Biden: Objects shot down ‘most likely’ tied to private companies or research

President Biden
Greg Nash
President Biden gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

President Biden on Thursday said the three objects the military shot out of the sky last weekend were likely connected to a private company or research institution.

“We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,” Biden said in prepared remarks from the White House. 

“The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting scientific research,” he added.

The president’s speech marked his first public comments on the topic since the U.S. military shot down three separate aerial objects last weekend. One was shot down Friday over Alaskan airspace, one was shot down Saturday over the Canadian wilderness and a third was shot down on Sunday over Lake Huron.

Biden had faced mounting criticism from Republicans in recent days about his decision not to address the public about the objects. Even some Democrats had suggested it would be helpful to hear from the president on the issue.

Administration officials argued they had been as transparent as possible about the objects in recent days, even as they faced difficulties collecting debris from the objects due to the weather conditions and where each object was shot down.

White House officials have ruled out aliens or extraterrestrial life in connection to the objects.

The three unknown objects were shot down roughly one week after the U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon near the coast of South Carolina. That balloon had floated over parts of the U.S. for several days before it was shot down over the water, which officials said was necessary to avoid injuries and property damage on the ground.

Biden on Thursday explained that the sudden increase in objects being spotted and shot out of the sky was likely a result of a change in Pentagon radar settings.

“I want to be clear. We don’t have any evidence that there has been a sudden increase in the number of objects in the sky,” Biden said. “We’re now just seeing more of them partially because of the steps we’ve taken to increase our radars, to narrow our radars. And we have to keep adapting our approach to dealing with these challenges.”

Biden has directed national security adviser Jake Sullivan to lead an interagency team to study how best to detect and respond to unidentified aerial objects that may pose either safety or security risks.

The president emphasized that he took action to order the shoot down of objects last weekend to prioritize the safety of the public. Officials have said the three objects posed particular concern because they were at a height that could interfere with civilian air travel, and it was not known at the time what surveillance capabilities they may have had.

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