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I'll keep this brief: I'm not too well versed in secret government protocol nor have I read enough sci-fi books on this type of matter. But simply put, in my story, a series of UFOs crash land around the world, one doing so in the United States near a town in the deep south.

This older query deals with the local government response. After it's revealed by the local police that the crashed object is not a normal space rock, what higher level (state or federal) law enforcement/government agency would be called to come investigate this strange UFO?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 22, 2023 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close back the question because after a throughout thinking, we don't know enough to answer effectively : When does this happen : Today, in the 1950s, even earlier? What fact is made about the UFO : Are there still the pilots (if any!), is there an element showing it's clearly alien, or does the ship very closely look what humans could make (ie. planes)? Was the crash witnessed long after by two random hikers far in a desertic land or was it seen by many people on the spot? Until then, I have strong doubts the answer you accepted actually fix your problem :/. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2023 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Do as you wish. I got the answer I was looking for. Good day. $\endgroup$
    – user43914
    Dec 22, 2023 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena As I mentioned earlier, I have a major revision in mind for this question. Should I a) edit the post to reflect the revision, b) repost this question as a second question given there is significantly more added to it, or c) post the revised question in meta to see if it's viable or not? $\endgroup$
    – user43914
    Dec 22, 2023 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @NathanielRobinson Leave it as it is, the question is perfectly fine and definitely no worse than several other related questions. You got three answers saying the exact same thing, you were happy that your problem was solved, and we who answered were happy to have helped. Plus, the absurdity of someone else trying to convince you that you were not helped — after you stated that you were helped — is enough to make a cat laugh. There is no need to pull a muscle placating such nonsense. Just leave it as it is. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 23, 2023 at 15:52

5 Answers 5

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  • Step 1:
    Members of the public call 911. There would be multiple, contradictory reports of a fire, an explosion, a ground vehicle crash, and an aircraft crash. At the same time, members of the public post this on social media.
  • Step 2:
    The fire department/ambulance service and the police respond. So do halfway-credible journalists and pure gawkers. There are more, and more detailed, pictures while the emergency services try to control the incident scene with insufficient manpower for a strict cordon.
  • Step 3a:
    Someone in charge concludes that an aircraft was involved, queries with air traffic control and local airports for missing civilian planes, and possibly informs agencies like the NTSB. There may be inquiries to the military if they are missing any planes or UAVs.
    Municipal or state authorities may be briefed on what the emergency responders think is going on. It is unlikely that any of them says "alien" or "UFO" lightly -- that would be a career killer. Depending on the size of the crashed object, the President is briefed on a possible high-profile accident or even terror attack.

Recall the F-35B crash in September 2023, including the 911 tape from the folks with the ejected pilot in their garden, and how the dispatcher went through a list of questions which made only limited sense in the context.

  • Step 3b:
    Quite possible before an official makes the call to aviation authorities, some member of the public concludes that it was an UFO and posts pictures and commentary on social media. This could well be a total nutcase who sees reptiles everywhere, and who happens to be right for all the wrong reasons.
  • Step 4:
    Emergency services try to establish a meaningful cordon to protect the incident site. The assumption may still be "aircraft of unknown type" or perhaps "Chinese spy balloon" unless there are recognizably alien corpses in the debris.
    This could involve the National Guard, if those authorities are not helplessly behind the curve of events.
  • Step 5:
    Someone on scene determines that it was not a normal aircraft. The assumption would switch to foreign spy plane and the air force and/or intelligence agencies are called in. At this point, at the latest, the President would be briefed about the possible international incident.

My prediction is that multiple agencies explain to the President that they should be the lead investigators, and the President may well decide on gut feeling. Perhaps the President trusts the uniformed services more than the spies, or perhaps the President wants to keep this under civilian agencies like NASA.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer a lot. The break down of the order of operations as well as the possible other ways this scenario could unfold were just what I was looking for. $\endgroup$
    – user43914
    Dec 19, 2023 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ If we're talking about the United States, this is missing a few key sections of intermediary government officials - namely, the local town mayor who may inform the state governor who may mobilize members of the national guard to assist. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Dec 19, 2023 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Step 1: Early radar detection by one or more international space agencies detect incoming space craft long before any member of the public knows about their existence. Dang, too story-based. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 20, 2023 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH, I disagree with the "100% plot" assessment. A writer might ask how the authorities are supposed to react to a general aviation plane crash, and get an anwer. But not here, because there is no SFF element in it. When it is an UFO, one could still look at normal reporting chains and how they would try to cope with the unexpected. See the 911 recording I mentioned, "How old is the patient? How far did he fall?" Faced with the unexpected, the dispatcher stuck to the checklist. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Dec 21, 2023 at 7:10
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    $\begingroup$ This assumes it is not immediately obvious that the crashed craft is not a plane or ballon. If the enterprise D is stuck in a hill, visible from miles away things probably unfold a bit different. $\endgroup$
    – LazyLizard
    Dec 21, 2023 at 12:03
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The NTSB or similar will raise issue to the President

Okay, so Billy-Bob and his drinkin' buddy were out noodling for catfish when they — through the beer haze — see something come streaking down the sky and landing with a big, fat THUMP.

After going in to take a closer look (and — possible story element — picking up some scrap) they come to the highly qualified and expert conclusion that this is a thingy made of metal that dropped out of the sky... darned peculiar, but no matter, dealing with this thing is definitely above their pay grade (especially considering that their present profession is noodling for catfish).

So they call the Sheriff that — depending on smallness of their home town — they are probably well aquatinted with and give a slurred description of the event that — eventually — is interpreted to be a plane crash and that there are no survivors to deal with.

So the Sheriff starts up the normal procedures for dealing with a plane crash, this involves rescue services, paramedics to pick up the remains of people, the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The FAA will within a few hours probably be very confused, as no planes — neither airlines nor general aviation — have been reported missing. Or(!)... maybe they have and this red herring adds to the plot line, when the supposedly missing plane is later found, somewhere else.

The NTSB will probably be site within anything from a few hours to a couple of days. Until then, the rescue services will have cordoned off the area to keep people from disturbing the site. Here you have flexility, so you can have people come as close or stay far away as you like.

As the NTSB gets on site, they will rather quickly realise that this is no aircraft, at least none that they are familiar with. This means that they will probably vacate the site, sharpish, since this could potentially be a very hazardous object. Hydrazine thrusters on rockets, or — worse — nuclear reactors / thermal isotope generators on satellites, or any number of other nasty components on space junk, are no laughing matter.

In any case, they will most likely conclude that this is a highly unusual event that require expertiese outside their domain. This means they will kick the issue up the chain of command. But since the NTSB is an independent authority, their parent agency is the Federal Government of the United States, meaning it lands in the lap of the President, right quick.

The President will then call together people to ask what should be done about this, such as...

  • The Join Cheifs of Staff
  • The Director of National Intelligence
  • Various deparment heads of relevant agencues (see below)

...and start to issue orders to the various agencies under their command.


What happens next consists a large number of possibilities. It all depends on what other adminstrative agencies knew anything before this thing hit the ground, and which ones would have an interest in this thing.

Potential interested parties are...

  • 18th Space Defense Squadron (18 SDS), located at Vandenburg Space Force Base in California, are reponsible for tracking objects in space, especially satellites. People will be asking them questions if any object is missing from their tracking catalog.

  • North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are responsible for providing aerospace early warning, and ditto protection. While they probably will not be involved once it is on the ground, people will be asking them some very serious questions on how something could fall from space without them sounding the big alert (because it could have been a hostile nuke)

  • Department of Homeland Security, since this thing is no longer flying — and thus no longer of interest to the FAA, NORAD, Air Force and other airspace related agencues — they will want to know what kind of threat it poses. And until it has been determined whether this unknown thing is a threat or not, they will probably act defensive and see it as a potential threat, and make sure no-one messes with it.

  • The Department of Energy (DoE) (for nuclear/radiological hazards), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (biological) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (chemical) will probably be concerned already in the "We are not sure what it is" stage since — again — dangerous elements aboard this object might cause significant hazard to health and/or the environment. And when it becomes clear this is alien in origin, they will probably throw an utter [crap]-fit.

  • The tech-nerds at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are equally going to have a fit, out of orgasmic delight.

"What about branches of the military?"

The military will not act on its own, but instead wait until told by the President to act. Why? Because this issue not a military threat, and it is not military property. The military cannot mount operations willy-nilly unless it is something that actually concerns them and their mission. While Hollywood loves to paint the military as this omnipotent entity that can do whatever they feel domestically, reality is that the military is tightly leashed in this area because an armed force running unchecked in the country is very dangerous.

"What about FBI, CIA, intelligence agencies?"

Again: this is outside their jurisdiction. An object falling out of space is not an intelligence issue, nor law enforcement issue, until someone has looked at it and concluded that this is the case. They might act, if the President calls them in, but they will not start acting on their own.


So, to summarise...

You have many options to branch your story how you want. But the initial agencies will most likely be...

  1. Local law enforcement and ditto rescue services
  2. The FAA and NTSB, which will kick the issue up the chain of command.
  3. The government and the President
  4. Whatever ad hoc task force the President puts together
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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 21, 2023 at 13:37
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The National Transportation Safety Board

If it flies and something happens to it, generally it falls to civilian aviation authorities. The standard channels for crashed plane reporting go through the NTSB and they are likely who it is going to be reported to.

Even if it looks weird people aren't likely going to assume that it's aliens. The police would almost certainly just pass on the information to the NTSB because they are the relevant agency for aviation crashes.

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    $\begingroup$ I feel we could have a lot of fun with this Answer - Department of Farmland - cause it landed in a field, ICE because they are illegal Aliens, the IRS because they aren't here on s tourist visa so probably owe taxes. Essentially every government Department except the usual ones, because that's much more fun. $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2023 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord And the agencies that deal more with national defense can't get through because they are unable to penetrate the bureacratic paperwork of the more mundane agencies, and are also outnumbered by them. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 19, 2023 at 21:01
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Maybe you think you're asking a simple question, but the answer is very much anything but simple. We can start by focusing on two paradoxes that must be addressed in order to take on your question.

  1. You are essentially asking "who are the secret keepers who operate in secret? And what secret things do they do?" Obviously, if everyone knew, it wouldn't be a secret. But there are parts that are knowable, if you're willing to sift through truths and falsehoods.

  2. We live in a post-Roswell world, in which infrastructure (as a result of the phenomena) has already been established, to sequester and compartmentalize evidence and information - and even to disseminate disinformation on this subject.

OP, you commented:

This world is basically our modern world. This world is very vanilla in the sense that there have been no other known UFO encounters nor extraterrestrial interference or anything. So there are no secret organizations dealing with these type things. In fact, this is what helps create such organization.

As you can imagine, in a world with no prior UFO encounters, the following organizations would not exist. However, the organizations that most closely match what you describe would be:

The NRO (National Reconnaissance Office)

www.nro.gov

and

The NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency)

www.nga.mil

Of course "UFO crash retrieval" is not in their official job descriptions.

Whistleblower David Grusch, who testified before Congress this year (2023) has worked at both agencies. Grush's story is another tangent completely, that I encourage you to look into. It's still unfolding.

Even when local authorities are first to respond, expect federal authorities to swiftly take over the investigation. This will probably be the FBI, and similar agencies that are more public-facing. The more obscure intel agencies are unlikely to be present, but very likely to be in close communication with the FBI et al through the investigation.

I ask for your patience, as there is more I would like to add to this answer, so please consider it to be a work in progress. As I said, the topic is huge, and hard to condense. But I will do my best to improve on it gradually. I hope that for now this at least gives you some leads so you can "do your homework".

For further info start here... (more links to come)

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    $\begingroup$ Hello, and welcome to Worldbuilding. Question: why the FBI? What crime has been committed that warrants the attention of the FBI? The FBI is concerned when people threaten the domestic security of the United States through criminal/terrorist activities. How is object dropping out of the sky indicative of any such threat? $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 21, 2023 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK A sudden object dropping out of space is a potential threat to the domestic security, especially if such events happen in the vicinity of towns and cities. The fact it's terrorist or not is not known by this alternate world's inhabitants since the object and crash's cause is basically unknown. But I do hope for the US residents that the FBI and CIA works actively to detect and identify potential threats to their country, even if such the "attack" was "failed". $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2023 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena The FBI or CIA is not called in every time a piece of space junk falls on the US, not even when it is things like Soviet nuclear reactors, as in the cases of Kosmos 954 and Kosmos 1402. Yes, I know they did not fall on the US specifically, this is merely to highlight that non-naturally-occurring stuff falling out of space is a rather mundane event (from a security perspective) and not something that makes everyone call the feds while hollering "the reds are coming!!" $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 22, 2023 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena If you want to know more about what US authorities watch for things dropping out of the sky, I can highly recommend this answer. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 22, 2023 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK We know nothing about when it happens, nor do we know whether the U.S. caught it on sky or space radars. Should have it happen just after the 11st september 2001, I'm certain the reaction would be very different. We should stop making assumptions in the querent's stead (and it's the reason I cannot upvote or downvote any answer here). $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2023 at 14:39
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The Department of Defence would take basic control, a bunch of others would probably be involved. But the military would most likely be the first formally mobilised to the actual site.

Local law enforcement would probably be the first to secure roads etc,.

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    $\begingroup$ DoD? On what mandate? And why that instead of anyone else? Why not, for instance, Department of Homepland Security? $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 19, 2023 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelK well.... thats what happened last time $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Dec 19, 2023 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ If you are talking about Roswell... 1) that was 75+ years ago, DoHS would not exist for another 55 years, and much else has changed since then 2) it was the military's own equipment they went to pick up, the Project Mogul balloons belonged to them. So, again, on what mandate are you assuming DoD would be acting, why them instead of anyone else? Or did you just make an assumption out of thin air? $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 19, 2023 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ Since many people (including MichaelK) still believe it was the military's own tech, by that benchmark we can conclude the cover-up has been a success. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Mentalist
    Dec 20, 2023 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Mentalist Joke's on you: the UFO story was the cover-up. And by changing cover-up story, "everyone" accepted the first cover-up story wholesale. If only it had been intentional, it wold have been genious. However: never attribute to geniality what is adequately exaplained by morons getting lucky. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Dec 20, 2023 at 8:35

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