The much-anticipated Pentagon UFO report lands today: What to know

The truth is out there, and US politicians have demanded it be released to the public. Well, kind of.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
4 min read
Rob Rodriguez/CNET

People the world over have spotted unexplained and unidentified flying objects for centuries, and in the US, many have suspected the government is hiding what it knows about UFOs. The US intelligence community may finally reveal some of those secrets to Congress when it delivers a mandatory, unclassified report today. It will be available to the public.

There are some caveats, though. Here are some key things to know before the highly anticipated report drops.  

Where did the Pentagon UFO report come from?

For years, pilots and other military personnel have been encountering strange things in the sky that have come to be called "unidentified aerial phenomena." The change from "UFO" to "UAP" is in part a nod to the likelihood that some of the incidents may be explained by technical glitches or environmental phenomena rather than actual tangible objects.

Anyhow, these reports sometimes get back to members of Congress, who then make a push for more investigations and disclosures about those phenomena. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was particularly dedicated to this cause. In 2007 he helped funnel funds to a secret Pentagon initiative, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, that ran through at least 2012. In 2017, former head of AATIP Luis Elizondo announced he had left the government and was joining the private To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences along with former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge.

Elizondo also in 2017 leaked three now famous videos of military encounters with UAP to the media, and in 2020 the US Navy confirmed the veracity of these clips.

It was in the wake of the Navy's acknowledgement of UAP last year that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio added a section to a funding bill requiring the Director of National Intelligence to work with the military and intelligence community to submit a report "on unidentified aerial phenomena (also known as 'anomalous aerial vehicles'), including observed airborne objects that have not been identified."

The request specifically calls out data from the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, which is the successor entity to AATIP.

What will be in the UFO report?

Well, that's to be determined, but some early reporting suggests it probably won't contain anything that fundamentally alters our view of the universe. The report is expected to say that there's no evidence the UAP seen by military personnel are secret advanced American technology or alien spacecraft, but a possible alien explanation can't be definitively ruled out.

That means the intelligence community seems to think that UAP have causes that are some combination of unknown, mundane or originating with foreign or private entities.

The "Gimbal" video as seen by Navy pilots.

Video capture by CNET

Also, while the report is required to be public, it is allowed to have a classified annex. Officials told The New York Times that this addendum doesn't contain any evidence of alien visitation. Still, it could contain much of the actual, truthy good stuff that we don't get to know.

While no earth-shattering revelations should be expected, the report may include some juicy new tidbits and puzzle pieces that help us better understand the UAP mystery.

When is the UFO report coming out?

The deadline is June 25, so we could see it anytime between now and then. Look for it to drop from one of the congressional intelligence committees, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or perhaps an individual elected official on one of the committees. We will certainly share it once we get hold of it, and I'll tweet any incremental developments @EricCMack.

Forget the report. Can you just tell me if it's aliens?

Fair enough. No, I can't tell you for sure it's aliens or it's not aliens. But as my colleague Jackson Ryan pointed out recently, the evidence to support an alien explanation for UAP isn't really there.

A driving concern that led Rubio and other officials to call for this report is less about aliens and more about geopolitics and national security. Rubio specifically requested an assessment of whether UAP "may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries."

There's also the strange case of some Navy patents for theoretical technology that could move in ways UAP have been observed moving. Correspondence from Navy officials suggests the Chinese have already been working on similar breakthroughs.

Whatever the report reveals, it seems almost certain to raise more questions than it answers. Meanwhile, keep one eye on the sky, and another online.

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.