Defense & National Security — Pentagon officials testify in historic UFO hearing
Pentagon officials testified to Congress on Tuesday in the first Congressional hearing on UFOs held in 50 years.
We’ll break down the hearing, plus we’ll look at why the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol has no plans to call former President Trump.
Welcome to Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. Subscribe here.
Lawmakers issue stark warning on UFOs
Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) on Tuesday warned that UFOs pose a “potential national security threat” to the U.S. and “need to be treated that way” during a highly anticipated hearing with the Pentagon’s top intelligence officials on mysterious aerial sightings.
In the first congressional hearings on UFOs in more than 50 years, Carson, the chairman of the House Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation Subcommittee, said the Department of Defense (DOD) swept the issue of UFOs — formally known as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) — “under the rug.”
Who testified? The House intelligence subcommittee heard testimony from Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray, who are overseeing the Pentagon’s new Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group.
The group will collect data from sources in the military and government to analyze unexplained phenomena and try to identify them. The UAP task force was created after intelligence officials released a report last year that found 144 unexplained UAPs from 2004 to 2021.
UAPs are ‘serious hazards’: In opening remarks, Bray acknowledged that UAPs “represent serious hazards” and pose potential threats to the security of defense operations. The naval intelligence officer said the Pentagon was working to build on relationships within the military to encourage more reporting on UAPs.
“We also spent considerable efforts engaging directly with our naval aviators to help destigmatize the act of reporting sights and encounters,” he said. “The direct results of those efforts have been increased reporting. … The message is now clear: if you see something, you need to report it.”
PENTAGON RELEASES DECLASSIFIED UFO FOOTAGE
The Pentagon released a declassified video of a UFO encounter during a House intelligence subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.
The short clip appears to show a flying spherical object traveling at extremely high speeds in the sky.
The roughly eight-second video clip with a 2021 timestamp shows a pilot operating an aircraft in a U.S. Navy training yard when a strange object flies near the cockpit of the plane at a high speed.
While the UFO is traveling so fast in the video that it can be hard to spot, the object appears to be a grey, spherical shape.
Jan. 6 panel has no plans to call Trump
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has no current plans to call former President Trump before the panel, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Tuesday.
The logic: “We’ve looked at talking to a lot of people. We’ve not canceled out anything, but there’s no feeling among the committee to call him as a witness at this point,” Thompson said of Trump.
“We’re not sure that the evidence that we received can be any more validated with his presence … I think the concern is whether or not he would add any more value with his testimony,” he said in response to whether Trump might lie to the committee.
About to go public: Thompson’s comments come as the committee is gearing up for a spate of eight hearings held through the month of June, as it also continues with private interviews and depositions.
Last week, the panel subpoenaed five Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who had declined invitations to voluntarily appear before committee investigators.
While the move raises questions about how aggressively the committee might pursue interviews with other high-ranking Republicans, the chair said nothing has been finalized on the top tier of the executive branch, including former Vice President Mike Pence.
A few gaps: Thompson acknowledged that the committee does still have gaps in its knowledge of Trump’s activities that day, pointing the 187 minutes it took for Trump to call off his supporters during the attack.
“We’re still rapidly trying to fill it and with the information we get from our [National Archives] request, from interviews we’re having with various employees of the White House and what have you. So we’re doing our due diligence to fill it in,” he said.
Finland parliament approves NATO application
Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced Tuesday the country’s parliament has voted to approve its application to join NATO.
The prime minister tweeted 188 lawmakers voted in favor of the action, while only eight voted against.
“The long and stable line of foreign and security policy, which seeks consensus, is still in place today,” she said.
Russia’s mixed messages: Russia has sent mixed signals on its stance regarding Finland’s membership, originally decrying the idea.
Back in February, a Russian official said there would be “military and political consequences” if Finland or Sweden tried to join NATO.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to disagree with those officials on Monday, saying as long as NATO does not move troops or weapons into the country that Finland joining the alliance is not a direct threat to Russia.
Something to watch for: President Biden will host Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House on Thursday.
“The leaders will discuss Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications and European security, as well as strengthening our close partnerships across a range of global issues and support for Ukraine,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Austin orders improved harm incident reporting
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the military to improve the way it assesses reported civilian harm from operations after a review of a 2019 strike in Syria revealed issues with an initial assessment of the incident.
The Pentagon released the executive summary of its investigation of airstrike, which occurred on March 18, 2019 in Baghuz and killed 70 civilians.
The summary, dated May 11, found that no rules of engagement or laws of war were violated when the strike occurred. However, it flagged issues with missed deadlines and deficiencies when the incident was initially reviewed.
What strike was this? Austin in November directed Gen. Michael Garrett, the head of Army Forces Command, to review the incident — which was not known to the public until The New York Times reported at the time.
The strike was part of terminal battle against Islamic State fighters, and the initial review found that only four civilians had been killed and found no wrongdoing by the unit that conducted the strike.
Into the findings
- Garrett’s review included a review of 124 documents, 25 reports, and 29 hours of video feed
- He found that the ground force commander who ordered the strike “did not deliberately or with wanton disregard cause casualties,” and thus didn’t violate laws of war
- There was also “clear evidence” that the commander “demonstrated awareness and concern” for civilians, and thus tried on mitigate harm. However, he was relying on data that was not fully accurate
Austin’s directions: To address the deficiencies in the original review, Austin is directing the military to ensure that deadlines for reporting and reviewing civilian casualty incidents be met promptly. He also said the agency will ensure that all steps in response to a civilian casualty incident are completed.
The Pentagon chief further said that reviews would be “thorough,” and is directing the commanders of the combatant commands to reinforce the importance of meeting existing deadlines and following current procedures.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist at the Pentagon
- Lt. Gen. Michael A. Guetlein will participate in a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on “What’s Next for Space Systems Command” at 9 a.m.
- The Atlantic Council will host a virtual discussion on “Wartime Content Moderation and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine” at 11 a.m.
- The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “How the Taliban takeover impacts Iran” at 1 p.m.
- The House Armed Services subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces will hold a hearing on “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces” at 8 a.m.
- The House Armed Services subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems will hold a hearing on “Department of Defense Information Technology, Digital Developments, and Artificial Intelligence for Fiscal Year 2023” at 10 a.m.
- The House Appropriations subcommittee on defense will hold a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 United States Navy and Marine Corps Budget at 10 a.m.
- The House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a legislative hearing at 10 a.m.
- The House Armed Services subcommittee on Military Personnel will hold a hearing on “Professional Military Education and the National Defense Strategy” at 2 p.m.
- The House Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship will hold a hearing on “Oversight of Immigrant Military Members and Veterans” at 3 p.m.
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will review the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Submission for National Nuclear Security Administration at 10 a.m.
- The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies will review the FY2023 Budget Request for Military Construction and Family Housing at 3:30 p.m.
- The Senate Armed Services subcommittee on Strategic Forces will receive testimony on missile defense strategy, policies, and programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program at 4:30 p.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Air Force says it successfully tested hypersonic weapons
- Esper reignites debate over speaking out against Trump
- Helping Afghans who got out— and those who didn’t
- McConnell tries to stamp out Trump dissension on Ukraine
- Greek leader warns Congress against weapons sales to Turkey
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