Here come the Men in Grey: MoD recruited UFO desk officers, files reveal

The Ministry of Defence recruited UFO officers to discover whether the truth really was out there, it has been revealed.

Files released by the National Archives bring to light the role of the UFO Desk Officer. It was a position usually reserved for junior civil servants who would be drafted in to pore over reports of UFO sightings.

A  job description for a UFO officer, written by an incumbent in November 2009 just before the desk was closed, is included among the 6,700 pages that can now be seen on the National Archives website from today. It outlines how an officer’s daily duties would be providing briefings on the Ministry of Defence’s position on UFOs and extraterrestrial life, undertaking UFO investigations, handling hundreds of FOI requests, and managing UFOlogists (UFO ‘experts’) and press enquiries.

The incumbent said the idea of UFO investigations “tends to suggest to the public that there are Top Secret teams of specialist scientists scurrying around the country in a real life version of the X-Files….[but] this is total fiction.” In fact, according to the Desk Officer, many investigations involved searching the internet.

But there was the odd exciting moment, it seems. One officer had the privilege of briefing former Prime Minister Tony Blair on UFO policy during the early days of his premiership.

And in a briefing prepared for the MoD prior to a House of Lords debate on UFOs in 1979, an officer of the time appears to have attempted to draw a line under the entire issue and potentially talk himself out of a job by insisting aliens would not be interested in visiting an “insignificant planet like Earth”.

Another officer, writing a report in May 1978, claims that UFO visits to Earth “would probably not occur more than once in a thousand years or so, even if one assumes that every intelligent community made 10 launches a year”. He surmised that as US and Soviet probes had found no intelligent life, UFOs would have to travel “from outside the solar system”.

He concluded that this would make “claims of thousands of visits in the last decade…too large to be credible”.

Dr David Clarke, author of the book 'The UFO files' and Senior Lecturer in Journalism from Sheffield Hallam University, said: “These records allow us to look behind the scenes of what must have been one of the strangest jobs in Whitehall. We now have a fascinating insight into some of the extraordinary reports and briefings which passed over the UFO Desk on a daily basis and how its officers used logic and science in their attempts to explain ‘the unexplained’.”