(The Center Square) - A House subcommittee hearing drew national attention Tuesday for its unusual focus: UFOs.
The House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee held the hearing Tuesday on "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena," also commonly called UFOs.
The Congressional hearing, the first of its kind in decades, allowed lawmakers to raise an array of questions about what UFOs, or UAPs, are, how they are identified, and what should be done about them.
A Pew Research Center survey from last year found that 65 percent of surveyed Americans "say their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets."
"A smaller but still sizable share of the public (51 percent) says that UFOs reported by people in the military are likely evidence of intelligent life outside Earth," Pew said. "Most of this sentiment comes from people who say that military-reported UFOs are 'probably' evidence of extraterrestrial life (40 percent), rather than 'definitely' such evidence (11 percent)..."
That survey came just before the release of a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in June on UAPs.
"In a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics," the report said. "These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis. There are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviors described in the available reporting."
The report added that the objects pose a danger to flights and possibly even to national security.
"Our analysis of the data supports the construct that if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved they will fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall 'other' bin," the report said.
The "other" bin has drawn attention for decades. During the hearing, images from the Department of Defense showed several UFOs, drawing a wide array of speculation online.
"This phenomenon is real and perplexing, and it is past time that Congress and the Administration gives it the attention it deserves," said Christopher Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Others criticized Congress for giving attention to the issue when other problems like inflation and the baby formula shortage have not been fixed.
Some lawmakers raised concerns about the national security implications, especially if the UFOs are foreign aircraft. Scott W. Bray, deputy director of Naval Intelligence, said there have been several near misses with these kinds of objects and U.S. military aircraft.
"Unidentified Aerial Phenomena are a potential national security threat, and they need to be treated that way," said Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, who chaired the hearing. "For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis. Pilots avoided reporting, or were laughed at when they did. DOD officials relegated the issue to the back room or swept it under the rug, entirely fearful of a skeptical national security community."
Overall, though, Americans do not see UFOs as a major concern.
"When asked to think about U.S. national security, most Americans (87 percent) say that UFOs are not a threat at all (51 percent) or a minor threat (36 percent)," the Pew survey said. "One-in-ten say UFOs are a major threat to U.S. national security."