During the first half of 2021, the United States had been overcome with a case of UFO fever (or “UAP”, as these unusual aerial objects now seem to be preferentially called by both the American military, and the media).
However, in recent days, much of this interest seems to have waned, following the publication of a widely anticipated report delivered to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in June.
This, despite the recent passing of a bill by the Senate that may significantly expand access to information about UAP collected by the intelligence community for a small unit within the U.S. Navy that has been tasked with studying these unexplained phenomena.
Much of the interest in the topic, which began with earnest in 2017 following revelations in the New York Times about the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, was further fueled by the appearance of a new task force within the U.S. Navy, specifically assigned to study anomalous aerial objects observed by the military.
The establishment of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) was officially announced in early August 2020, following its approval by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist. “The Department of the Navy, under the cognizance of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, will lead the UAPTF,” read a Pentagon press release announcing the establishment of the task force.
As the Pentagon had outlined at the time, the UAPTF had been established to help improve the U.S. government’s “understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs,” with a specific mission “to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”
With the subsequent passing of the Intelligence Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2021, the UAPTF was given the go-ahead to proceed with the creation of a preliminary report on its findings regarding UAP, to be delivered to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in June of this year.
The buzz this all managed to generate had been impressive, to say the least. Almost every day, news items, opinion editorials, and blog posts speculated on what the contents of the widely anticipated government report on these aerial mysteries might contain.
However, once it finally arrived in late June, the contents of the report hardly lived up to all the hype it managed to generate.
The nine-page report, titled “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” was delivered to the ODNI on June 25, 2021. Not counting the cover page, and a pair of appendixes found on the last two pages, the main body of the report comprised just six pages of material that provided no specifics on the 144 unresolved incidents involving UAP cited in the document. These incidents, the majority of which occurred within the last two years, appeared to represent encounters by personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and other areas of government with what the UAPTF believed to be physical objects or phenomena of some kind.
“Our analysis of the data supports the construct that if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved they will fall into one of five potential explanatory categories,” the report stated. These five categories included “airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall ‘other’ bin.”
In addition to its designation of multiple types of phenomena that comprised the UAP observed by the U.S. military, another key focus of the report involved the possible threat these objects might represent to aviators, as well as to U.S. interests and security more broadly.
“UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue,” read one portion of the report, “and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security. Safety concerns primarily center on aviators contending with an increasingly cluttered air domain.”
Significantly, the report added that “UAP would also represent a national security challenge if they are foreign adversary collection platforms or provide evidence a potential adversary has developed either a breakthrough or disruptive technology.”
The preliminary report seemed to convey at least one thing starkly: how seriously the Pentagon appears to be taking the UAP issue. Despite this renewed interest shown in the subject by the U.S. government, the general response to the report had been lackluster, with many complaining that it offered little information of any substance, or that wasn’t already publicly accessible.
However, what many seem to have overlooked about the report had been that in its preliminary assessment, the UAPTF was essentially presenting frontmatter for what would be ongoing studies of UAP by the Navy’s task force, drawing on information collected by a number of agencies within the intelligence community in the years ahead. But where do things go from here?
A glimpse at what might await in the days ahead appeared recently in a bill passed unanimously by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which expanded the UAPTF’s access to information collected by the U.S. intelligence community about UAP.
As with last year's Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), provisions were included again in this year's bill related UAP and the efforts of the Navy's UAP Task Force. According to Section 345 of the newly-passed FY 2022 IAA, titled “Support for and Oversight of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force,” the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence will now require “each element of the intelligence community and the Department of Defense with data relating to unidentified aerial phenomena to make such data available immediately to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force and to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.”
Among the most significant developments since the release of the preliminary report in June, it also presents us with ideas about the future direction of the Navy’s UAP Task Force, and that of other agencies within the government who are collecting data about unidentified aerial objects.
Whether or not the UAP subject holds the public’s attention, it appears that the government and its focus on collecting and analyzing reports have not changed. In the years ahead, perhaps there will be more significant findings on these unusual aerial objects that have perplexed governments and militaries around the world now for several decades.