Pentagon's long-awaited UFO report to Congress due this month

A government employee photographed a UFO that hovered for 15 minutes near Holloman Air Development Center in New Mexico, on Dec.16, 1957.
A government employee photographed a UFO that hovered for 15 minutes near Holloman Air Development Center in New Mexico, on Dec.16, 1957. (Image credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

After a months-long investigation, the Pentagon is poised to produce a report addressing sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) — more commonly known as "unidentified flying objects," or UFOs

But don't expect a big reveal about secret alien technology and extraterrestrial spaceships. The aim of the report is to establish standards for recording sightings of mysterious objects and to determine if those objects pose a threat to national security. 

In 2020, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee called for an inquiry into UAPs in the Intelligence Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2021. According to the document, committee members were concerned that "there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat." 

After the bill was enacted on Dec. 21, 2020, the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense then had 180 days to produce a report for the committee, "submitted in unclassified form," on the current status of UAP sightings and protocols, Live Science previously reported — and that six-month deadline expires this month.

Related: 7 things most often mistaken for UFOs

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio served as the Intelligence Committee's acting chair when the act was drafted and enacted, and he ordered the investigation of UAPs because he saw them as a critical national security issue, Rubio told journalist Bill Whitaker on CBS's "60 Minutes" in May.

"Anything that enters an airspace that's not supposed to be there is a threat," Rubio said. "I want us to take it seriously and have a process to take it seriously. I want us to have a process to analyze the data every time it comes in."

In April 2020, the U.S. Navy released three videos of UFO sightings from 2004 and 2015; the clips were nicknamed "FLIR," "GOFAST" and "GIMBAL," and they showed what appeared to be spacecraft traveling at hypersonic speeds with no visible means of propulsion, Live Science reported. (The three videos had previously been posted online in 2017 and 2018 by the UFO research group To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science.)

"There's footage and records of objects in the skies that we don't know exactly what they are — we can't explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern," former president Barack Obama said in May, in an appearance on CBS's "The Late Late Show with James Corden."

So, what might be included in the report? Not everything in the document will be publicly available — while the report will be unclassified, it "may include a classified annex," the Intelligence Committee wrote. The committee requested a detailed analysis of UAP data and intelligence, including information gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about UFOs.

The committee also requested that the report outline a process for sharing information between agencies, to help identify unfamiliar technologies and to detect patterns in UFO appearances that could imply hostile intentions.

"I want us to have a process to analyze the data every time it comes in. That there be a place where this is cataloged and constantly analyzed, until we get some answers," Rubio said.

"Maybe it has a very simple answer. Maybe it doesn't," Rubio told Whitaker. "We're gonna find out when we get that report."

Originally published on Live Science.

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Mindy Weisberger
Mindy Weisberger is a senior writer for Live Science covering general science topics, especially those relating to brains, bodies, and behaviors in humans and other animals — living and extinct. Mindy studied filmmaking at Columbia University; her videos about dinosaurs, biodiversity, human origins, evolution, and astrophysics appear in the American Museum of Natural History, on YouTube, and in museums and science centers worldwide. Follow Mindy on Twitter.