The Times reporters broke new ground by getting pilots on record. What is interesting about this latest news cycle, however, is that DoD officials are not behaving as Wendt and Duvall would predict. Indeed, Politico’s Bryan Bender reported last month that, “The U.S. Navy is drafting new guidelines for pilots and other personnel to report encounters with ‘unidentified aircraft,’ a significant new step in creating a formal process to collect and analyze the unexplained sightings — and destigmatize them.” My Post colleague Deanna Paul followed up by reporting that “Luis Elizondo, a former senior intelligence officer, told The Post that the new Navy guidelines formalized the reporting process, facilitating data-driven analysis while removing the stigma from talking about UFOs, calling it ‘the single greatest decision the Navy has made in decades.’ ”

What appears to be happening is that official organs of the state are now acknowledging that UFOs exist, even if they are not literally using the acronym. They are doing so because enough pilots are reporting UFOs and near-air collisions so as to warrant better record-keeping. They are not saying that these UFOs are extraterrestrials, but they are trying to destigmatize the reporting of a UFO.

Still, the very fact that this step has been taken somewhat weakens the Wendt and Duvall thesis. This was always a two-step process: a) Acknowledge that UFOs exist; and b) Consider that the UFOs might be ETs.