Over the past few months I submitted a couple of FOIA requests to the Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN) about events such as airspace incursions and reports of unauthorized/unidentified aircraft. In January 2021 I filed a new request seeking e.mails between the NAVSAFECEN and the Office of the Secretary of Defense regarding Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. What I discovered in the released documents turned out to be even more intriguing than what I expected initially.
The Naval Safety Center maintains the databases and systems that contain all hazards reports filed by US Navy units and squadrons, including encounters with drones, balloons or UAPs. In May 2020 The Drive‘s Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick released 8 hazard reports that they obtained via the FOIA about close encounters that US Navy pilots had with unidentified aircraft and drones over the Atlantic Ocean between 2013 and 2019. However it should be noted that in 2019 the Navy issued new guidelines and instructions to report encounters with unidentified aircraft, and whether the NAVSAFECEN databases are still the repository for UAP reports has yet to be determined.
My goal was to try and find out about possible coordination or applicable guidelines between the NAVSAFECEN and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) regarding the UAP topic. Internal e.mails are usually a good way to learn about the inner workings and day-to-day operations of government agencies. On January 13th 2021 I filed a FOIA request with the Naval Safety Center (FOIA # DON-NAVY-2021-002701) seeking e.mail correspondence between the NAVSAFECEN and Susan Gough, Department of Defense spokesperson and Strategic Planner. Ms. Gough is well-known within the UFO community as the Pentagon’s public face for all inquiries about UAP.
Two weeks later, on January 29th 2021, the NAVSAFECEN FOIA officer sent their final response and released responsive records. The e.mails originating from the Navy were readable, but the OSD messages were completely blacked out and had to be reviewed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Finally, on March 9th 2021, OSD released the DoD portions of the e.mail exchange.
Dated 10 July 2020, the e.mail thread starts with a query from Jeff Jones, NAVSAFECEN Deputy Director for Safety Promotions, to the Navy Office of Information, requesting a point of contact (POC) for interviews about the UAP. In her reply the Navy Newsdesk Director indicates that Mr. Joseph Gradisher is the Navy POC for all queries about UAPs. Mr. Gradisher, a retired US Navy Captain, is the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (OPNAV N2/N6).
(Note : names, phone numbers and e.mail address redacted by the author)
What comes next is the most interesting part of this FOIA release. This is what Joseph Gradisher states in his reply to the Naval Safety Center and Navy Newsdesk Director :
“…from a Public Affairs perspective, all media inquiries on UAPs go to DOD Public Affairs, Sue Gough (cc’d) … keeping in the loop, as we coordinate closely.
To date, we have not authorized any media interviews on the subject.
Make no comment. The nuances of all this are such that any deviations from the statement that DOD makes result in multiple news stories and additional FOIA requests at various levels.
If we need to, we’ll coordinate with you on specific responses, depending on the questions asked.”
This is a confirmation that the OSD Public Affairs Office is indeed the only contact point for all inquiries about UAP, thus keeping control of the situation from a PR standpoint. The next part of the e.mail is more intriguing :
“Also, generally speaking, we let the normal FOIA process work as it is supposed to but we have been requesting that FOIA offices coordinate with us on UAP-focused FOIA responses before they hit “reply” so that new terms/language/etc. aren’t introduced that complicate the overall messaging efforts.
Additionally, there is now a Security Classification Guidance document (at the SECRET) level, that addresses the UAP issue and what may/may not be discussed publicly. Happy to get that to you if you see the need.”
Gradisher then unambiguously writes that a coordinated effort to monitor all FOIA requests pertaining to UAP is underway. All DoD FOIA Offices have a significant backlog, and we can assume that they don’t want to make the situation worse, but this is obviously a way to keep control of the information flow. The fact that a security classification guidance is applicable confirms the sensitive nature of the UAP issue. There is no indication about potential actions taken by Mr. Gradisher regarding the FOIA requests ; however, it is clear that his office is somehow involved in the review and approval process in order to prevent the introduction of “new terms/language”.
I reached out to Mr. Gradisher and Ms. Gough by e.mail, and asked both of them if they could elaborate on those statements from 2020. They both replied that they had nothing to add.
Those released e.mails raise more questions than answers, and I filed several FOIA requests, hoping to uncover new information about this sensitive issue.
Feel free to send any comment or suggestion to uapparallax(at)outlook.com