In what could be a precursor to further stunning developments, the U.S. Navy has publicly acknowledged that the advanced aircraft depicted in several recently declassified gun-camera videos are UFOs, or what the Navy prefers to call “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon” (UAPs). “The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena,” acknowledged Joseph Gradisher, spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations, referring to the bizarre vehicles that have brazenly operated in restricted U.S. military airspace.
Strangely, this shocking announcement seems to have scarcely been noticed by Congress or the Trump administration. Is the information too jarring and radical to process? Are U.S. government officials in denial? One can only wonder, given the glaring disconnect between the Navy’s announcement and the limited government actions to protect U.S. military personnel and the nation as a whole.
The vehicles observed and recorded by U.S. Navy fighter pilots seem impervious to altitude or the elements; they are able to maneuver above 80,000 feet; they can hover and then instantly accelerate to supersonic and even hypersonic speeds; they have very low radar cross-sections and use a means of propulsion and control that does not appear to involve combustion, exhaust, rotors, wings or flaps.
Since the Navy asserts these are not U.S. aircraft, we are confronted by the daunting prospect that a potential adversary of the United States has achieved the ability to render our most sophisticated aircraft and air defense systems obsolete. Much like the Japanese reacting to the appearance of Admiral Perry’s steam-powered fleet in Tokyo Bay in the 1850s, it would seem a matter of utmost urgency to determine who is operating these craft, how they work and the intentions of those commanding them.
I’ve interviewed numerous active-duty and retired military personnel who have encountered these mysterious vehicles. Without exception they express grave concern for their colleagues and near disbelief that our government is not reacting more vigorously.
This situation is not altogether unprecedented. Some 60 years ago Americans were shocked when the Soviet Union orbited Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Sputnik garnered sustained front-page coverage, however, and Congress promptly acted on Americans’ concerns by approving increased space and defense expenditures and enhanced education programs for math and science. The concerns roused by Sputnik spurred America to enter “the space race.” The nation rallied to the cause and the commitment paid off when astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon a mere 12 years later.
Consider by contrast our government’s tepid response to the latest news about UAPs. Some congressional oversight committees have asked for and received briefings, but none has held a hearing, either open or closed; none has appropriated funds for collection or analysis; none has even asked for a report or a threat assessment. Nor have Congress members expressed concern over apparently being kept in the dark on this issue for years by the executive branch, a situation that changed only after a small private organization — To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, which I advise on national security affairs — made Department of Defense gun-camera footage available to the press and to Congress.
Why are we not analyzing the vast quantities of data already collected by America’s vast sensor networks, already bought and paid for, to see what light that data might shed on the issue? Government paralysis is something we’ve grown accustomed to on domestic matters but, when it affects national security as well, we truly are a nation at risk.
Indeed, examination of major US intelligence failures — from Pearl Harbor to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iraqi WMD — shows that, in each case, we had information that, properly analyzed and acted upon, could have prevented disaster. We’re at a similar place today, with ample warning lights flashing but no effective effort to pool relevant data from the myriad services and agencies that possess it.
The National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, Air Force and Navy, FBI and National Security Agency — there is no place in the U.S. government where all UAP information comes together. In that regard, the present situation is akin to counterterrorism before the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Center. Thankfully, new military spending is not required; we simply need to implement an effective strategy for collection and analysis using existing resources.
President Eisenhower, renowned for his military accomplishments as well as his valuable warning about the military-industrial complex, gave a speech in 1958 in my hometown of Ligonier, Pa., commemorating the 200th anniversary of Fort Ligonier. Referring to the Americans who settled the frontier, he said: “They were not turned back by terror of the unknown; they did not succumb to the tensions and privations encountered beyond the fringes of civilization. They moved ahead as companions in adventure, well-knowing that danger is often the inseparable partner of progress and honor.”
Thankfully, most of us no longer suffer the intense hardships and privations our forebears endured. However, we must still confront the unknown. Policymakers should pay close attention to the experiences of U.S. military personnel, investigate thoroughly, and respond effectively. If they fail to do so, our country may again pay a tragic price.
Christopher Mellon served 20 years in the federal government and was deputy assistant Defense secretary for intelligence, 1999-2002, and for security and information operations, 1998-99. From 2002 to 2004, he was minority staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence under Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.). He is a national security affairs adviser of To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science and is a consultant and contributor to HISTORY’s nonfiction series, “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation.”