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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Mellon

The Lesson of the DNI Aviation Logo

There is a recurring pattern regarding UAP reporting that appeared again recently when a new proposed logo for the Director of National Intelligence’s Aviation sub-group (NIM-A) appeared on the web. Because it had a flying saucer on it, UAP commentators naively made much of it, trying to read non-existent tea leaves. Predictably, the speculation proved for naught when it was revealed this was nothing more than a draft prepared by a low-level government employee. Nobody at a senior level had even seen, much less approved, the logo. In fact, the few people at DoD and the IC involved with the UAP issue were as surprised as anyone when this appeared on social media.

I see this pattern recur over and over, in which some minor issue emerges and is greatly misconstrued. Take, for example, the recent response to a FOIA request from the Navy indicating that a requested UAP video is classified and therefore cannot be released. This was in fact nothing new; that policy had been in place since around 2019 at least, but the public was not aware and this did not come through in the press reporting, so immediately all manner of misinformed speculation emerged about what this “new” development means when in fact there is nothing new and it was not a change of policy.

In another case not too long ago, DIA released documents related to the AAWSAP program and UAP, then re-jiggered the categorization of the documents to something other than UAP after the press started raising questions and reporting on the hapless DIA handling of the issue. Again, low-level employees doing merely their jobs took actions that came to the attention of the press, forcing mid-level management to engage, but this again had absolutely nothing to do with any high-level UAP policies or actions. Just a bit of sloppy bureaucracy.

The natural tendency in each case was for UAP observers to think these occurrences were indications of the views of people at the top or part of some coherent plan involving management of the UAP issue. In fact, each of these cases demonstrate the opposite: There is little if any coherent management of the UAP issue at high levels! It is only a slight exaggeration to say nobody at high levels of the DoD or the IC has time to even consider the UAP issue. Anyone who doubts that is out of touch with the reality of life for senior DoD and IC officials who are urgently fighting fires regarding Ukraine and Taiwan; crashing on responses to requests from Capitol Hill; racing to prepare for White House meetings and major press conferences and a thousand other things more urgent than the UAP issue. The only reason anyone at DoD or the IC pays any attention to the UAP issue at all is because Congress is compelling these massive organizations to begin to engage. Always bear in mind that, on a day to day basis, the UAP issue is totally irrelevant for senior U.S. government officials. As the Secretary of the Air Force recently said, conveying the views of many at DoD, “I’ve got real threats to worry about.” In short, the idea that senior officials have time to fuss over trivia like a draft DNI logo is absurd. Those reporting on the UAP issue should know better than to think otherwise.

This naïveté relates to the most common misconception outsiders have of how DoD and the USG work. There is no central rational mind at work orchestrating the UAP topic or most other issues; the sprawling national security apparatus contains millions of people in scores of barely connected organizations. This is only a rational actor model in rare and unusual circumstances; think instead of a massive feudal monarchy with independent fiefdoms and centers of power, each making independent decisions, vying with one another for access, influence, and resources. The SecDef’s span of control over some 40 agencies and the services and commands is overwhelming and only the most salient issues are reconciled at the top. That does not include logos or how to handle individual FOIA requests or display DIA documents.

For those who may be interested, one of the best expositions of how the massive national security apparatus works in practice is provided by Essence of Decision, Harvard Professor Graham Allison’s dissection of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As he demonstrates, wildly conflicting advice and institutional prerogatives came into play, presenting the young President with highly dysfunctional and nearly disastrous and inconsistent advice (this has improved however as a result of the Goldwater-Nichols Act reforms overhauling the JCS). That friction and disarray is far more the norm than the exception.

Indeed, the Pentagon is often referred to as “the five-sided nuthouse” by people who work in the trenches there, confronted daily with the realities of the often inconsistent and incoherent bureaucracy.

So, the next time some item appears in the press regarding UAP and the USG, try to resist the temptation to read too much into it. Most likely it will be nothing more than another random item the press or social media has identified that reflects a very local decision by someone at a low level of the leviathan. You then won’t be disappointed or surprised when it turns out to be just another random, trivial bureaucratic artifact.


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