| Sep 28, 2011

We’ve published below the second part of my series on the RAND Corporation and UFOs (read part one here) published originally under the pseudonym of A. Hovni in 1982 in the weekend supplement UFOs and other Cosmic Phenomena in the long-defunct New York City newspaper The News World. Other than correcting spelling typos and adding illustrations, the text is reproduced exactly as it was written back in April of 1982

Think tank researcher pushed UFO studies

UFO riddle exists – What to do about it? – Study group option

By A. Hovni

Special to The News World

New York City, April 17, 1982

Second in a two-part series

The public’s perception towards the UFO phenomenon in the late sixties had changed considerably from that of earlier days when American citizens would readily accepted the statements spoofed by the U.S. Air Force without further questioning. But following the famous 1966 “swamp gas” episode in Ann Arbor, Michigan in which Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s quick debunking brush off literally triggered a public outcry across the nation, the Air Force decided that it was time to change its UFO policies. To that end, they contracted the services of the University of Colorado to conduct a supposedly “independent” scientific study of UFOs, popularly known as the Condon Report after its chairman, Dr. Edward U. Condon.

It was during these days of intricate governmental planning and counter-planning—which included among other things two Congressional UFO Hearings by the House’s Armed Services Committee (1966) and the Science and Astronautics Committee (1968)—when the RAND Corporation commissioned its own UFO study. Entitled “UFOs: What to Do?,” the study was written by George Kocher and published “FOR RAND USE ONLY” on November 27, 1968 as RAND DOCUMENT No. 13154-PR.

The document came out at a critical time; a few months after the Condon Committee completed its “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects” in June of 1968, yet barely a month before the Air Force released it with much fanfare in January of 1969, stressing the anti-UFO side of the study. Interestingly enough, while Condon concluded that, as put by the Air Force News Release, “further extensive study of UFO sightings is not justified in the expectation that science will be advanced” (which led to the demise of Project Blue Book later in 1969), the RAND Corporation dealt with the opposite side of the coin: what to do with UFOs?

Kocher’s RAND UFO Document cover


Because of the vital importance of its work for the national defense and other related areas, the RAND think tank is expected to exercise a high degree of objectivity in its research. As far as UFOs are concerned, the two RAND papers by Dr. Joe Lipp (see article part I) and by George Kocher are written in a sober, informative and open-minded style, aimed more with proposing a rational solution to the flying saucer riddle than with trying to impose any particular view on the readers.

From the beginning, George Kocher puts a degree of caution when he warns in the introduction that “there exists a great amount of misinformation about the phenomenon not only in the minds of the public, but among educated groups such as scientists as well.” The goal of the “series of essays” describing “various aspects of the phenomenon” is, according to the author, “to suggest a means of proceeding on this interesting and potentially very significant problem.”

The full 40-pages thick document consists of 5 essays on different Aspects of the UFO phenomenon: Historical Aspects, Astronomical aspects, The Character of Reports, Phenomenological Aspects, and How to Proceed and Why. It also includes the complete 6-page “UFO Sighting Report” form of the University of Colorado’s UFO Project, and a bibliography of 26 scientifically-oriented books and articles from specialized periodicals. Although the study does not pretend to give us the final answer to the UFO riddle, it does conclude that the phenomenon exists and ought to be investigated in a responsible manner.

Moving in the opposite direction from the government’s program at the time of phasing out all official involvement with UFOs, Kocher recommended the “organization of a central report receiving agency, staffed by a permanent group of experienced UFO investigators and having on call specialists in astronomy, physics, optics, atmospheric physics, psychology and the like for application when needed.” But before analyzing Kocher’s conclusions, we should review first the supporting evidence for those conclusions.


Original newspaper report on the Fatima sightings.

Kocher gives a quick overview of the pre-1947 historical aspects of UFOlogy as have been researched by Vallee, B.L.P. Trench (Lord Clancarty), Carl Gustav Jung and other authors. He dedicates some space to discuss the famous miracle of Fatima in Portugal, in particular the October 13, 1917 apparition, which was witnessed “by a crowd of about 70,000 persons, including a number of scientists, reporters, atheists and agnostics, as well as faithful Catholics.” Although Fatima is better known for its religious implications, its relation to the UFO phenomenon has been noticed by a number of researchers. Consider, for instance, the following description by a Dr. A. Garrett of the University of Coimbra, quoted by Kocher: “…It looked like a burnished wheel cut out of mother-of-pearl… The disc spun dizzily round…” etc.


One of Mr. Kocher’s essays is devoted to the “Astronomical Aspects” of UFOs, in which he deals with some of the ground already covered in the late forties by his RAND colleague Dr. Lipp, such as the number of potential stars in the galaxy that may have inhabited planets and so on. He by-passes the much-touted astronomical argument of the huge distances in space vis-à-vis interstellar travel interstellar travel by stating: “I suggest that if a way to circumvent the speed of light restriction is possible, it has already been found by someone in our galaxy.” And he writes at the end of this section that, “thus we may conclude that it is very likely that at least one, and probably many of the 100 million planetary populations is capable of interstellar travel.”


In the following two essays, “The Character of Reports” and “Phenomenological Aspects,” Mr. Kocher analyses the types of reports and patterns that can be extracted from them. He states that “the really interesting class of reports is that reporting phenomenology which is clearly extraordinary,” meaning by this that the qualifications of the observer(s) are such “that the report is not only highly credible but is articulate and quantitative as well.” It is this subclass of reports variously estimated from 5 to 20 percent of the total, he writes, “that offers hope of our learning what is going on.”

In these two sections, Mr. Kocher relies mostly on the pioneer research of both the late Professor James McDonald and NICAP, in particular NICAP’s classic report “The UFO evidence,” edited by Richard Hall. He quotes liberally from these investigations which, it seems, he considers of higher scientific value than those of Major Hector Quintanilla’s Project Blue Book. But Kocher is not a stranger in the realm of personal, onsite investigations of UFO sightings, either. More than 5 pages are dedicated to describe in detail a UFO sighted by four witnesses near Newton, Illinois on October 10, 1966. Kocher was familiar with both the area and the observers, having been reared nearby.

Lack of space doesn’t permit us to describe this sighting in detail, yet Kocher remarked that “the observations are sufficiently detailed to give us adequate confidence that some sort of machine was present, behaving in a very extraordinary way.” Furthermore, Kocher wrote that, “it is this kind of sighting—the kind which is clearly inexplicable in contemporary terms, which causes me (and other interested persons) to take the whole subject so seriously.”

Another portion of the “phenomenological” essay is devoted to categorizing UFO sightings by shape, color, luminous and kinematic behavior, variations with time and interaction with the environment, etc. Displaying a vast knowledge of cases from the Air Force, NICAP and APRO files, Mr. Kocher recommends “careful interviews with witnesses and analysis of large number of reports” in order to obtain “the significant patterns of phenomenology.” If UFOs are some still unknown type of natural phenomena, they “should exhibit some patterns of appearance or behavior which would aid in identifying and predicting them,” states Kocher. Yet he also thinks that “it may be possible to anticipate appearances” if their origin is extraterrestrial.

Excerpt from Kocher’s RAND UFO report.


In his final essay, “UFOS – HOW TO ROCEED AND WHY,” Mr. Kocher gives a list of categories suggested by Prof. McDonald, who believed himself that the phenomenon could be best explained by the hypothesis of extraterrestrial probes. Kocher does not commit himself to any particular hypothesis, but he indicates that several of them have, if explained, a “profound and significant” value to society. If UFOs are extraterrestrial, Kocher writes that “an identification of the phenomenon would be a task of highest potential urgency.”

Kocher finally suggests five areas of improvement in order to understand better the nature of UFOs. First, he recommends the establishment of ‘a central receiving agency,” staffed with competent UFO investigators and scientific consultants in several fields. “This agency should be readily and instantly accessible to the public for the purpose of reporting,” he writes, and links should be opened through “toll-free telephone lines,” reporting forms distributed by the Post Office, cooperation with police departments, etc.

Kocher also mentions the role of the media in this mystery, stating that “the press should be encouraged to report sightings accurately and in a non-sensational manner. Suitable reporting would encourage other witnesses to come forth.” He finally suggests the coordinated use of sensor devices to record “electric, magnetic and gravitational fields, radioactivity, optical and radio frequency anomalies.”

Such a competent and centralized research should be able to produce, after a few years of operation, “generalities about appearance and behavior and most importantly, to anticipate times and locations of appearances.” (Underlying in the original.) Without saying it, Kocher’s nationally-centralized reporting agency implies some type of coordination by the government. Yet ironically, the U.S. Air Force—which has often relied on the research of its most trusted think tank at RAND—did not pay any attention to Kocher’s recommendations. Since the Condon coup, the U.S. Government has publicly ignored the very existence of the UFO phenomenon. Instead, it seems it was the French Government who followed the recommendations set forth by the RAND Corporation, with the establishment in 1977 of its own centralized reporting agency, the GEPAN (see story “France backs UFO study,” UFO Supplement, November 14, 1981).

Kocher finally recommended to go beyond a purely national collection of UFO reports, indicating in the last paragraph that, “it would be much more convincing if data could be collected worldwide and if the most interesting reports could be intensively and completely investigated. I believe current reports justify the expanded data collection and analysis effort.” Did anybody in the government ever pay any attention to this excellent review of the UFO phenomenon and its clearly stated recommendations to solve the mystery?

*          *          *


RAND Corporation Headquarters in Santa Monica, CA. (image credit: Cbl62/Wikimedia Commons)

Even though this RAND paper by George Kocher was written in 1968, its premise of creating a “Central Receiving Agency” for collecting UFO reports, which is properly staffed and funded with qualified investigators and scientific consultants, works in coordination with police departments, and doesn’t have preconceived notions or a political agenda, is just as valid and needed as it was when it was conceived by Kocher 43 years ago. MUFON and other private organizations fill that role as best as they can, but these are volunteer groups without official backing and appropriate funding.

There are still many unanswered questions about the genesis of George Kocher’s RAND paper, “UFOs: What to Do?” When nicap.org posted the full document online in both on pdf and in text format, they included some comments by experts familiar with the official history of UFOs like Jan Aldrich, Dick Hall and Brad Sparks made in 1996. Aldrich, who runs Project 1947, had this to say:

George Kocher worked at RAND. He was interested in the UFOs. He wrote up a short paper for circulation within RAND. It was personal. It was not an official RAND document. Kocher got little or no response to his privately circulated document. One copy of it did make its way to Wright-Patterson. LTC Quintanilla [head of Project Blue Book] wrote RAND a blazing letter. Once again, Quintanilla’s letter was not an official ATIC response, but from Quintanilla’s address and his personal opinion.

Kocher’s supervisor turned Quintanilla’s letter over to Kocher. RAND never responded to Quintanilla. Kocher did not follow up on his paper. The matter went no further. Kocher confirmed all this in a letter to Dr. Hynek which is now at CUFOS with a copy of Quintanilla’s letter. CUFOS made copies of Kocher’s document available years ago.

 …There were some UFO fans at RAND. Mary Rorig comes to mind. However, this paper is about as significant as some NICAP member writing a paper supporting contactees. It should be made clear that this was an individual effort within an organization which took no action, and had no discussion on the matter as the result of his effort other than to file it.

While it seems pretty obvious that Kocher’s UFO paper was not a high priority initiative and was never followed up, it was more than just a personal essay as stated by Aldrich. The original cover page clearly states “RAND DOCUMENT,” has a file number 18154-PR and states at the bottom of the page, “For RAND Use Only.” Furthermore, that it’s a legitimate RAND document is clearly established by the fact that it appears in the RAND Corporation’s own Reports and Bookstore page, where it’s listed as a “RAND Unrestricted Draft” and can be downloaded for free in pdf or purchased in print as Document Number DRU-1571. The RAND page describes Kocher’s report as:

Sightings of unidentified foreign objects (UFOs) have been reported throughout the centuries-most of them given a religious interpretation. Since World War II, however, there seems to have been a drastic increase in the number of sightings. We have enough data-both visual and photographic-on some of these sighting to know that the phenomenon is unambiguously extraordinary and clearly inexplicable in modern terms. The author examines UFO brightness, size, and maneuvers, and discusses the frequency and location of sightings. He ends by suggesting the need for more standardized reporting on UFOs, so that times and locations of appearances may be anticipated and badly needed objective data may be obtained.

The RAND Reports page provides also several other papers written by George Kocher for the California think tank—most of them on astronomical subjects—such as “Observations of the 1969 Inferior Conjunction and Greatest Western Elongation of Venus: Data Catalog and Preliminary Analysis” (1970), “A Deep-Space Triangulation Probe To Determine the Astronomical Unit” (1964), “Eclipse Observations from a Jet Aircraft” (1964), and “Environmental Problems: Their Causes, Cures, and Evolution Using Southern California Smog as an Example” (1971). Kocher was obviously a RAND scientist in good standing and 43 years after writing his UFO paper, it is still worth reading and discussing.