Everyone is aware of various studies and investigations on UFOs undertaken in the past by a fairly large number of U.S. government agencies including the Air Force, CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of State, etc., which at least to some extent have been released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). More murky, however, is the role played by semi-official think tanks and research institutions which conduct classified studies for the government and which are an integral part of the so-called military-industrial complex.
It makes perfect logical sense that at least some of these private organizations were contracted in the past to conduct research on certain specific aspects involving UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). We know for sure this is true in the case of the Brookings Institution, the RAND Corporation, and the Battelle Memorial Institute, but there may be other organizations which have not yet surfaced to public light. One problem with think tanks and private research companies is that they are not subjected to the same FOIA rules which apply to official agencies, unless their studies were published as part of government reports.
I’ve published in this page many of my “UFO Chronicle” columns which appeared originally in Fate magazine, and occasionally articles for other publications like UFO Universe, all from a period stretching between 1990 and 2004 more or less. This time, however, we’ll take a time trip all the way back to the early days of my career as a UFO journalist when I was publishing a weekly column for the supplement UFOs and other Cosmic Phenomena in the long-defunct New York City newspaper The News World, which appeared between 1981 and 1983.
Although I loved the subject, I was still hesitant to be typecast as a UFO journalist, so I used the pseudonym of A. Hovni. I deliberately chose a play of words combining my initials AH with OVNI, the Spanish acronym for UFO. Although the article was published almost 30 years ago, since it deals with historical documents, it’s still just as valid as when it came out of my typewriter. Other than correcting a few spelling typos and adding illustrations, I am reproducing it intact, just as it was written back in 1982.
UFOs interest think-tank scientists at RAND
Scientists wonder if UFOs are from space & what powers them
By A. Hovni
Special to The News World
New York City, April 17, 1982
First in a two-part series
When Mr. William Laub of Northfield, Illinois requested the U.S. Air Force in October of 1969 for information regarding a UFO Study reportedly made by the RAND Corporation, the Air Force’s Community Relations Division at the Pentagon responded curtly that, “The RAND Corporation has never made any reports on unidentified flying objects (UFOs) for the United States Air Force. If any reports were made by this corporation they were made on their own.” Similar enquiries with the RAND Corporation itself elicited a no more forthcoming answer.
One letter from The Reports Department indicated that “RAND has done very little research on the subject of UFO’s: therefore, no publications have been written on the subject.” Still another letter from RAND, date June 25, 1969, seemed to get closer to the truth. “We are unable to identify any RAND publication on UFO’s available for external distribution,” it said.
Though well known by name, the RAND Corporation is actually a rather secretive semi-official think tank, based in Santa Monica, California, whose work includes computer “war games” scenarios and other classified research for the Air Force. Knowing the Air Force’s long background with the UFO problem, it shouldn’t comes as a surprise then that RAND, as well as other similar outfits such as the Battelle Memorial Institute, have conducted specialized UFO projects in the past. Despite all denials to the contrary, the RAND report which Mr. Laub wanted to know about, did indeed exist. Titled UFOs: What to Do?, it was published on November 27, 1968, “FOR RAND USE ONLY.” Its author was George Kocher. The document was eventually downgraded or leaked to the public, and it can now be obtained through the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston, Illinois.
studies for Air Force
Yet the history of the RAND Corporation and UFOs goes back to the earliest days of Air Force involvement in the matter. The Air Materiel Command’s Project “SIGN” final Technical Report on “UNIDENTIFIED AERIAL OBJECTS,” issued in February of 1949 and declassified only in 1967, states very clearly that the RAND Corporation was assisting the Air Force UFO project along with consultants from Ohio State University (Dr. J. Allen Hynek), General Electric Research (Dr. Irving Langmuir) and MIT (Dr. G.E. Valley). On page 3 of this report, we read that “inasmuch as various surmises have been advanced that some of the reported observations may have represented ‘space ships’ or satellite vehicles, a special study has been initiated with the RAND Corporation, under the RAND Project, to provide an analysis from this standpoint and also to provide fundamental information, pertaining to the basic design and performance characteristics that might distinguish a possible ‘space ship’.” So much for the USAF’s Community Relations Division denials that no such report had ever been requested by the military.
space ships theory probed
We know only from this period what Project Sign termed “a preliminary undertaking,” and which consisted of a RAND project study prepared by Dr. James Everett Lipp, an aeronautical engineer then serving as head of RAND’s Missiles Division. It was submitted in a letter form to Brigadier General Putt, Director of Research and Development Office, USAF, and published as APPENDIX “D” of project Sign’s final Technical Report. (Shortly after, Project Sign became Project grudge).
Dr. Lipp’s letter indicates that further research was being conducted by a Mr. Collbohm on the “special design and performance characteristics that are believed to distinguish space ships,” but this or other reports from the time have not been obtained by UFO researchers that we know of. Professor Lipp’s work was reviewed briefly on a previous article (see UFO Supplement, April 3, 1982 issue) as it pertained to the possible relationship between UFOs and the planet Mars. Dr. Lipp devoted several pages of his study discussing the likelihood of intelligent life in Mars and what the technical requirements would be for the hypothetical Martians to visit Earth in “a nuclear hydrogen-propelled vehicle.”
the red planet
Dr. Lipp however, seemed more convinced of the possibility that UFOs could be space ships from elsewhere in the galaxy rather than from our own solar system. He discussed the different types of stars and those similar to the Sun that could generate planetary systems, in much the same way as Dr. Carl Sagan would popularize over 20 years later. Of a sample of 47 known stars within a distance of 16 light years from the Sun, Dr. Lipp maintained that 22 “can be considered as eligible for habitable planets.”
And long before Sagan, the Russians Kardashev and Shklovsky, and other proponents of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), Dr. Lipp advanced “some personal intuition into the discussion with the view that life is not unique on Earth, or even the RANDom result of a low probability, but is practically inevitable in the right conditions.” He also took the educated guess that, “knowing nothing at all about other races, we must assume that Man is average as to technical advancement, environmental difficulties, etc.
That is, one half of other planets are behind us and have no space travel and the other half are ahead and have various levels of space travel. We can thus imagine that in our sample volume (the 22 potential stars within 16 light years from earth—ed.) there are 11 races of beings who have begun space explorations.”
more advanced civilizations
Continuing with the argument that a number of space civilizations could be way ahead of us, Dr. Lipp wrote that their space ships would “require improvements of propulsion that we have not yet conceived.” He mentioned “a large number of hypothetical methods of transportation like gravity shields, space overdrives, teleports, simulators energy beams and so on,” drawn from the combined “efforts of all the science-fiction writers.”
Dr. Lipp’s study seem truly revolutionary if we consider that it was written on December 1948. In fact, his astronomical analysis is quite similar to that of George Kocher in another RAND UFO study, this one written in 1968. Yet Lipp’s final remarks against the “flying objects” being spec ships are weak and seem perhaps a bit contrived in order to adjust to the official Air Force policy of denying the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs.
He based his first counter-argument on the proposition that all UFO incidents up to his time “have occurred within the United States, whereas visiting spacemen could be expected to scatter their visits more or less uniformly over the globe.” Dr. Lipp was evidently misinformed about the UFO phenomenon occurring only in the U.S. in 1947 and 1948. On the other hand, that UFOs became a global phenomenon is an undisputable fact.
The second and final counter-argument is that the only “motive” that could explain the “purpose” of UFOs is, according to Lipp, “that the spacemen are ‘feeling out’ our defenses without wanting to be belligerent. If so, they must have been satisfied long ago that we can’t catch them. It seems fruitless for them to keep repeating the same experiment.” As Head of the Missiles Division of the RAND Corporation, Dr. Lipp should have known that weapons research after World War II was advancing dramatically, thus justifying the continuing UFO surveillance of our planet’s sensitive military and industrial installations for purposes that are still unknown.