WASHINGTON — President Biden admitted Thursday he had no idea what NORAD had detected in North American airspace last weekend when he ordered the military to use an estimated $1.6 million worth of Sidewinder missiles to down three UFOs now believed to have been harmless.
“We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were,” the president added. “But nothing, nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program, or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country.”
However, the White House had been warned two years earlier in a Congressionally-mandated report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that a lack of data on UFOs made proper identification all but impossible.
“The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP,” ODNI wrote, using the Pentagon’s preferred acronym for UFOs.
Still, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday the White House has “no apologies” for American taxpayers who purchased the four $400,000-plus missiles used to down the three benign objects — likely launched by researchers and hobby groups.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday denied Biden was “embarrassed” after learning the UFOs were likely benign and claimed the objects’ altitude threatened commercial air traffic. However, that risk level is likely overstated — as there has never been a collision between US aircraft and UFOs, according to an ODNI follow-up report from January of this year.
In the 2021 report, ODNI said “limited data and challenges to collection processing or analysis” prevented it from identifying all but one of 144 UFO sightings recorded between 2004 and 2021.
In response, Congress ordered the Pentagon to create an office dedicated to studying UFOs –the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) — in November 2021. However, the data problem continued through the following year, according to the supplementary report published just weeks before Biden’s shoot-down orders.
“Limited data on UAP continues to be a challenge,” ODNI said in the report dated two weeks before NORAD spotted a Chinese spy balloon approaching Alaska on Jan. 28.
Biden on Thursday laid out a four-step plan to achieve “safer and more secure skies” following this month’s shootdown of the Chinese balloon and the three other objects — but much of the blueprint he discussed had already been suggested in the ODNI reports.
“We will establish a better inventory of unmanned airborne objects in space above the United States airspace and make sure that inventory is accessible and up to date,” Biden said. “Second, we will implement further measures to improve our capacity to detect unmanned objective objects in our airspace.”
But ODNI had already tasked the UAP office with those jobs in its reports, which urged the Pentagon to “facilitate more coordinated UAP efforts, resulting in greater attribution of UAP.”
The president also said he had directed national security adviser Jake Sullivan to “lead a government-wide effort to make sure we are positioned to deal safely and effectively with the objects in our airspace,” which is largely what the UAP office was created to do.
Before the congressional push to address UFOs, the military had for decades kept most reports private and pilots observing such phenomena were shamed into silence — a practice the January ODNI report said contributed to the lack of data to properly analyze findings.
“[The UAP office] and ODNI assess that the observed increase in the UAP reporting rate is partially due to a better understanding of the possible threats that UAP may represent, either as safety of flight hazards or as potential adversary collection platforms, and partially due to reduced stigma surrounding UAP reporting,” it said. “This increased reporting allows more opportunities to apply rigorous analysis and resolve events.”
Between June 2021 and August 2022, there were 247 sightings reported, according to ODNI, a 58% increase in the numbers recorded over the prior 17 years.
“This increased reporting allows more opportunities to apply rigorous analysis and resolve events,” the January report said.
The remaining steps laid out by Biden — updating the “rules and regulations for launching and maintaining unmanned objects in the skies” and having the State Department “lead an effort to help establish common global norms in this largely unregulated space”— were not mentioned in the two ODNI reports.
The spy balloon saga may result in additional data collection as the January ODNI report suggested more people would come forward if made properly aware of the issue and the threats UFOs pose.
“The observed increase in the UAP reporting rate is partially due to a better understanding of the possible threats that UAP may represent, either as safety of flight hazards or as potential adversary collection platforms, and partially due to reduced stigma surrounding UAP reporting,” the report said.
The recent attention to the skies could also bring more funding to the AARO after inspiring Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to lead a bipartisan push.
In total, 16 senators have joined the initiative, sending a letter Thursday asking the Pentagon to “reprogram funds to cover this serious funding gap … to prevent disruption to” the UAP office’s work.
“Without FY23 funding, [the UAP office’s] ability to deliver integrated collection and analysis will fall behind schedule and be sub-optimized,” the lawmakers warned.
They also asked the DOD to ask for additional funding for the office in its 2024 proposed budget expected this spring.
“While we appreciate that the Department of Defense has been vocal in expressing its support for the resolution of unidentified anomalous phenomena, this commitment must also be reflected in funding requests provided to Congress,” the letter said.
“It is critical that the aspirations of AARO’s mission are met with theresources necessary to succeed.”
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