FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 23, 2022
Mysterious flying objects sound like science fiction, but U.S. military and Congress take them seriously
Read about any other bizarre or offbeat topic. React in up to six words.
Now pick a different article involving the military or science. List a fact you learn.
What makes news in Washington, D.C., this week?
CNN's headline says it well, with a bit of attitude: "Congress is finally waking up to UFOs." The news is that federal lawmakers now pay attention to unidentified flying objects with no known or proven origin. A House subcommittee last week held a hearing to learn more about unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), as they're now known. It had been over 50 years since a congressional inquiry into "flying saucers," as they were called in sci-fi movies back then. "For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis," said Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., who chaired the latest session. "Pilots avoided reporting, or were laughed at when they did. Defense Department officials relegated the issue to the back room, or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community. Today, we know better."
The Pentagon also treats the topic seriously. "We want to know what’s out there as much as you want to know what's out there," Ronald Moultrie, an undersecretary of defense, told Carson’s subcommittee. “Our goal is not to potentially cover up something, if we were to find something. It's to understand what may be out there, examine what it may mean for us." Interest has increased since the Pentagon released three short, verified videos in 2020 that show UAPs. Then last summer, the U.S. intelligence community issued an unclassified report to Congress on UAPs that detailed 144 UAP sightings or incidents, documented by military aviators, from 2004-21.
The government was unable to determine whether atmospheric events had tricked sensors, whether the odd craft were from foreign adversaries, or whether the objects were from outer space. Scott Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence, said last week that the United States also has reports from nonmilitary sources. He didn't elaborate.
Lawmakers from both parties say the aerial mysteries are a national security concern. Sightings have been reported near military bases and coastlines, raising the prospect of secret Chinese or Russian technology. "The inability to understand objects in our sensitive operating areas is tantamount to intelligence failure that we certainly want to avoid," says Rep. Rick Crawford, an Arkansas Republican on the subcommittee.
Pentagon official says: "We get the questions not just from you [lawmakers]. We get it from family and we get them night and day." – Ronald Moultrie, undersecretary of defense for intelligence
House member says: "UAPs are unexplained, it's true. But they are real. They need to be investigated. And any threats they pose need to be mitigated." – Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., subcommittee chairman
Government study says: "In 18 incidents, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion." – Report to Congress, June 2021
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