The UAP Report: Knowns and Unknowns

UFO Report

Welcome to this week’s Intelligence Brief… on the heels of last week’s big release of the UAP Task Force report providing its preliminary assessment of unidentified aerial phenomena, this week we will turn a critical eye toward the report, and examine 1) what the actual timeframe and apparent scope of the study reveals, 2) how this study compares to past studies of unidentified aerial mysteries, 3) discussion about a threat potential from UAP and its assessment, and 4) where we go from here with the future of UAP studies.

Of course, in recent days The Debrief team has been busy with reporting and analysis on all of this. Shortly after the public version of the report appeared online, this reporter teamed up Tim McMillan for our own preliminary assessment of the report, followed over the weekend by an in-depth analysis McMillan offered which weighed scientific and intelligence components of the report. Also, Chris Plain weighed in on the DoD’s response following the release of the report… and in non-UAP related news, we have an “alien-inspired” antigravity concept in the works, analysis of Chinese military policy, new research on how long it would take to conquer the galaxy, and much more. Be on the lookout for more recent stories from us at the end of this newsletter… and with that, it’s time we reduce the signal-to-noise ratio, and take a look at what the government’s recent report on unidentified aerial phenomena really says.


The Report Drops… and So Does the Signal

It has now been almost a week since a long-awaited government report on unidentified aerial phenomena was delivered to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Responses to the big release have varied, although most would generally agree that the public version of the report produced by the UAP Task Force left much to be desired. While significant on several counts, this assessment was far from being a landmark in the furtherance of our ideas about the topic, and if anything, it leaves us with more questions than answers.

Among these had been questions like, “what kinds of reports did the government actually examine?” Despite the citation of 144 incidents involving possible UAP that were analyzed, the report provides no specific details about any of these encounters; only general conclusions based on the broader analysis of data the UAP Task Force collected and analyzed.

Another question on our minds has not only to do with how much our government actually knows about UAP, but also what they know about the subject’s history, which comprises more than half a century of the study of what were once commonly known as UFOs (before the government decided it was necessary to launch a rebranding campaign and give them a makeover).

For many, the report’s release was less like a mic-drop, and a lot more like a signal drop. In just nine pages, the report tells us… well, actually very little that we didn’t already know. Granted, there are a few noteworthy takeaways. Hence, with several days of stewing over all this now behind us, it’s time to take a look at what the UAP Task Force report really says, as well as what it doesn’t tell us about the government’s studies of unidentified aerial phenomena.


2004 to the Present, or Really Just the “Tic Tac” and the Last Couple of Years?

According to the document, “the UAPTF concentrated its review on reports that occurred between 2004 and 2021, the majority of which are a result of this new tailored process to better capture UAP events through formalized reporting.” This “new tailored process” that the authors of the report are describing began with the establishment of a standardized reporting structure for UAP first implemented by the U.S. Navy in March 2019, and thereafter also adopted by the U.S. Air Force in November 2020.

With the implementation of this new mechanism for reporting UAP incidents in mind and the focus of the UAPTF within this period, one thing this appears to convey is that there must have been a fair number of UAP incidents logged within the last two years—perhaps dozens of them—which the UAP Task Force considered both worthy of examination, and also could not resolve or explain.

Still image from video obtained by personnel aboard the USS Omaha in 2019. 

As the authors state, “We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence. In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.”

Let’s stop and consider this for a minute: 144 incidents were examined, “with the majority coming in the last two years as the new reporting mechanism became better known to the military aviation community,” and yet only one of these could be identified. That’s actually a surprising number of things our military says it has encountered that it couldn’t recognize; in fact, only a handful of unknown objects encountered by pilots and other members of the armed forces would be significant, but we’re potentially talking about dozens here… several dozen. Within the framework of the military’s primary objective—ensuring national security—this is more than just significant: it’s potentially one hell of a problem.

Of course, we don’t know what the actual density of the reports collected over the last couple of years had been when compared with their distribution between 2004 and 2019. However, the fact that the reporting period begins in 2004 is a major clue: what do we already know that occurred in 2004 that would warrant serious attention from the military regarding UAP observations?

Of course, it doesn’t take a detective to be able to figure out that this refers to the now famous and widely discussed USS Nimitz incident. In other words, what the report’s authors are really telling us is essentially this: “we looked at UFO incidents that were collected since we started paying attention in 2019, and also that thing that everybody’s talking about that happened back in ’04.”


What About Project Blue Book?

Later, the report also states that “Although USAF data collection has been limited historically the USAF began a six-month pilot program in November 2020 to collect in the most likely areas to encounter UAP and is evaluating how to normalize future collection, reporting, and analysis across the entire Air Force.”

Arguably one of the strangest statements that appeared in the entire report, the quote above appears to be attempting to convey that recent reporting on UAP by the Air Force (i.e. post November 2020, when they adopted the new, formalized reporting mechanism the Navy instituted in March of the previous year) was limited. However, the irony of this statement likely hadn’t been missed by anyone who has been with the topic since its early days as the artists formerly known as UFOs. Between March 1952 and December 1969, The USAF operated Project Blue Book, the longest-running systematic study of UFOs in history. Over the course of its nearly two decades in operation, 12,618 sightings were reported to the USAF, of which 701 remained unidentified.

According to a USAF fact sheet on the program, the major conclusions of Project Blue Book were as follows:

  1. “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.”
  2. “There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge.”
  3. “There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ were extraterrestrial vehicles.”

How much has changed since then? Obviously not very much, since the UAP Task Force report similarly concluded that no evidence appears to strongly point toward an extraterrestrial source for UAP. Regarding “technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge,” the recent report’s authors state that “The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management,” adding that “Additional rigorous analysis are necessary by multiple teams or groups of technical experts to determine the nature and validity of these data,” and that ongoing analysis is being undertaken “to determine if breakthrough technologies were demonstrated.” In other words, still nothing conclusive, but in light of new information, they’re still looking into it.

That leaves us with the remaining question about potential threats to national security…


Aerial Threats… Can You Say That One More Time?

Within the first two paragraphs of the report, the word “threat” appears a total of four times. Although other terms like “UAP” and “report” also appear with equal or greater frequency, if the authors of the report had been hoping to convey a positive (or even a neutral) tone from the outset, this certainly wasn’t made apparent by their word choice.

Granted, perhaps we shouldn’t read too deeply into this, since assessment of potential threats to national security and the American way of life are the primary objectives of our military. It is not only natural, but expected that the subject would be presented within the context of any possible threat it might represent, whether or not such a threat actually exists.

UAP Task Force

So does this differ significantly from Project Blue Book’s findings decades ago, which indicated that “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security”?

Not necessarily. As the report’s authors state, while there are safety concerns that originate from UAP, their apparent presence represents more of challenge than a threat.

“Safety concerns primarily center on aviators contending with an increasingly cluttered air domain,” the authors state, adding 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.”


Okay, So Not a Direct Threat, But a Challenge. So what now?

Whatever comes next remains to be seen. In addition to confirmation that the efforts of the UAP Task Force will continue, the report’s authors note that continuous use of the recently implemented formal reporting mechanism will continue, along with efforts to use artificial intelligence to help establish baseline data against which future UAP reports can be compared for analysis.

Apart from this, few commentators have actually stated what should be done in the years ahead regarding future UAP studies. Therefore, a few recommendations might include:

  • Make some information about UAP available to the scientific community: There remains a tremendous disconnect between government and science on this subject. Since the UAP issue currently appears to remain within the purview of national security, a degree of government secrecy is warranted. However, in the event that any of these objects should prove to represent novel or breakthrough technologies (especially in the unlikely event that they have exotic origins), it will be incumbent upon our government to coordinate with the scientific community on this issue, and assess whether it has implications that are broader than the isolated space of national security, with potential ramifications for both the American public and maybe the entire world.
  • Along with its formal reporting, provide ongoing updates to the public: The public version of this report, while limited, is a necessary step in the right direction toward government transparency on a timely issue. When it is possible to do so while maintaining national security protocols, future information about this area of study should be periodically conveyed to the public.
  • Commit to ethical use and management of technologies potentially derived from UAP: Whatever the source of these phenomena may prove to be, the potential exists they may serve as the impetus for new innovations and disruptive technologies. This may hold true whether the technology is captured by our military, studied, and replicated, or even as a result of the mere observation of the devices and their operation. Such technologies may prove beneficial, although the possibility also exists that they could even hold the potential for escalating an arms race at some point in the future. This is only one of several troubling potentials that might arise from a sudden technological breakthrough related to UAP; now is the time to plan for future potential threats that may be among the unintended results of military studies of UAP.

Indeed, if the UAP Task Force and its ongoing efforts succeed, the future may hold promising developments for our understanding of UAP, but as the points illustrated above outline, there is also a necessity for caution. For the time being, one thing remains clear: we don’t appear to have learned much about the phenomena in recent years that wasn’t already evident decades ago. Nonetheless, we may finally be reaching agreement on one fundamental aspect of all this: that there are, in fact, unusual aerial phenomena that warrant serious attention and study. Yes, this might have seemed evident already for quite a while, but the renewed attention from government marks a significant turning point in terms of the collection of data about these phenomena. What we choose to do with that information is another story entirely.

Although far from being the conclusion many had hoped for, maybe this a good “new start,” as far as renewing efforts toward understanding the longstanding issue of unidentified aerial phenomena.

That concludes another exciting edition of The Intelligence Brief. As always, you can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] the, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.


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