A new group will seek to synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense (DoD) and the broader intelligence community to detect, track, and assess unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)—formerly known as unidentified flying objects (UFOs)—that enter military training airspace, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.

Kathleen Hicks, the deputy secretary of defense, in collaboration with the director of national intelligence, directed the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security (OUSDI&S) to establish the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG).

The AOIMSG will collaborate with the DoD and other intelligence agencies across the U.S. government to investigate objects of interest in “Special Use Airspace” (SUA) and assess and mitigate any associated threats to flight safety and national security.

“[The] DoD takes reports of incursions – by any airborne object, identified or unidentified – very seriously, and investigates each one,” the department stated in a press release. “This decision is the result of planning efforts and collaboration conducted by the [OUSDI&S] and other DoD elements at the direction of [Hicks], to address the challenges associated with assessing UAP occurring on or near DoD training ranges and installations.”

The U.S. government’s interest to investigate UAPs as an “official” national security issue has been a popular one since 2020 when the DoD released three unclassified Navy videos taken in 2014 and 2015 that appear to show UAP. Following that release, lawmakers have introduced various legislation in support of establishing a UAP investigative office within the DoD and more transparency of UAP related investigations.

The latest legislative action comes from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who introduced an amendment (SA. 4281) to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act earlier this month. If enacted, the measure would mandate unprecedented government transparency on the UAP related investigations and mark a historic shift in how the government treats the issue by drawing upon scientific expertise and demanding analytic objectivity.

Incursions by any airborne object into SUA pose safety of flight and operations security concerns and may pose national security challenges. In a recent memo outlining the formation of the AOIMSG, Hicks wrote that UAPs detected in SUAs “represents a safety of flight risk to aircrews and raises potential national security concerns.”

The DoD will issue guidance regarding the AOIMSG director, organizational structure, authorities, and resources in the coming weeks.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.