A former high-ranking intelligence officer has come forward to discuss his time as the Pentagon’s top UFO investigator—the first of many potential whistleblowers, according to investigative journalist George Knapp—who has been able to offer new insight into how the Department of Defense’s modern UAP investigative bodies were formed, the nature of the closed-door briefings given to lawmakers, and why the first official UAP report delivered to Congress only focused on a narrow portion of the military’s history of UFO encounters.
John “Jay” Stratton Jr. retired from his position as Defense Intelligence Senior Executive with the Office of Naval Intelligence just last year to take a senior executive position with defense contractor Radiance Technologies, a company that may stand to take on the challenge of analyzing—and possibly reverse-engineering—anomalous materials that have reportedly been recovered from unidentified craft.
But before that, Stratton was the only individual to have worked on all three of the major UFO investigative programs: the Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Application Program (AAWSAP), operated by Bigelow Aerospace; its successor, the DoD’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), and the more recent ODNI-based UAP Task Force (UAPTF); Stratton himself founded the UAPTF, now called the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), and as part of his role with the ODNI he was assigned the task of being the UAPTF’s first director.
Stratton spoke to Knapp and filmmaker Jeremy Corbell in an interview featured in episode three of Corbell’s Youtube series Weaponized, “The Pentagon’s Top UFO Hunter”, discussing his career, his involvement with the AAWSAP and AATIP programs and the formation of the UAPTF, and how he went about generating the landmark UAP report delivered to Congress in June 2021.
As a defense analyst, Stratton specialized in reverse-engineering new technologies that were being developed by the country’s adversaries, and whether or not these new technologies presented a threat to national security to begin with. Stratton didn’t have any interest in UFOs before becoming involved in investigating the phenomenon, saying that he “didn’t have a passion growing up, I didn’t have all the books, so I didn’t watch all the TV shows.”
“I stepped into a job at the Defense Intelligence Agency where some things came across the desk, again thinking technologies and other things where I needed to really kind of dig in and understand potentials.” Despite not being a believer, Stratton says “I kept an open mind, a skeptic mind, whatever you want to call it, looking for something that could answer this… But there were definitely some times where we really couldn’t close the loop. And with that we realized that something needed to be done about it.”
Before being deployed to Iraq in 2006, Stratton learned about the investigation into the anomalous occurrences being studied by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) at the Skinwalker Ranch in Utah through future AAWSAP program manager James Lacatski. After returning to the US, Stratton was offered a position as Deputy Director of Air Warfare for the Office of Naval Intelligence in 2008; this led to his involvement with AAWSAP and the investigations at Skinwalker Ranch.
The first case investigated by AAWSAP was the series of UAP encounters involving the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in 2004, that included the now-famous “Tic-Tac” sighting by the crew of a flight of F/A-18 fighter jets; the report on the encounters, released in part to the public in 2018, was authored by Stratton. Stratton was also involved in the generation of the Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRDs), scientific papers that explored cutting-edge concepts such as warp-drive, invisibility cloaks, zero-point energy, and faster-than-light communications.
When AAWSAP was terminated Stratton made the transition to the program’s successor, AATIP, then returned to more conventional duties after that program folded in 2012, but not before he coined the term “unidentified aerial phenomena” as an alternative to the traditional use of “UFO” to describe the phenomenon.
In December 2017 the New York Times published an article revealing the existence of the AATIP program, accompanied by video evidence of encounters with UAP documented by naval aviators. Although Stratton was aware that the former head of AATIP, Luis Elizondo, was leaving the program, he was not told about the NYT article in advance. Being perhaps the most knowledgeable individual in regards to what the Pentagon knew about UAP, Stratton was called upon to produce high-level briefings for members of Congress and the Senate that had their interest piqued by the revelation that encounters with UAP were not uncommon amongst military personnel.
Stratton’s effort to coordinate data collection across multiple agencies eventually led to the formation of the UAP Task Force, the predecessor of AARO, and was assigned to be the UAPTF’s first director. In that role, Stratton was responsible for the generation of the first major UAP report, “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”, delivered to Congress in June 2021. The report garnered criticism for only dealing with UAP cases that occurred from 2004 onward, despite the decades of known history regarding prior military encounters with UFOs, but Stratton said that due to the lack of trust in the government, and the military and intelligence communities in particular, over their handling of UFOs over the latter half of the 20th century, he needed to be very particular regarding what was presented to lawmakers and the public.
Stratton pointed out that “we’re already 70 years behind the power curve for trust because everybody says the government’s lying to us, right? And that the whole Blue Book thing and the whole Roswell thing killed trust.” But to regain that trust—or at least offset the lack thereof—Stratton needed to present solid evidence to back up what was being conveyed in the report, and the systems data available from the Nimitz encounters provided just that evidence.
“You got to start somewhere,” explained Stratton, “and my recommendation was that 2004 start date is important because that was the first case in recent history where I had pilot reporting and data, right back to the data.”
In the Weaponized episode, Knapp says that due to the new legislation protecting government employees that come forward with what they know about UAP, Stratton is just the first such individual expected to speak out about the subject, with others, including potential whistleblowers, waiting in the wings to divulge what they know. “There are people who have told us that they know that those things are true; that there are materials, exotic materials from somewhere else,” Knap said. “The question is: are they going to be allowed to speak?”
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