The formation of the new division, Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, was directed by President Joe Biden’s deputy secretary of defense Kathleen Hicks.
It will lead an effort to “detect, identify and attribute objects” in restricted airspace, as well as mitigate any threats to military flights and national security, the Department of Defense said in a news release.
“Incursions by any airborne object into our SUA (Special Use Airspace) pose safety of flight and operations security concerns, and may pose national security challenges,” the Pentagon press release said.
The new group, which will succeed the U.S. Navy’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, will be overseen by the Under Secretary Of Defense for Intelligence, the director of the Joint Staff and officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The announcement follows a nine-page report (pdf) released by the government in June which outlined 144 observations of UAPs, of which 11 caused “near misses” for military pilots.
The report was issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in conjunction with a U.S. Navy-led UAP task force, and cited the 11 “documented instances in which pilots reported near misses with a UAP” as examples of current “ongoing airspace concerns.” Aviators are required to report such concerns upon encountering safety hazards, it notes.
“UAP pose a hazard to safety of flight and could pose a broader danger if some instances represent sophisticated collection against U.S. military activities by a foreign government or demonstrate a breakthrough aerospace technology by a potential adversary,” the report said.
It added, however, that defense and intelligence analysts lack sufficient data to determine the nature of UAP observed by military pilots, outlining that they could belong to explanatory categories such as foreign adversary systems, natural atmospheric phenomena, or “other,” amid the public speculations of extraterrestrial technology as a possible explanation in some cases.
“UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security,” the report stated, adding that the phenomena “probably lack a single explanation.”
The Pentagon in its release on Tuesday noted that the report released in June “identified the need to make improvements in processes, policies, technologies, and training to improve our ability to understand UAP.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in May that members of Congress and other officials need to seriously investigate UFOs and the potential threat they pose.
Speaking to CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” the Florida Republican described a “stigma on Capitol Hill,” in which some lawmakers “are very interested in this topic,” but some “kind of giggle when you bring it up.” However, he cautioned, “I don’t think we can allow the stigma to keep us from having an answer to a very fundamental question.”
The CBS News program also interviewed former Navy Lt. Ryan Graves, who said that these objects could be technology developed by Russia or the Chinese communist regime.
The department said it will issue further details on the group’s structure, resourcing, and individuals involved in the coming weeks.