Eyes on the sky
Congress establishes an office to study unidentified flying objects
A white Tic Tac shape whizzing over the ocean. A hovering, green-tinted pyramid. A black dot, sliding back and forth above the horizon before diving into the sea. Navy pilots laughing, cursing, and trying to make sense of the images on their tracking screens.
This UFO footage filmed by the military, including two videos leaked in 2017 and officially acknowledged by the Pentagon in 2019, hasn’t proved the existence of little green men from outer space. But they have helped renew interest in UFOs, and in 2021 a Pentagon report confirmed the military can’t identify all the flying objects it detects.
The Pentagon says the unknown, unpredictable objects could pose security and safety threats, especially if they are technology developed by potentially hostile countries. So late last year Congress established an office to study what the Pentagon calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs. Some UFO enthusiasts doubt the office will be transparent with its findings, but it is another step toward the mainstream for UFOs. Whether aliens exist or not, some Christian researchers say Christians should pay attention.
The Pentagon’s report in June included 143 unexplained reports. Eighteen of those were objects that appeared to be moving without visible propulsion or much faster than the capability of any technology the United States knows about. The Pentagon announced a task force for more study, but spokesman John Kirby cautioned reporters at a press conference not to expect frequent updates.
“We will certainly continue to be as transparent as we can,” Kirby said. “But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there’ll be sort of a regular drumbeat of some kind of report that gets posted on a website every couple months.”
But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and other lawmakers introduced an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that requires the Pentagon, along with the Director of National Intelligence, to establish an office with clearer responsibilities. It will collect and analyze reports, look for connections to other nations, evaluate any threat, and report to Congress yearly.
UFO researchers and enthusiasts praised Congress for establishing the office, but some are wary any findings will stay classified. Ron James is a spokesman for the Mutual UFO Network, which collects reports of UFO sightings. “It’s nice that we are having this discussion in the mainstream,” James said. But he lamented that the final defense bill left out a civilian panel originally included in the new office, which might have added transparency.
Others criticized the office’s limited scope. Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, wrote that Congress should empower the office to adapt equipment to detect UAPs, rather than waiting for accidental sightings. Without authority and funding for thorough research, Mellon wrote, “the mere establishment of a small … UAP office is unlikely to accomplish much.”
The Pentagon’s new office is unlikely to declare evidence of alien intelligence anytime soon. But Lucas Mix, an astrobiologist with the Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science project, argues studying unknown objects and even searching for alien life doesn’t need to rattle Christians.
“Our encounter with that which is not about us is fundamentally always an opportunity to think about God,” Mix said. “I have no idea what’s out there, which is why I think it’s worth looking. But whatever it is, I think it’s God at work.”
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