Senate Intel Committee Wants ‘UAP’ Investigators To Focus On Ones That Are ‘Not Man-Made’

A newly released Senate report criticizes the Pentagon’s responses to what it says are ‘exponentially’ growing threats posed by unidentified phenomena.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, speaks during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, speaks during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images


Members of the U.S. Senate are criticizing the Pentagon's slow progress in setting up a new organization and reporting mechanisms, among other things, to address what they claim are "exponentially" growing threats presented by unidentified aerospace and undersea phenomena. Those same legislators also want the U.S. military-led office now charged with investigating and studying these phenomena to focus on truly unexplained incidents rather than ones that have been determined to involve "man-made" systems.

These comments were included in a report that Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who is the current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, submitted on behalf of that committee on July 20. This document accompanied the latest draft of the Senate's Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for the 2023 Fiscal Year.

In its current form, the Senate's proposed Fiscal Year 2023 IAA includes a number of provisions related to unidentified phenomena in the air, in space, underwater, as well as so-called "transmedium" ones that might be able to cross between more than one of those "domains." If passed and then signed into law, the legislation would further clarify the roles and responsibilities of a new U.S. military office centered on these issues – and rename it as the Unidentified Aerospace-Undersea Phenomena Joint Program Office – as well as impose new reporting and records-keeping requirements.

Summaries of the unidentified phenomena-related sections in the current draft of the Senate's Intelligence Authorization Act for the 2023 Fiscal Year. US Congress

It's worth noting that the Pentagon just announced last week that it was rebranding the office in question, from the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMSG) to the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), and was broadening the official scope of its activities. An official announcement was also made that Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, who has held positions across the U.S. Intelligence Community in the course of an already decades-long career, had been named as AARO's director.

"At a time when cross-domain transmedium threats to United States national security are expanding exponentially, the Committee is disappointed with the slow pace of DoD-led efforts to establish the office to address those threats," the report Warner submitted says. "The Committee was hopeful that the new office [AARO] would address many of the structural issues hindering progress."

The report goes on to say that the proposed name change for the AARO in the associated legislation "reflects the broader scope of the effort directed by the Congress" and that "identification, classification, and scientific study of unidentified aerospace-undersea phenomena is an inherently challenging cross-agency, cross-domain problem requiring an integrated or joint Intelligence Community and DoD approach."

The Senate's draft IAA would require this office to include representatives for a number of agencies outside of the Department of Defense, to include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Energy, as well as elements of the Intelligence Community within the military, such as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and Air Force and Space Force intelligence components. However, the proposed legislation does not outline the exact functions that would be expected of this group.

In line with all of that, the Senator Intelligence Committee is also pushing for "the formal DoD and Intelligence Community definition of the terms used by the office" to "be updated to include space and undersea, and the scope of the Office shall be inclusive of those additional domains with [a] focus on addressing technology surprise and 'unknown unknowns.'"

"Temporary nonattributed objects, or those that are positively identified as man-made after analysis, will be passed to appropriate offices and should not be considered under the definition as unidentified aerospace-undersea phenomena," it adds.

The complete section from the Senate Intelligence Committee's report accompanying the draft of the 2023 Fiscal Year Intelligence Authorization Act. US Congress

The Senate Intelligence Committee's criticism is not necessarily new, though it is certainly more explicit. In November 2021, when the Pentagon first publicly announced its plans to establish what it then called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG), some legislators, among others, suggested this might have been an attempt to get ahead of the proposed Congressional actions and potentially downplay the issues.

What is new and notable upfront here are Senators asserting that not only are they "disappointed" by what they've seen from the U.S. military so far, there are real threats now that fall into these categories and that they are growing significantly in some way. The report, unfortunately, does not provide specific examples of any such threats.

Beyond that, the Senate Intelligence Committee's stressing of a "focus on .... technology surprise and 'unknown unknowns,'" including phenomena that are explicitly not currently identified as "man-made," indicates that the threats in question do not surround initially unexplained incidents that have now been assessed to have involved aircraft, satellites, or submersibles and other man-made systems.

The use of the term "man-made" is certainly eyebrow-raising on its own, as this would seem to acknowledge the possibility of non-man-made phenomena. This is despite there being no hard evidence to substantiate the existence of anything that would fit this description, as well as senior U.S. military officials routinely pushing back against the idea that there is anything extraterrestrial or otherwise 'alien' in reports regarding unidentified phenomena of any kind.

Of course, the language in the draft Senate IAA for the 2023 Fiscal Year doesn't preclude the possibility that still unidentified phenomena could eventually be assessed to be man-made, after which those reports would then be forwarded to other entities within the U.S. military or Intelligence Community. With that in mind, the language in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report may be intended, at least in part, to try to help reduce any stigma surrounding the reporting of encounters with unidentified phenomena in any domain. This is something The War Zone has highlighted as a key factor in actually addressing the real threats at play here.

In a similar vein, the current version of the Senate's IAA includes a provision that would establish a "secure system" through which uniformed military personnel or civilian employees, to include contractors, in the Department of Defense or elsewhere in the Intelligence Community could send reports directly to the Pentagon-led office handling these issues without having to consult their superiors and provides legal protections for anyone who does so. The clear idea here is to encourage individuals to report what could be serious national security risks by offering an avenue to do so that is free of any fear of facing ridicule or actual adverse administrative actions.

A separate draft IAA for the 2023 Fiscal Year that the House Intelligence Committee advanced last week also includes whistleblower-like protections for individuals from the military, civilian government, or even contractors with relevant information. This would cover individuals even if they were party to "any written or oral nondisclosure agreement, order, or other instrumentality or means, that could be interpreted as a legal constraint on reporting," which could be interpreted as an allusion to the possibility of deliberate coverups.

"We are open to all hypotheses," Ronald Moultrie, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, had assured members of the House Intelligence Committee during a hearing specifically about unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, in May. "We are open to any conclusions that we might encounter."

Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennesee Republican, at left, shakes hands with Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie, after a House Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee, hearing on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena on May 17, 2022. Jose Luis Magana / AFP via Getty Images

At that same hearing, Moultrie had also pushed back at the idea of investigating various unsubstantiated anecdotes, including Cold War-era claims about UFOs disabling U.S. Air Force nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. "Individuals and groups that are putting information out there that could be considered somewhat self-serving... contribute to the undermining of the confidence that the Congress and the American people have that we are trying to get to the root cause of what’s happening here," the Pentagon's top intelligence official added at that time.

So, there is a possibility that this language regarding reported unidentified phenomena that have not yet been determined to have been man-made reflects a belief among some in Congress that officials like Moultrie aren't being as open-minded as they've pledged to be, or possibly even truthful, for that matter.

There are certainly some indications of this in the other half of Congress. The draft IAA that the House Intelligence Committee advanced last week included a provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the Intelligence Community for any previous "efforts to track, identify, recover, transfer, or obfuscate" unidentified phenomena or "efforts to recover or transfer related technologies to United States-based industry or [the Department of Energy's] National Laboratories."

The Senate's draft IAA would also require the GAO to conduct a similarly thorough historical review of unidentified phenomena records, classified and unclassified, from within the Intelligence Community, but makes no specific mention of any potential recovery of non-man-made technology and does not allude to the possibility of Intelligence Community efforts to hide any relevant activity.

No matter what, it is important to remember that there are still many steps the Intelligence Authorization Act for the 2023 Fiscal Year still have to go through both in the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can be sent to President Joe Biden, who will then decide whether or not to sign it into law. The bill's language, including its provisions regarding unidentified phenomena, could still change in the course of that process.

Still, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report makes it clear that there is bipartisan consensus that unidentified phenomena represent real national security threats now and that those same legislators feel the Pentagon and the Intelligence Community are continuing to give the matter less attention than it deserves.

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