Are there aliens among us?
For decades, the question was met with irreverent eye-rolls more often than serious concern or curiosity. But that might be about to change, in favor of earnest consideration.
Congress is holding the first public hearing on unidentified aerial vehicles (UAVs, or UFOs) next week — the first in 50 years — which will feature key testimony from two high-level defense intelligence officials, according to a tweet from Indiana Congressman André Carson.
While we probably won't hear groundbreaking reports of confirmed extraterrestrial activity at the hearing next Tuesday, May 17, this event will help bring legitimacy to a subject that is often too stigmatized for many alleged accounts to come forward.
In other words, once Congress' hearing is complete, new reports from military and government officials might start to trickle in.
Congress: UFOs 'do represent physical objects'
This comes on the heels of a report in June 2021 that Congress requested, to investigate "unidentified aerial phenomena," according to a New York Times report. Contained in a "Preliminary Assessment" provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is a series of 144 incidents that begin in 2004.
And only one of these was explained.
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Largely, this report didn't reach conclusions, denying theories that have been proposed by public discourse — such as the idea that UFOs are secret U.S. or international military technology — saying: "we currently lack data to indicate any UAP are part of a foreign collection program or indicative of a major technological advancement by a potential adversary."
But Congress' report emphasized that the UFOs "do represent physical objects." This means the U.S. government is admitting that something is out there — they just aren't sure what.
Lowering the threshold of stigma surrounding UFO reports
The hearing will follow up on the work of a group inside the Pentagon. "Since this is an area of high public interest, any undue secrecy can serve as an obstacle to solving the mystery, or it could prevent us from finding solutions to potential vulnerabilities," said Representative Carson, who is also chairman of the House Intelligence Committee's subcommittee for counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and counterproliferation, in another report from NYTimes.
"This hearing is about examining steps the Pentagon can take to reduce the stigma surrounding reporting by military pilots, and by civilian pilots," added Carson. Deputy Director Scott W. Bray and Under Secretary for Intelligence and Security Ronald S. Moultrie are among the witnesses scheduled to testify on Tuesday.
"The federal government and intelligence community have a critical role to play in contextualizing and analyzing reports," said California Democrat Adam B. Shiff, in the report. He added that the hearing would bring light to "one of the great mysteries of our time," and "break the cycle of excessive secrecy and speculation with truth and transparency."
In December of 2021, a bipartisan amendment was added to the annual National Defense Authorization Act — instructing the Pentagon to collaborate with intelligence on analyzing UFO reports, and make its findings public. Since then, a group of scientists predicted that more than 3 terabytes of data on UFOs would be released to the public this year, so with a new hearing and years of increasing interest in the phenomena, the conventional "excess secrecy" surrounding UFO reports and sightings will become less controversial, or stigmatized. This, in turn, lowers the threshold of comfort required by military or government officials to come forward with new information. And that will likely make the coming years more interesting than ever before, in the quest to understand what UFOs are really about.