A House committee will hold a public hearing on UFOs next Tuesday for the first time in decades, as Congress presses the Pentagon and other national security agencies for more answers on reports of mysterious aircraft violating protected airspace.
The session before the House Intelligence Committee's Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee comes fives months after the National Defense Authorization Act required the military to establish a permanent UFO research office and take a series of other steps to collect and investigate reports of "unidentified aerial phenomena."
“The American people expect and deserve their leaders in government and intelligence to seriously evaluate and respond to any potential national security risks — especially those we do not fully understand,” the panel chair, Rep. André Carson, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Since coming to Congress, I've been focused on the issue of unidentified aerial phenomena as both a national security threat and an interest of great importance to the American public."
Testifying before the panel will be Ronald Moultrie, the Pentagon's top intelligence official, and Scott Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence.
The hearing, Carson said, "will give the American people an opportunity to learn what there is to know about these incidents."
A number of congressional oversight committees have been grappling with the issue since revelations first reported by POLITICO and The New York Times in 2017 that the Pentagon had a secret UFO research office and multiple Navy pilots and radar operators came forward with their testimony of encounters with strange, high performance craft.
The director of national intelligence issued a public report in June 2021 at the request of the Senate Intelligence Committee that outlined 144 reports of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) in recent years, including 18 incidents in which 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," the report said. "In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency energy associated with UAP sightings."
At the time, Carson said he was determined to hold public hearings, saying that "we can't rule out something that is otherworldly."
The defense bill adopted last in December also required the Pentagon to develop an “intelligence collection and analysis plan to gain as much knowledge as possible regarding the technical and operational characteristics, origins, and intentions of unidentified aerial phenomena."
That includes identifying personnel across the government “to respond rapidly to incidents or patterns of observations." It also required an annual report and semiannual briefings for Congress with descriptions of all UAP incidents such as those “associated with military nuclear assets, including strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered ships and submarines," the bill stated.
Closed-door briefings on the Pentagon's progress in carrying out the legislation have begun in recent weeks. But a number of lawmakers expressed dismay that the Pentagon is still not taking the topic seriously enough, as POLITICO reported last week.
Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday he has high hopes for the next phase of congressional oversight.
“There's still much to learn about unidentified aerial phenomena and the potential risks they may pose to our national security," he said in a statement announcing the public hearing. "But one thing is sure — the American people deserve full transparency, and the federal government and Intelligence Community have a critical role to play in contextualizing and analyzing reports of UAPs."
"The purpose of this hearing," Schiff added, "is to give the public an opportunity to hear directly from subject matter experts and leaders in the intelligence community on one of the greatest mysteries of our time, and to break the cycle of excessive secrecy and speculation with truth and transparency."
The session will mark the first time Congress has convened a public hearing on the issue since the Air Force oversaw an inconclusive UFO investigation called Project Blue Book that concluded in 1969.
"It has been something like 50 years since there has been a congressional hearing," said Alejandro Rojas, a journalist and UFO researcher who has studied the history of the phenomena. "But even then it doesn't seem that Congress was as serious as they are now. They want to actually see government UFO hunting."
He said a big question remains whether national security agencies are serious about taking direction from Congress. "There seems to be a big disconnect between what Congress wants and what DoD is delivering," Rojas said. "They are being accused of dragging their feet. It is a very strong message that Congress is sending that they want action."