Key Takeaways from 2023 ODNI UAP Report
1. As is plainly evident from the war in Ukraine and the recent conflicts in Armenia and in Yemen, drones are playing a rapidly increasing role in deciding the outcome of military conflicts. Therefore, any capability that helps to reduce clutter and identify genuine aerial threats is of great value to the military and national security. In that regard, Congressional initiatives related to UAP are already paying dividends by improving our ability to distinguish legitimate threats from innocuous balloons and other airborne clutter. Initial progress includes the identification of 173 out of 510 UAP. If true, that is a major achievement with broad implications for security in the Indo-Pacific. Notably, these impressive advances were achieved without appropriating a single additional nickel for national security. Bravo to Congress for pursuing the UAP issue!
2. Despite major breakthroughs in identifying many UAP, the total number of remaining military UAP incidents reported to the office has more than doubled from 143 in June of 2021 to 314 in August of 2022. That number will continue to grow and with it the importance of continuing UAP collection and analysis.
3. Thankfully, the report reveals major progress in developing an effective government capability for investigating the UAP enigma and kicking down the doors of ignorance that for far too long have prevented progress in understanding the phenomenon. Congress made this possible and continued Congressional support will remain critical as the new UAP organization competes for access to intelligence collection and analysis capabilities. Thus far, AARO seems to be doing well overall in obtaining cooperation from the military services and intelligence agencies. The largest outstanding questions in that regard pertain to USAF and CIA collaboration, something Congress needs to closely monitor. Hopefully, the appropriations committees will take note of the good work done by the authorizing committees and provide AARO the resources it needs to function effectively going forward.
4. Unfortunately, the report presents the bare minimum of information needed to comply with Congress’ request for an unclassified report. In some regards, the report is even less informative than the initial, preliminary report released in June of 2021. For example, the preliminary report disclosed the number of incidents that were confirmed by multiple sources (e.g. radar, visual and IR). Moreover, New York Times columnist Julian Barnes, citing unnamed 'American officials,' claims that some of the incidents involving US military assets proved to be Chinese drones. That information may indeed be in the classified report, but it is not in this unclassified report. There is also no indication in the report if any of the 314 events were in space or underwater or were attributable to foreign governments. Unanswered questions abound.
5. The government again demonstrated its unique and uncanny ability to transform an inherently fascinating topic into vexing bureaucratic jargon. If the intent was to make the report as anodyne, unremarkable, and boring as possible, the authors did exceptionally well. I say this partly in jest, but in truth it appears efforts were made to minimize the impact of the data. For example, there is an incredibly stark contrast between the stunning testimony of UAP capabilities reported by Navy pilots (e.g. “something not from this earth”) and the flaccid UAP report language which by contrast asserts: “Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis”.
In sum, the good news is that the UAP issue is gaining traction and acceptance within the government. Some incidents have already been resolved and our nation may already be safer as a result. For example, if it is true that some of the incidents off the coast of California were identified as Chinese drones, that is a huge breakthrough for US intelligence that would not have occurred absent the new focus on collecting and investigating UAP reports. With continued Congressional support, it is reasonable to expect valuable new insights to occur. Again, as we are seeing daily in Ukraine, effective airspace surveillance has never been more challenging or important. National security will surely benefit. Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that science may benefit as well. Having participated in debriefs of numerous military aviators and radar operators, I believe this is a genuine possibility. Indeed, I’ve spoken with several credible people who claim the US has evidence of alien technology in its possession. These are indeed exciting times!