Witnesses at a House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee hearing today warned that unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs) – more commonly known as UFOs – pose a national security risk, and said that the Federal government has been too secretive on the matter for too long.

During a hearing of House Oversight’s National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs subcommittee, three retired military veterans – David Fravor, an ex-Navy commander; David Grusch, a former U.S. intelligence officer; and Ryan Graves, a former Navy fighter pilot – explained that there is no system in place for properly reporting UAP/UFO such information.

They also warned of retaliatory measures faced by those – such as themselves – who come forward with testimony on UAP/UFO subjects.

“Right now, we need a system where pilots can report without fear of losing their jobs,” Graves said. “There is a fear that the stigma related to this topic will lead to professional repercussions either through management or their yearly physical check.”

Graves warned that UAPs flying around U.S. airspace are “grossly underreported,” and that the government “knows more about UAP than shared publicly, and excessive classification practices keep crucial information hidden.”

“If UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem. If it is something else, it is an issue for science. In either case, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety,” said Graves, who now runs Americans for Safe Aerospace. He founded the group to encourage pilots to report UAP incidents.

For years, the Federal government – particularly the Department of Defense (DoD) – has conceded that UAPs are a national security issue.

Last year, during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on UAPs, Sean Kirkpatrick the director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office – established in 2022 under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2022 to focus on UAPs – told lawmakers that the government was tracking 650 potential cases of UAPs.

Kirkpatrick emphasized there was no evidence of extraterrestrial life, and that his office found “no credible evidence” of objects that defy the known laws of physics.

At today’s hearing, Fravor shared his experience – now known as the “Tic Tac” incident – from 2004, in which he observed while flying off the San Diego “a white Tic Tac-shaped object with the longitudinal axis pointing north and south and moving very abruptly over the white water. There were no rotors, no rotor wash, or any visible flight control surfaces like wings.”

According to Fravor, this object defied the laws of physics and “did not operate with any of the known aerodynamic principles that we expect for objects that fly in our atmosphere.”

The DoD has characterized some of these UAP-reported sightings as “balloon or balloon entities, drones, birds, weather events, or airborne debris like plastic bags,” according to the most recent UAP report from the Pentagon.

In his testimony, however, Grusch alleged that the government covered up its own research into the unidentified sightings. He said he conveyed this information to the intelligence community inspector general.

Grusch also alleged that the U.S. has retrieved “intact and partially intact” vehicles of nonhuman origin. Grusch told lawmakers he became a whistleblower after receiving reports from current and former military officials that the U.S. government hid information about UAPs.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the Senate and the House have pressed the DoD on UAP sightings, describing them as potential national security threats.

“UAPs, whatever they are, may pose a serious threat to our military and our civilian aircraft, and that must be understood,” Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., said. “We should encourage more reporting, not less on UAPs. The more we understand, the safer we will be.”

Rep. Garcia, alongside Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., said that it was important for Congress to work on the issue in a bipartisan manner to press for more government transparency.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a proposed amendment for the FY 2024 NDAA that would drive transparency on UAP-related records from government agencies.

The UAP Disclosure Act of 2023 – backed by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – also seeks to provide $20 million in FY 2024 to establish an official Federal UAP Records Collection.

According to Fravor, creating such a data repository would be a crucial step.

“It’s a travesty we don’t have a system to correlate this and actually investigate,” Fravor said.

“There needs to be a central data repository that collects and maintains UAP-related information for investigative purposes,” he said, emphasizing that such a repository would help increase transparency on the historically controversial topic.

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