WASHINGTON — A pair of top defense intelligence officials on Tuesday laid out the federal government's efforts to collect data about unidentified aerial phenomena at the first public hearing Congress has held on UFOs in more than 50 years.
The deputy director of naval intelligence, Scott W. Bray, said that since the release last year of a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a task force responsible for studying the phenomena said its database has grown to "approximately 400 reports" of unidentifiable objects. Bray said they've received a rise in reports because people have become more comfortable in sharing these encounters seen in the sky.
"The stigma has been reduced," Bray said.
Many of those new reports are "actually historic reports" that were "narrative-based," Bray said. The report released in June 2021 said that the U.S. government couldn't explain 143 of the 144 cases of unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) reported by military planes between 2004 and 2021.
Bray said that since the early 2000s, the U.S. has seen an "increasing number of unauthorized and or unidentified aircraft or objects" in military-controlled training areas and other designated airspace.
"Reports of sightings are frequent and continuing," said Bray, who explained that there has been an increase not only because of the effort to destigmatize reporting them, but also because there's been an increase in unmanned aerial systems, clutter, mylar balloons, air trash and improvements in the capabilities of sensors in U.S. airspace.
Some objects cannot be properly identified, officials said. Bray, for example, played a video during the hearing taken from an airborne pilot's cockpit operating in a U.S. Navy training range that showed a "spherical object" fly past the aircraft.
"As they fly by it, they take a video — you see it looks reflective in this video, somewhat reflective, and it quickly passes by the cockpit of the aircraft," Bray said. "I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is."
To expand the government's efforts to study these unidentifiable objects, the Pentagon is establishing an office within the office of the secretary of defense, said Ronald S. Moultrie, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security.
"The office’s function is clear — to facilitate the identification of previously unknown or unidentified airborne objects in a methodical, logical, and standardized manner," Moultrie said.
The effort will involve collaboration between the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. They are also partnering with the Department of Energy and NASA, national laboratories, and international allies.
Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., chairman of the House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation Subcommittee, said in his opening remarks that the hearing Tuesday was meant to bring this government effort "out of the shadows."
"The stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis," Carson said. "Pilots avoided reporting or were laughed at when they did. DOD officials relegated the issue to the backroom or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community. Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained, it's true, but they are real. They need to be investigated, and many threats they pose need to be mitigated."
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in his remarks that reports of these objects "need to be understood as a national security matter.
"There is something there, measurable by multiple instruments, and yet it seems to move in directions that are inconsistent with what we know of physics or science more broadly," said Schiff, who said these reports "pose questions of tremendous interest."
The committee will move to a closed session with the two defense officials on UAPs on Tuesday afternoon.