A House subcommittee will hold Congress’ first public hearing on unidentified aircraft in more than half a century next week, with testimonies from two top defense intelligence officials.
The hearing comes after the release in June last year of a report requested by Congress on “unidentified aerial phenomena.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s nine-page “Preliminary Assessment” focused on 144 incidents dating back to 2004 and could explain just one.
The report declined to draw conclusions, saying the available reporting was “largely inconclusive” and noted that limited and inconsistent data presented a challenge in evaluating the phenomena. But it said most of the reported phenomena “represent physical objects.”
The review concluded that the objects were not classified US technology and that “we currently have no data to indicate that UAPs are part of a foreign collector or indicate major technological advancement by a potential adversary.”
The hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday, is designed to focus on the work of a group within the Pentagon that is following up on questions about national security and flight safety raised by the report.
“Since this is an area of high public interest, any inappropriate secrecy could be an obstacle to solving the mystery, or it could prevent us from finding solutions to potential vulnerabilities,” said Indiana Democrat Representative André Carson and chairman. of the House Intelligence Committee’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation, which holds the hearing. “This hearing is about exploring steps the Pentagon can take to reduce the stigma surrounding reporting by military pilots and by civilian pilots.”
Scheduled witnesses include Ronald S. Moultrie, Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, and Scott W. Bray, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence.
“The federal government and the intelligence community play a critical role in contextualizing and analyzing reports,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. He said the purpose of the hearing was to “expose one of the great mysteries of our time and break the cycle of excessive secrecy and speculation with truth and transparency.”
The report, delivered to Congress last June, was prepared by the intelligence community along with the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, which replaced the Pentagon in November with a new office, the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. The task of the group is to “detect, identify and assign objects of interest in special use airspace and to assess and mitigate all associated threats to flight safety and national security.”
Mr. Moultrie oversees that new group, which will be highlighted in upcoming hearings.
Last December, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, managed with bipartisan support to pass an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Pentagon to work with the intelligence community. on the matter and make public reports of its findings. The change expanded the scope of the investigation beyond what the Pentagon group was already doing.
Congress has not held public hearings on UFOs since the Air Force closed a public inquiry known as Project Blue Book in the early 1970s.
In 1966, Gerald R. Ford, then the Republican minority leader of the House from Michigan, organized a hearing on reports of UFOs by more than 40 people, including 12 police officers. The Air Force dismissed them as “swamp gas,” which Mr. Ford said was “fuzzy.”
“I believe the American people are entitled to a more thorough explanation than it has been given by the Air Force to date,” Mr. Ford said in a letter to two House committees on March 28, 1966. Air Force officials testified about the sightings.
Two years later, Congress held a second hearing in which scientists from outside the Air Force presented papers on their own studies of the phenomenon and called for continued research on unidentified flying objects.
The Air Force concluded in 1969 that no UFO had ever threatened national security; that the objects showed no technology beyond current knowledge; and that there was no evidence that the objects were extraterrestrial. The Air Force concluded that further investigation was not necessary.
In recent years, intelligence reports and statements by officials have raised concerns about a national security threat posed by UFOs through advanced technology, as suggested by reports from pilots of, say, vehicles traveling at extreme speeds with no visible propulsion devices. Officials have expressed doubts that they could be linked to known opponents.
“I had a little chuckle, but it’s something I’m passionate about and I think I can handle the heat,” said Mr. carson. “This could be just the thing that brings Democrats and Republicans together, at least for an hour or two.”