The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Congress asked, the Pentagon answered — but UFOs remain mysterious

After a 90-minute congressional hearing about UFOs on Tuesday, they retain their air of mystery.

A House Intelligence subcommittee held the first congressional hearing in over half a century on military reports of unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP). UAP rebrands what most people refer to as UFOs, to avoid the stigma attached to a phenomenon that is the subject of lurid conspiracy theories.

Pentagon officials who testified were Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray.

Little new light was shed on UFOs, but the two officials tried to clarify the situation by ruling things out.

There’s no evidence to suggest UAPs are extraterrestrial.

There have been no collisions with Navy aircraft, but 11 near misses.

They’ve found no unexplained wreckage.

They’ve received no communications from the UAPs.

The military have never fired shots at them.

They believe no foreign adversary could create such technologies.

These unequivocal statements mask a large degree of uncertainty. The hearing was a follow-up to the release of a report in June last year from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Among 144 sightings in the report, only one could be explained. It was a large, deflating weather balloon. In November, the Pentagon formed a new group to coordinate efforts to detect and identify objects in restricted airspace, with the unwieldy title of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. The title does not convey confidence that the group will be nimble and sharply focused.

At the hearing, the Pentagon officials admitted that the number of reports now totaled 400, but many are anecdotal. Reports of sightings are frequent and continuing. As detailed in the earlier report, they noted 18 occasions when aerial objects moved at considerable speed without visible means of propulsion, acknowledging that sensor artifacts could be the explanation in some cases. They admitted that the data were often insufficient to draw any conclusions.

A sign of the challenge came when the subcommittee spent five minutes scrutinizing a video shot last year through the window of an F18 fighter jet. It showed a spherical object in the distance. But the clip only lasted a few seconds and fragmentary data is unlikely to resolve the nature of UAPs. Skeptics have already debunked some of the grandiose claims for earlier videos. However, the Pentagon officials did assert that many of the sightings are of real, physical objects.

Several members of the subcommittee were skeptical that the military was committed to getting to the bottom of this mystery. In response, Bray said, “I’m impatient. I want immediate understanding as much as anyone else.”

Moultrie agreed noting, “There’s no other higher priority we have,” and he admitted he’s a science faction fan, adding “I am an inquisitive mind.”

One House member in the room had a particularly jaundiced view of the proceedings. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) asserted the Pentagon was not being transparent and were too quick to dismiss the alien spacecraft hypothesis. He says he even sells a t-shirt on his website that says “More people believe in UFOs than believe in Congress.”

It’s unlikely that the closed session yielded any startling insights either. More likely, it was classified because it covered sensors and capabilities that the military does not want revealed.

While we wait for the military to gather more and better data, scientists and the public have already decided. Astronomers know there are hundreds of millions of habitable planets in our galaxy, with a good chance that life on some of them could have evolved to have the capability for space travel. However, they are skeptical and they know that most UFOs sightings have mundane, terrestrial explanations. The public, on the other hand, has largely adopted the alien hypothesis: Half of Americans think UFOs are extraterrestrials visiting the Earth.

Chris Impey is a professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. He is the author of hundreds of research papers on observational cosmology and education, and he has written popular books on black holes, the future of space travel, teaching cosmology to Buddhist monks, how the universe began, and how the universe will end. His massive open online courses have enrolled over 300,000 people.

Tags Chris Impey Military National security Science Tim Burchett UAP UFO Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

See all Hill.TV See all Video

main area bottom custom html

MAIN Area bottom

Main area bottom

Top Stories

See All

Most Popular

Load more