Summary: Only two formal hearings on UFOs have ever been held. Here is a brief overview of those congressional hearings.
Only two formal hearings on UFOs have ever been held:
I. The House Armed Services Committee convened the first hearing in 1966 in response to widely publicized sightings and strong public and editorial criticism of the handling of the Air Force Project Blue Book UFO program. This effort was supported by the House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford (R-Mich.), whose home state was the focus of many sightings.
Only witnesses connected to the Air Force project testified. Thereupon, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the formation of an outside review of Project Blue Book and an independent study of current cases. This resulted in the University of Colorado "Scientific Study of UFOs" which became known as the Condon Committee project, after the name of its director.
April 5, 1966. House Armed Services Committee (89th Congress, 2nd Session). Committee Print No. 55. "Unidentified Flying Objects."
L. Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.)Witnesses:
Harold Brown, Secretary of the Air Force.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Scientific Consultant to the Air Force.
Maj. Hector Quintanilla, Jr., Chief, Project Blue Book
II. The House Science and Astronautics Committee convened a second hearing two years later, during the final stages of the Condon Committee project, to review the scientific evidence for UFOs. It took the form of a scientific symposium in which six scientists testified and six others submitted prepared papers.
July 29, 1968. House Science and Astronautics Committee (90th Congress, 2nd Session). Committee Print No. 7. "Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects."
George P. Miller (D-Calif.)Hearing Chairman:
J. Edward Roush (D-Ind.)Witnesses:
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Head, Dept. of Astronomy, Northwestern University
Dr. James E. McDonald, Senior Physicist, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, University of Arizona
Dr. Carl Sagan, Dept. of Astronomy, Cornell University
Dr. Robert L. Hall, Head, Dept. of Sociology, University of Illinois-Chicago
Dr. James A. Harder, Assoc. Professor, Civil Engineering, University of California-Berkeley
Dr. Robert M. L. Baker, Jr., Professor, Dept. of Engineering, University of California-Los Angeles
(Submitted statements from: Dr. Donald Menzel, Harvard College Observatory; Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, Psychology, University of Wyoming; Dr. Garry C. Henderson, Senior Research Scientist, General Dynamics; Stanton T. Friedman, Nuclear Physicist, Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory; Dr. Roger N. Shepard, Psychology, Stanford University; and Dr. Frank B. Salisbury, Plant Sciences, Utah State University.)
Findings of the Condon Committee:
In 1969, the Condon Committee published its findings. The project director, physicist Dr. Edward U. Condon, concluded that there was no convincing scientific evidence for UFOs and therefore recommended the termination of Project Blue Book.
However, critics of the Condon Report pointed out that up to 30% of the cases investigated by the committee had remained unexplained! According to the critics, such as Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Dr. Condon's conclusions were politically oriented rather than scientific (i.e., the Air Force wanted Blue Book terminated and needed a good reason).
Opinions of the Scientific Symposium:
Of the six scientists who testified in the Symposium, five were of the opinion that there was a valid scientific anomaly that should be further investigated. Only Dr. Sagan, while conceding that some cases remained unexplained, was more skeptical. In fact, Dr. McDonald's thoroughly prepared paper with case histories is considered a milestone in UFO research. McDonald concluded: "My own study of the UFO problem has con- vinced me that we must rapidly escalate serious scientific attention to this extra- ordinarily intriguing puzzle."
Dr. Baker, whose testimony highlighted the unexplained nature of UFO movie films he had analyzed, recommended: "[establishment of] an interdisciplinary, mobile task force or team of highly qualified scientists...on a long-term basis, well funded, and equipped to swing into action and investigate reports on anomalistic phenomena....We must get a positive scientific program off the ground...."
Unfortunately, to date no such officially funded and open investigation has been undertaken.
In 1976, Marcia Smith, a specialist in aerospace with the Congressional Research Service, prepared a comprehensive report on UFOs entitled "The UFO Enigma." It was revised and updated by George D. Havas in 1983 into a 143-page Report No. 83-205 SPR. It contains sections on types of encounters, witness credibility, pre-1947 accounts, history of Air Force UFO investigations, international perspectives, appendices with selected case summaries, etc. "The UFO Enigma" provides a well researched and unbiased overview of the phenomenon.