ROSWELL, New Mexico — A public report acknowledging UFOs was the easy part, researchers and analysts say.
Now comes a much more daunting task for the federal government as the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and other key players across Washington embark on a major overhaul of how documented encounters with unidentified craft are tracked, organized and analyzed.
Exactly how federal officials approach that mission, and how much money and human resources Congress allocates toward it, will make all the difference, specialists say. The overhaul could be the key to investigations yielding conclusions that were lacking in the unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) study released last week.
The government’s highly anticipated next steps serve as a backdrop this week as thousands of researchers and paranormal enthusiasts gather for Roswell’s UFO Festival, an annual get-together held in a town famous for reports of a 1947 flying saucer crash.
The event has taken on extra significance and prominence this year. Organizers expect a record turnout, largely because of the newfound government transparency and the UAP investigation headed by the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In Roswell and across the country, the appetite for more information on UFOs has reached new heights. Longtime researchers say the next few months and years will be crucial in determining whether the shroud of secrecy has truly been lifted.
“Will this be carried through? Because this will not be done in a short amount of time. This is going to take years,” said Mark Rodeghier, scientific director at the Center for UFO Studies. “Will they continue to move the ball forward and provide the correct resources?”
Mr. Rodeghier and other UFO researchers say the federal government must engage with those “outside the military box” who can bring a purely scientific and technological perspective to the issue.
“If civilian researchers can work on this problem, they will want to say what they’ve found. They’ll want to talk about things,” he said. “If that happens, people build on it. What you want is an ongoing dialogue in the public.”
The government’s UAP study has sparked such a dialogue, at least temporarily. The report examined 144 military encounters with UFOs and could only explain one, which was determined to be a deflating balloon.
Of the other 143 encounters, the report did not draw any firm conclusions on whether the craft could be of extraterrestrial origin, high-tech Chinese or Russian aircraft, or perhaps something as simple as floating plastic bags.
The report did say that at least some of the sightings could involve “breakthrough technologies” that pose serious threats to national security, potentially raising the stakes as the federal government searches for answers.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspects of the disclosure last week were in a Pentagon statement accompanying the report. In the statement, Defense Department officials vowed to quickly develop a comprehensive plan to catalog and analyze UFO encounters.
“This plan will be developed in coordination with various DoD components, including the military departments and the combatant commands, and with ODNI and other interagency partners,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
“The plan will establish procedures for synchronizing collection, reporting and analysis of UAP; provide recommendations for securing military test and training ranges; and identify requirements for the establishment and operation of a new follow-on DoD activity to lead the effort, including its alignment, resources, staffing, authorities and a timeline for implementation,” he said.
In short, many enthusiasts say, the government, for the first time, will treat the questions that have consumed them in a serious, systematic fashion.
Working out the details
The details of the plan are still being hammered out. It’s also unclear to what extent, if any, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies will work with outside scientists and researchers who have tracked unexplained craft for decades. Defense Department officials did not offer clarity on that point when asked by The Washington Times.
Support for research is mounting on Capitol Hill. Key lawmakers said last week’s report was merely the beginning of what should be a long-term process to fundamentally reimagine how the U.S. approaches the phenomena.
“This report is an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said in a statement. “The Defense Department and intelligence community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern.”
A revamped government research effort almost surely will bring to light a trove of UFO encounters not covered in the federal study. Some researchers say the report — while a positive inaugural move after decades of flat-out refusal to even discuss the issue publicly — glossed over a host of seemingly credible accounts from military personnel of unidentified craft shutting down nuclear weapons sites or temporarily disabling American weapons.
“The report completely ignores the elephant in the room: Hundreds of reports from military veterans, most of whom I have interviewed myself, involving UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites,” said Robert Hastings, who has written extensively on UFOs and claims of how they shut down U.S. nuclear arsenals on numerous occasions.
By focusing the report on just the 144 UAP sightings, Mr. Hastings said, “the new report in effect perpetuates the long-standing cover-up of UFOs.”
“As a result, the current public and media attention focuses on the pilot encounters while cases involving UFOs shutting down our [weapons] remain a taboo subject for open discussion, at least officially,” he said.