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U.S. intelligence reports 366 new UFO sightings since 2021, half of them 'uncharacterized and unattributed'

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies have collected 366 reports of "unidentified aerial phenomena" (UAP), the military's term for UFOs, since the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) published its preliminary report on UAPs in March 2021, ODNI said in a report Thursday. In the 17 years before that initial report, the military had recorded just 144 UAP sightings. 

The uptick in UFO sighting reports is "partially due to a better understanding of the possible threats that UAP may represent" and "partially due to reduced stigma surrounding UAP reporting," ODNI said in Thursday's report, an unclassified 12-page summary of a report delivered to Congress. 

Nearly half of the 366 new reporting sightings exhibit "unremarkable characteristics," the report found — 26 were found to be drones, 163 were balloons or "balloon-like entities," and six were "clutter" like birds and airborne plastic bags. The other 171 sightings involved an "uncharacterized and unattributed UAP," some of which "appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities," the ODNI report says. 

At the same time, the Pentagon and ODNI have "not seen anything" that would "lead us to believe that any of the objects that we have seen are of alien origin," Ronald Moultrie, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, told reporters. "If we find something like that, we will look at it and analyze it and take the appropriate actions."

The UAP report and recently formed All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) are part of "a growing campaign by Congress in recent years to force the military and spy agencies to take the sightings more seriously and better coordinate efforts to study them as a potential national security threat," Politico reports. That effort includes provisions in the 2023 National Defense and Intelligence Authorization Act, signed in December, that require information about Area 51 and other "provocative and hotly debated questions that have swirled around the UFO topic for decades."

The defense authorization legislation requires AARO to deliver by 2024 a historical record on government UFO efforts since 1945, including "any program or activity that was protected by restricted access that has not been explicitly and clearly reported to Congress." And, Politico reports, the Pentagon and ODNI are required to create a secure system to report "any knowledge of retrieved materials from unidentified craft, or any secret efforts to reverse engineer UFO technology."