Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force

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The USATF's 9-page magnum opus.
The woo is out there
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Aliens did it...
...and ran away
Maybe there is a completely boring explanation for it, but we need to find out.
—Senator Marco Rubio, CBS Miami, July 16, 2020[1]
Disclosure could rob the believers of their best piece of evidence — which is to say, a dearth of good evidence.
—Senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak, NBC THINK!, August 2, 2020[2]

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) was a 2020–2022 Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) program setup at the behest of then Acting Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Marco Rubio to detect, analyze, and catalog Unidentified Aerial Phenomenas (UAPs) that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.[3][4][5] The existence of this program, like its predecessor, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which it may have been a direct continuation of, was publicly disclosed in a New York Times story co-written by Ralph Blumenthal and long-term UFO propagandist Leslie Kean.[6] The UAPTF's highly anticipated 2021 report was a damp squib and the program was soon superseded by the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).

The multi-agency task force is ongoing[edit]

I don't think this [task force] is as significant as some people are suggesting. It's just a response to all the publicity generated by To The Stars leaking the three Navy infrared videos, which the Pentagon later released.
—UFO skeptic Robert Sheaffer, Space Insider, May 18, 2021[7]

In a May 18, 2020 email, Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough confirmed that, "The U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense take [UAP] reports very seriously and investigate each and every report. Documented reports of sightings by military personnel form the basis for the investigation process. The investigation of UAP sightings by the multi-agency task force is ongoing," seemingly contradicting previous claims that such investigation had ceased with the conclusion of Advanced Aerospace Weapon Systems Applications Program (AAWSAP) in 2012.[8][9] Research by Tim McMillan later confirmed UAPTF briefings led by the likes of Ufology luminary Hal Puthoff on the findings of AAWSAP and AATIP going back to 2018.[10] A leaked UAP photo from one of these briefings bares an uncanny resemblance to a mylar balloon.[11]

Senator Rubio's June 17, 2020, report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021,[3] commended this UAPTF on its efforts "to standardize collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations," and instructed the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to publish a report, "on unidentified aerial phenomena (also known as ‘‘anomalous aerial vehicles’’), including observed airborne objects that have not been identified," within 180 days.[6] The program, headed by Brennan McKernan,[12] was then officially established on August 4, 2020 under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, by Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist,[5] despite having seemingly already been in existence for sometime.[13]

Release the damp squib[edit]

Some people think that the government knows more about UFOs, or UAP, than the public, but it’s clear that they know less on the subject than our best civilian UFO investigators, not more.
—UFO skeptic Robert Sheaffer, Scientific American, June 8, 2021[14]

The UAPTF's much anticipated report, entitled Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena[15] and weighing in at an impressive 9 pages, was released on June 25, 2021, to decidedly mixed reviews.[16] For the report the UAPTF analyzed 144 incidents from 2004 to 2021 of which they successfully managed to resolve one as a large deflating balloon, leaving the other 143 still unidentified.[17][18] A success rate that led to some consternation from commentators:

The DOD employs some very competent photographic analysts and other technical experts, “none of whom obviously were consulted in this comedy of errors,” Sheaffer says. “The Pentagon has already suffered enough embarrassment from the [apparent] incompetence of its UAP Task Force.” He says it is time to rein in such “rampant foolishness” and ensure that proper experts will shape the task force’s conclusions rather than “clueless, self-important people who don’t even recognize out-of-focus images when they see them.” — Leonard David, June 8, 2021, Scientific American.[14]

The UAPTF drew up a list of possible UAP classifications, which stopped mercifully short of aliensdidit (but only just):[17][18]

  • Airborne Clutter (including birds, balloons, drones, plastic bags, etc.)
  • Natural Atmospheric Phenomena (including ice crystals, moisture, and thermal fluctuations)
  • Classified U.S. Government or Industry Developmental Programs
  • Foreign Adversary Systems (deployed by China, Russia, another nation, or a non-governmental entity)
  • Other (beyond the analysis of current science)

Rubio called it, "an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step."[17] Any and all future steps would, however, be taken by the UAPTF's soon to be formed replacement: the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).

This comedy of errors[edit]

I'm starting to see why the Task Force was so unsuccessful in identifying its UAPs!
—UFO skeptic Robert Sheaffer, Bad UFOs, June 23, 2022[19]

The reasons for UAPTF's abject failure became clearer in June, 2022, when OG UFO propogandist George Knapp revealed that the task force had been led by former AAWSAP member Jay Stratton with TV's Travis Taylor of Ancient Aliens and The Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch fame as its so-called "chief scientist".[20]

A former DOD official, who worked with the task force and spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity, said Stratton was “a complete nutjob” and that most of what the task force did was a “complete and utter waste of money. The official claimed Stratton would talk about “the wolf man stalking his house” and other spooky stories stemming from Skinwalker Ranch. Shocked and fed up, the source and others protested about their “crazy” boss to Pentagon brass. “We had to go to leadership and tell them we’re done with his s–t,” the source said. — Todd Farley & Steven Greenstreet, March 21, 2023, New York Post.[21]

Following the 2023 Chinese balloon incident,Wikipedia accusations implicated Stratton and the UAPTF in co-opting and re-characterizing reports of foreign drones and spy balloons going as far back as 2019 in order to advance their UFO agenda,[22] distracting the media and Congress from a genuine foreign espionage threat.[21]


  1. Senator Marco Rubio on UAPs (July 16, 2020) CBS Miami
  2. Pentagon admits UFO program still exists. But Navy's alien sightings don't quite add up. by Seth Shostak (August 2, 2020) NBC THINK
  3. 3.0 3.1 Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (June 17, 2020) US Congress
  4. Senators want the public to see the government’s UFO reports by Bryan Bender (June 23, 2020) Politico
  5. 5.0 5.1 Establishment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (August 14, 2020) U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense
  6. 6.0 6.1 No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public by Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean (July 23, 2020) New York Times
  7. What does the Pentagon's new UFO task force mean? Experts weigh in. by Leonard David (May 18, 2021) Space Insider
  8. The Pentagon's Investigation of Navy UAP Reports by Roger Glassel (May 18, 2020) Blue Blurry Lines
  9. DoD Officially Acknowledges Unidentified Aerial Phenomena 'Task Force' by John Greenwald (May 22, 2020) The Black Vault
  10. ‘Fast Movers’ and Transmedium Vehicles – The Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force by Tim McMillan (December 2, 2020) The Debrief (archived from December 2, 2020)
  11. Leaked UFO Photo Surfaces Showing Purported “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” by Tim McMillan (December 3, 2020) The Debrief
  12. ‘We’ve got to get an answer': UFOs catch Congress’ interest by Andrew Desiderio (June 23, 2021) Politico
  13. The DoD Has Officially Announced It Has a UAP Task Force by Micah Hanks (August 18, 2020) The Debrief
  14. 14.0 14.1 Experts Weigh In on Pentagon UFO Report by Leonard David (June 8, 2021) Scientific American
  15. Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (June 25, 2021) Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  16. Up in the air! US government's UFO report stirs range of reactions by Leonard David (June 28, 2021) Space.com
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 5 explanations for 144 mysterious flying objects in the government UFO report by Rachel Feltman (June 25, 2021) Popular Science
  18. 18.0 18.1 Government Releases Highly Anticipated Report On Unidentified Aerial Phenomena by Tim McMillan and Micah Hanks (June 25, 2021) The Debrief
  19. Meet the Face of the Pentagon's "UAP Task Force" - Dr. Travis Taylor! by Robert Sheaffer (June 23, 2022) Bad UFOs
  20. Pentagon UFO study led by researcher who believes in the supernatural by Keith Kloor (June 29, 2022) Science Magazine (archived from July 22, 2022)
  21. 21.0 21.1 ‘Crazy’ UFO-believing Pentagon bosses missed spy craft for years by Todd Farley and Steven Greenstreet (March 21, 2023) New York Post
  22. Congress told of likely Chinese spy balloon threat as early as 2019 by Tom Rogan (March 1, 2023) Washington Examiner