decade, funding dried up in 2012. But when Popular Mechanics thoroughly investigated the covert program, multiple sources said it’s still ongoing to this day.
Now, a new report in the New York Times confirms those accounts. The government’s UFO unit currently resides in the Office of Naval Intelligence, where it “deals with classified matters,” per the report, even though the unit itself isn’t classified. The Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force is meant to “standardize collection and reporting” on sightings of UAVs and publicly divulge “at least some of its findings” twice a year, according to the Times.
In a June Senate Committee Report, the Senate authorized appropriations for fiscal year 2021 for the task force, supporting its efforts to reveal any links that unidentified aerial phenomena “have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”
From the report:
The Committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat. The Committee understands that the relevant intelligence may be sensitive; nevertheless, the Committee finds that the information sharing and coordination across the Intelligence Community has been inconsistent, and this issue has lacked attention from senior leaders.
Therefore, the Committee directs the DNI, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the heads of such other agencies as the Director and Secretary jointly consider relevant, to submit a report within 180 days of the date of enactment of the Act, to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees on unidentified aerial phenomena (also known as ‘‘anomalous aerial vehicles’’), including observed airborne objects that have not been identified.
Senator Marco Rubio, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told a CBS affiliate in Florida that he’s most interested to learn from the task force who’s responsible for unidentified aircraft spotted over American military bases. Rubio said he hopes “the Chinese or Russians or some other adversary” hasn’t made “some sort of technological leap” that “allows them to conduct this sort of activity.”
“That to me,” Rubio said, “is a national security risk and one we should be looking into.”
While such UAVs may very well come from foreign adversaries, the other possibility, of course, is that we can’t pinpoint their origins from anywhere on this planet. And that’s where the New York Times report gets really interesting.
Harry Reid, the former Nevada senator who was instrumental in funding the original UFO program, told the Times he believes that “crashes of objects of unknown origin may have occurred and that retrieved materials should be studied.” From the article:
“After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports— some were substantive, some not so substantive—that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession.”
(An earlier version of the Times article said Reid believed “crashes from other worlds” had indeed occurred, and that retrieved materials had been “studied secretly for decades, often by aerospace companies under government contracts.” The Times has corrected Reid's account, and Reid has since clarified his statements in a tweet, below. Popular Mechanics has updated this section of the article accordingly.)
I have no knowledge—and I have never suggested—the federal government or any entity has unidentified flying objects or debris from other worlds. I have consistently said we must stick to science, not fairy tales about little green men. https://t.co/TcGxe0W43M— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) July 24, 2020
The astrophysicist Eric Davis, who consulted with the Pentagon’s original UFO program and now works for the defense contractor Aerospace Corporation, told the Times that after he examined certain materials, he came to the conclusion that “we couldn’t make [them] ourselves.” In fact, Davis briefed a Department of Defense (DOD) agency as recently as March about retrieving materials from “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”
"As we have said previously, the Department of Defense and all of the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously, and examine each report," Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough tells Popular Mechanics in a statement. "This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as 'unidentified aerial phenomena' (UAP) when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing. Thorough examinations of any incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace often involves assessments from across the department, and, as appropriate, consultation with other U.S. government departments and agencies."
The safety of our personnel and the security of our operations is of paramount concern. To protect our people and maintain operations security, which includes not providing information that may be useful to our adversaries, DOD does not discuss publicly the details of either the observations or the examination of reported incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace, including those incursions initially designated as UAP.
In regards to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force mentioned in Times, Gough confirms the Department of Defense "is creating a task force to gain knowledge and insight into the nature and origins of UAPs," as well as their "operations, capabilities, performance, and/or signatures."
The mission, Gough says, "will be to detect, analyze, catalog, consolidate, and exploit non-traditional aerospace vehicles/UAPs posing an operational threat to U.S. national security and avoid strategic surprise."
The Times report, and the anticipated public disclosure of findings from Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, are the latest in encouraging recent developments surrounding UFO research.
Back in April, the U.S. Navy officially published three videos that show unidentified aerial vehicles are genuine, several years after the notorious clips first leaked online and properly ushered in the UFO renaissance.
In 2019, the Navy confirmed the three videos, taken by Navy pilots, indeed show “unexplained aerial phenomena,” but the service also said the footage should have never been released to the public in the first place. Then in April, the service dropped the clips on its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) page, a repository for documents released under the federal law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of U.S. government information to the public.
The clips were first released in 2017 and 2018 by The New York Times and To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, a UFO research group from former blink-182 member Tom DeLonge.
“After a thorough review,” a Pentagon spokesperson told Popular Mechanics in April, “the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.”
DOD released the videos in order to “clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos.”