On July 26 2023, a House subcommittee hearing on unidentified objects or phenomena in the sky instantly lit up social media; for example, “UAPs,” “UFOs,” “#endUAPsecrecy,” and “Tom DeLonge” all appeared on Twitter’s trending list and as “megathreads” on space alien-related subreddits:
On July 26 2023, Google Trends measured a breakout level of searches related to “UAP hearing,” including “what is a UAP?” Our search for the term led first to an October 2022 NASA.gov page, “NASA Announces Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Study Team Members.” That page bore an editor’s note explaining that the term “UAP”:
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Dec. 22, 2022 to reflect an expanded terminology for ‘UAP,’ going from unidentified aerial phenomena to unidentified anomalous phenomena.
UAP or unidentified anomalous or aeriel phenomena replaced the older acronym UFO, short for “unidentified flying objects.” NASA explained:
Observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or as known natural phenomena are categorized as UAPs.
The independent study will begin on Monday, Oct. 24 . Over the course of nine months, the independent study team will lay the groundwork for future study on the nature of UAPs for NASA and other organizations. To do this, the team will identify how data gathered by civilian government entities, commercial data, and data from other sources can potentially be analyzed to shed light on UAPs. It will then recommend a roadmap for potential UAP data analysis by the agency going forward.
The study will focus solely on unclassified data. A full report containing the team’s findings will be released to the public in mid-2023 … Unidentified anomalous phenomena are of interest for both national security and air safety and the study aligns with one of NASA’s goals to ensure the safety of aircraft. Without access to an extensive set of data, it is nearly impossible to verify or explain any observation, thus the focus of the study is to inform NASA what possible data could be collected in the future to scientifically discern the nature of UAP.
At the end of the page, NASA included a link on text reading “Frequently Asked Questions.” Clicking the link led to a science.NASA.gov page, “NASA Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Study Frequently Asked Questions.” It featured eighteen distinct “frequently asked questions,” and explained the role of NASA’s research in contrast with unrelated defense-based research initiatives:
1.) Will NASA be referring to UAP as Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena?
To be consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), NASA will be calling UAP “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena” instead of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”. NASA’s UAP independent study will be largely focused on aerial phenomena.
2.) Why is NASA involved with studying UAP?
Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are. The nature of science is to better understand the unknown – but the language of scientists is data. The limited number of high-quality observations of unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAP, currently makes it impossible to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events. Without access to an extensive set of data, it is nearly impossible to verify or explain any observation, thus the focus of the study is to inform NASA what possible data could be collected in the future to shed light on UAP. NASA is commissioning the UAP Independent Study Team to examine unidentified anomalous phenomena from a scientific perspective – with a focus on how NASA can use data and the tools of science to move our understanding forward.
9.) Is NASA conducting this study to support the Department of Defense’s recently established All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office?
NASA is pursuing this study for the agency’s own science and air safety purposes. However, the results of NASA’s independent study will be publicly available for use. NASA has, additionally, coordinated widely across the government regarding how to apply the tools of science to shed light on the nature and origin of UAP.
In February 2023, Merriam-Webster published a “Words We’re Watching” column about UAP. It explained why the well-known “UFO” labeled had begun to fall out of favor:
For the past 70 years most people who needed to describe a mysterious thing in the sky would use the word UFO, an abbreviation of unidentified flying object. In recent years some organizations and people have started replacing UFO with UAP, i.e. “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
”A spate of shootdowns involving balloons and other flying objects over North America comes as the US military is becoming more sensitive to unidentified aerial phenomena.”
—New Scientist, 13 Feb. 2023
A major reason why people might prefer UAP to UFO is that UFO is what language observers call “skunked.” This happens when a word’s use becomes problematic, either because it is likely to offend, or because it has lost its clarity of meaning. UFO is skunked because even though its literal meaning is neutral (“unidentified flying object” means almost exactly the same thing as “unidentified aerial phenomenon”), people tend to equate UFOs with alien spacecraft, Martian invaders, etc.
Aside from UAP’s more encompassing description, this term avoids the heavy cultural baggage attached to UFO, whose initial association with extraterrestrial origins, however true or untrue it may prove upon final analysis, sets up a narrow and inflexible framework for honest scientific research.
— Mark A. Raimer, Et Cetera, Spring 1999
In other words, “UAP” began to replace “UFOs” around the time the subject made the leap from blogs and Reddit to major mainstream news reports and congressional hearings — one way to signal that the topic was no longer considered solely at the fringes.
Congress, the Pentagon, AARO, and UAP Research Initiatives
A July 26 2023 UAP hearing was not the first of its kind. In May 2022, the New York Times published “At House Hearing, Videos of Unexplained Aerial Sightings and a Push for Answers,” covering a previous hearing. In the course of that hearing, “previously classified” footage of a UAP was shown:
Pentagon officials testifying at a House subcommittee hearing on [in May 2022] showed a previously classified video of an unidentified aerial phenomenon, a fleeting color image of a reflective spherical object speeding past a military fighter jet.
The congressional hearing was the first in more than a half-century to focus on military reports of unexplained phenomena — the current term for U.F.O.s — and a chance for lawmakers to prod the Pentagon for more information. It was also an opportunity for government officials to clarify why explanations were not forthcoming and outline their plans for improving data collection.
The Pentagon officials testified under oath that the government had not collected materials from any alien landing on Earth, pushing back on at least one favored conspiracy theory … The Pentagon is creating a new task force to examine the reports, with the aim of collecting more information about incidents so that they can be better, and more quickly, identified.
On July 22 2022, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) issued a press release (“DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office”), which disclosed the establishment of a task force to investigate UAP reports:
On July 15, 2022, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), amended her original direction to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security by renaming and expanding the scope of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMSG) to the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), due to the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal [year] 2022, which included a provision to establish an office, in coordination with DNI, with responsibilities that were broader than those originally assigned to the AOIMSG.
Today, USD(I&S) Hon. Ronald S. Moultrie informed the department of the establishment of AARO within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, and named Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, most recently the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, as the director of AARO.
The mission of the AARO will be to synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense, and with other U.S. federal departments and agencies, to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects.
Further back, sincere mainstream news coverage of UAP appeared to begin rather abruptly early on in the Trump administration, as demonstrated by a flurry of New York Times articles published in December 2017. A screenshot of Google search results functionally captured the moment:
Broadly, news about UAP slowly dribbled into various news cycles, with spikes in interest around events such as the May 2022 hearing referenced above.
David Grusch was the subject of a number of news articles beginning in June 2023; his testimony contained the following description of his relevance to the hearings:
My name is David Charles Grusch. I was an intelligence officer for 14 years, both in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) at the rank of Major and most recently, from 2021-2023, at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at the GS-15 civilian level, which is the military equivalent of a full-bird Colonel. I was my agency’s co-lead in Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) and trans-medium object analysis, as well as reporting to UAP Task Force (UAPTF) and eventually the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).
I became a Whistleblower through a PPD-19 Urgent Concern filing with the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), following concerning reports from multiple esteemed and credentialed current and former military and Intelligence Community individuals that the U.S. Government is operating with secrecy — above Congressional oversight — with regards to UAPs.
My testimony is based on information I have been given by individuals with a longstanding track record of legitimacy and service to this country — many of whom also shared compelling evidence in the form of photography, official documentation, and classified oral testimony.
A former intelligence official turned whistleblower has given Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General extensive classified information about deeply covert programs that he says possess retrieved intact and partially intact craft of non-human origin.
The information, he says, has been illegally withheld from Congress, and he filed a complaint alleging that he suffered illegal retaliation for his confidential disclosures, reported here for the first time.
Other intelligence officials, both active and retired, with knowledge of these programs through their work in various agencies, have independently provided similar, corroborating information, both on and off the record.
The whistleblower, David Charles Grusch, 36, a decorated former combat officer in Afghanistan, is a veteran of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). He served as the reconnaissance office’s representative to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force from 2019-2021. From late 2021 to July 2022, he was the NGA’s co-lead for UAP analysis and its representative to the task force.
Later in the piece, “Jonathan Gray” was quoted as saying the United States was not alone in purportedly retrieving UAP wrecks:
… some insiders are now willing to take the risk of coming forward for the first time with knowledge of these recovery programs.
Jonathan Grey is a generational officer of the United States Intelligence Community with a Top-Secret Clearance who currently works for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), where the analysis of UAP has been his focus. Previously he had experience serving Private Aerospace and Department of Defense Special Directive Task Forces.
“The non-human intelligence phenomenon is real. We are not alone,” Grey said. “Retrievals of this kind are not limited to the United States. This is a global phenomenon, and yet a global solution continues to elude us.”
The July 26 2023 House Oversight UAP Hearing
UAP-specific subreddits featured myriad “megathreads” for live discussions on the hearings, such as a livestream, chat thread on r/aliens:
Another account compiled a list of “Key Takeaways” from the hearing to r/UFOs:
Several news organizations covered the hearing, such as CBS News‘ recap of testimony by Grusch, David Fravor, and Ryan Graves:
In addition to Grusch, the panel heard testimony from Ryan Graves, a former Navy pilot who has spoken out about encountering UAP on training missions, and David Fravor, who shot the now-famous “Tic Tac” video of a large object during a flight off the coast of California in 2004.
All three witnesses said current reporting systems are inadequate to investigate UAP encounters, and said a stigma still exists for pilots and officials who press for more transparency about their experiences.
Graves was an F-18 pilot stationed in Virginia Beach in 2014 when his squadron first began detecting unknown objects. He described them as “dark grey or black cubes … inside of a clear sphere, where the apex or tips of the cubes were touching the inside of that sphere.”
He said a fellow pilot told him about one incident about 10 miles off the coast, in which an object between 5 and 15 feet in diameter flew between two F-18s and came within 50 feet of the aircraft. He said there was no acknowledgement of the incident or way to report the encounter at the time.
UAP encounters, he said, were “not rare or isolated.”
“If everyone could see the sensor and video data I witnessed, our national conversation would change,” Graves said. “I urge us to put aside stigma and address the security and safety issue this topic represents. If UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem. If it is something else, it is an issue for science. In either case, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety. The American people deserve to know what is happening in our skies. It is long overdue.”
CNN.com quoted Graves as saying that “[if] UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem,” and that in “either case, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety.” It further noted that a “spokesperson for the office of the Intelligence Community inspector general declined to comment” on Grusch’s assertion that “he had reported his allegations as a whistleblower” to that office:
No government officials testified at [the July 26 2023] hearing. In April , Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, which Congress created to focus on UAPs, told a Senate subcommittee the US government was tracking 650 potential cases of unidentified aerial phenomena, playing video from two of the episodes. Kirkpatrick emphasized there was no evidence of extraterrestrial life and that his office found “no credible evidence” of objects that defy the known laws of physics.
Lawmakers have pressed the Department of Defense on the sightings, describing them as potential national security threats.
“UAPs, whatever they be, may pose a serious threat to our military and our civilian aircraft, and that must be understood,” Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California said. “We should encourage more reporting, not less on UAPs. The more we understand, the safer we will be.”
Grusch claimed that the US government not only has UAPs in its possession but also the remains of the allegedly “non-human” pilots of the aircraft. However, when he was pressed, he made it clear this was what he has been told by others, and he did not have firsthand information. “That’s something I’ve not witnessed myself,” he said.
Grusch told the panel he could provide a list of “cooperative and hostile witnesses” who could provide Congress with more information about the programs related to UAPs.
NBC News described the hearing’s more general themes (such as “stigma” around UAP sighting reports impeding the collection of data), and reporting:
Lawmakers and witnesses at the roughly two-hour-long hearing decried the stigma surrounding UFO reporting, and repeatedly underscored the importance of what they called a bipartisan issue, which has gained traction in recent years. Some lawmakers and witnesses also accused the federal government of unduly withholding key UFO-related information from the public.
Graves told the panel that UAP sightings among commercial and military pilots are both “routine” and “grossly underreported.” He added that if the public viewed the video and sensor data he witnesses, “our national conversation would change.”
“I urge us to put aside stigma and address the security and safety issue this topic represents,” Graves said. “The American people deserve to know what is happening in our skies. It is long overdue.”
A growing chorus of lawmakers have accused U.S. officials in recent months of being too secretive and urged the Pentagon to release more UFO-related information to the public.
The New York Times offered up some further context:
During the hearing, Mr. Burchett, who is one of the leaders of the House effort to find out more about the government U.F.O. programs, asked Mr. Grusch if he had “personal knowledge of people who’ve been harmed or injured in efforts to cover up or conceal these extraterrestrial technology.”
Mr. Grusch replied in the affirmative.
But when pressed by [Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tennessee)] about whether people have been murdered as part of a government effort to hide U.F.O.s, he said he could not talk about it in a public session.
Clips from Grusch’s testimony (and the testimony of others) circulated on social media. One very popular tweet excerpted Grusch’s testimony about putative harm caused to humans by “non-human intelligence”:
The statement from Grusch was published to oversight.house.gov [PDF]. It concluded as follows:
In an era, fraught with division and discord, our exploration into the UAP subject seems to resonate with an urgency and fascination that transcends political, social, and geographical boundaries. A democratic process must be adhered to when evaluating the data and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that public involvement is encouraged and respected. Indeed, the future of our civilization and our comprehension of humanity’s place on earth and in the cosmos depends on the success of this very process.
It is my hope that the revelations we unearth through investigations of the Non-Human Reverse Engineering Programs I have reported will act as an ontological (earth-shattering) shock, a catalyst for a global reassessment of our priorities. As we move forward on this path, we might be poised to enable extraordinary technological progress in a future where our civilization surpasses the current state-of-the-art in propulsion, material science, energy production and storage.
The knowledge we stand to gain should spur us toward a more enlightened and sustainable future, one where collective curiosity is ignited, and global cooperation becomes the norm, rather than the exception.
As CBS News reported, both Democratic and Republican Party lawmakers involved with the hearing “expressed anger about their inability to get information about UAP from the military and intelligence agencies, describing a system of overclassification that shields reports of incident from public view.”
In the United States, a House Oversight Committee convened on July 26 2023, to hear testimony from veteran and self-identified whistleblower David Grusch; fellow veterans David Fravor and Ryan Graves also testified. Grusch reiterated many of the claims he made to reporters in June and July 2023 and asked for further investigations. The hearing was not the first of its kind, and it was not related to NASA’s anticipated “mid-2023” findings on UAPs in a capacity other than “defense.”