The Pentagon is forming a new task force to investigate UFOs that have been observed by US military aircraft, according to two defense officials.
Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist will help oversee the task force, which is expected to be officially unveiled in the next few days, according to the officials. Previous efforts to look into what the Pentagon dubs unidentified aerial phenomena were led by the US Navy as many of the documented encounters involved their aircraft.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Members of Congress and Pentagon officials have long expressed concerns about the appearance of the unidentified aircraft that have flown over US military bases, posing a risk to military jets. There is no consensus on their origin with some believing they may be drones potentially operated by earthly adversaries seeking to gather intelligence rather than extraterrestrials.
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted in June to have the Pentagon and intelligence community provide a public analysis of the encounters, following the official Pentagon release of three short videos showing US aircraft encountering these phenomena.
"We have things flying over our military bases and places where we are conducting military exercises, and we don't know what it is and it isn't ours, so that's a legitimate question to ask," the chairman of that committee, Sen. Marco Rubio, told a local Miami news station, WFOR-TV in July.
"Frankly, if it's something from outside this planet, that might actually be better than the fact that we've seen some sort of technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary," he added.
The videos released by the Pentagon appear to show unidentified flying objects rapidly moving while recorded by infrared cameras. Two of the videos contain service members reacting in awe at how quickly the objects are moving. One voice speculates that it could be a drone.
President Donald Trump in April called the footage "a hell of a video" and told Reuters he wonders "if it's real."
In May CNN obtained "hazard reports" detailing encounters between US Navy aircraft and "unidentified aerial phenomena" from the Navy Safety Center.
"The unknown aircraft appeared to be small in size, approximately the size of a suitcase, and silver in color," one report describing an incident from March 26, 2014, said.
The reports describe the observed phenomena as "Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)" -- the Pentagon's official terminology for drone aircraft.
The Navy videos were first released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, a company co-founded by former Blink-182 musician Tom DeLonge that says it studies information about unidentified aerial phenomena.
The Pentagon had previously studied recordings of aerial encounters with unknown objects as part of a since-shuttered classified program that was launched at the behest of former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. That program was launched in 2007 and ended in 2012, according to the Pentagon, because they assessed that there were higher priorities that needed funding.
The former head of the program Luis Elizondo told CNN in 2017 that he personally believes "there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone."
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