The Pentagon’s top intelligence official on Tuesday vowed to apply “rigorous scientific analysis” to learning the origin of UFOs, in a rare public hearing on the highly secretive and controversial mystery.

Ronald Moultrie, DoD’s undersecretary for intelligence, told a subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee that the Pentagon is committed “to a focused effort to determine their origins,” according to his prepared testimony.

“…[I]t is the Department’s contention that, by combining appropriately structured collected data with rigorous scientific analysis, any object that we encounter can likely be isolated, characterized, identified, and, if necessary, mitigated,” he said.

That includes whether the reports can be explained by potential technological breakthroughs by allies or adversaries, secret U.S. vehicles or “commercial platforms,” or “natural or other phenomena.”

The hearing comes amid an internal feud over how much to share with the public, and as lawmakers criticize intel agencies for being less than forthcoming on what they have learned so far.

Moultrie, a veteran of the National Security Agency who has been in his current post since last June, also offered the committee a fairly limited definition for “unexplained aerial phenomena,” the government’s term for UFOs.

He described them as “airborne objects that, when encountered, cannot be immediately identified.” His prepared testimony did not address some of their reported characteristics that defy known aerodynamics or addressed reports of craft appearing to transition to and from the sea, the air and space.

Moultrie appeared alongside Scott Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence.

He also acknowledged the “cultural stigma” surrounding UFOs has hamstrung efforts to explain the phenomena by preventing witnesses from coming forward.

“We also understand that there has been a ‘cultural stigma’ surrounding UAP reporting,” he said in his prepared testimony. “Our goal is to eliminate this stigma by fully incorporating our operators and mission personnel into a standardized data gathering process.

“We believe that making UAP reporting a mission imperative will be instrumental to this effort’s success,” he added, promising to work with other intelligence and law enforcement agencies and international allies.

On the issue of how much to share with the public, Moultrie said DoD “is fully committed to the principles of openness and accountability to the American people. However, we are also mindful of our obligation to protect sensitive sources and methods.”

“Our goal,” he added, “is to strike that delicate balance — one that will enable us to maintain the public’s trust while preserving those capabilities that are vital to the support of our service personnel.”

As the hearing began, panel members were wary that the department will follow through without more aggressive oversight.

Chair Andre Carson (D-Ind.) pointed out that no one has been publicly named to oversee a new UAP management group that was mandated in the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

“The deadline for implementation is fast approaching, but the group does not even have a named director,” Carson said in his opening remarks. “We need to know the status of the organization and any obstacles to getting up and running.”

“You need to show Congress and the American public, whose imagination you have captured, you are willing to follow the facts where they lead,” he told the witnesses. “I fear sometimes that DoD is focused more on emphasizing what it can explain, not investigating what it can’t.

Carson also indicated that more hearings are in the offing.”The last time Congress had a hearing on UAPs was a half century ago,” he said. “I hope that it does not take 50 years for Congress to hold another. Because transparency is desperately needed.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who chairs the full House committee, also described the hearing as the opening of a new chapter in a long and often frustrating struggle for answers.

“UAP reports have been around for decades, and yet we haven’t had an orderly way for them to be reported — without stigma — and to be investigated,” he said in his prepared remarks. “That needs to change. When we spot something we don’t understand or can’t identify in our air space, it’s the job of those we entrust with our national security to investigate. And report back.”

Schiff added: “It is also the responsibility of … government and this panel to share as much as we can with the American people — since excessive secrecy only breeds distrust and speculation.”

This content was originally published here.