The "Dark Side of the Looking Glass is a virtual portal for independent research and investigation, focused on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) and other Anomalous Phenomena, within the framework physical reality, anomaly, the effects on society and human consciousness. Future postings will include investigative methodology, theory, techniques and analysis of phenomenon.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What we learned and what we lost! BAASS-MUFON SIP Program

The STAR Team was a Rapid Response Investigation Unit, operating in a MUFON program, which was funded by BAASS (Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies) that was known as the SIP Project. At that time MUFON was the largest international UFO research organization in the world. [1]

The purpose of the SIP Project was in part to provide funding to professionally investigate UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) events and make available information from the MUFON witness sighting report data base (CMS) directly to BAASS. Part of this funding was also allocated to payroll a team of full time Dispatch operators, who would work continuous shifts throughout the week and monitor the incoming sighting reports.

I served as STAR Team Manager and SIP Project Coordinator from the beginning of the project in February 2009 until it ended in of January 2010. This was the most advanced non-government rapid response UAP investigative team in the world. During that year, while working with the dispatchers and with BAASS, I learned an incredible amount about how to investigate and study this Phenomena and developed relationships with some of the most experienced Investigators, Researchers and Ufologists in the world.

Shortly after I was hired to manage the SIP project, I came in possession of a whitepaper that was written by Dr. J.F.Vallée  and Dr. E.W.Davis that is titled "Incommensurability, Orthodoxy and the Physics of High Strangeness: A 6-layer Model for Anomalous Phenomena". [2]

After reading it several times during the early stages of the project, I realized, that the "6-layer model" outlined in that whitepaper was absolutely right on the mark as to research and investigation into the (UAP) phenomenon. The concepts in this white paper became the frame work for my thinking while performing in that role. Keep in mind we were getting 400-800 case reports per month coming in. We were literally looking at this information night and day (7 days a week) for a year.

Metaphorically speaking this was the "Catbird Seat" if there ever was such a thing in Ufology. Throughout that year, I took advantage of every minute, to study this phenomenon and learn all I could about how to investigate sighting reports and how that data might be effectively used.

The following is based on my observations and experiences.
Richard Lang

Evolution of the STAR team:
It is worth taking a moment to understand the how the MUFON STAR Team originally started out. Then look at how it evolved during the SIP Project with BAASS funding, and finally where it currently is now.

Keep in mind that there were 3 distinct STAR Team initiatives, which all shared the same common name, but were very much different!

Ø  Original MUFON STAR Team  (2007 to February  2009)
§  Some funding
§  Decentralized with a team coordinator
§  No CMS monitoring
§  No reporting protocol or format
§  Very little equipment (most individually owned)
§  Very restrictive confidentially agreement
§  10 members

Ø  BAASS SIP Project STAR Team  (February 2009 to January 2010)
§  Totally funded
§  Paid management (full time employees)
§  Paid dispatch operation (part time employees)
§  24/7 CMS monitoring and vetting of cases
§  Witness contact information was verified on all incoming cases
§  Paid qualified Investigators (including payment for travel expenses)
§  Paid operations unit (full time employee) arrangements for airline travel Lodging etc. everything was paid for up front and investigators had no out of pocket expenses.
§  Virtual scheduling (investigators on standby-availability and geographic location)
§  High tech equipment available via overnight shipping to investigator in field
§  Formal standardized SOP and report format and protocol
§  Formal job descriptions with requirements for each position.
§  Customized engraved identification ID Badges for investigators
§  Each state had a coordinator to work with local investigators and STAR Team
§  Confidentially agreement with provision to publish information and give public access to case reports when completed
§  All case reports were published in the Journal to give public access

Ø  MUFON's Current STAR Team  (April 2010 to present)
§  Unfunded - no paid employees
§  Decentralized with a team coordinator
§  No CMS monitoring
§  No reporting protocol or format
§  No equipment (individually owned)
§  Restrictive confidentially agreement no formal process to publish reports

Original MUFON STAR Team
The Original MUFON STAR Team started off as a very small group sometime 2007. There were 4 founding members. The first member to ever be deployed was Norman Gagnon, and then Kristen Winslet worked on a case that had national attention.

In May 2008, Chuck Modlin was named as the 6th member. Then in August of 2008, I was featured in a journal article as the newest member of STAR Team [3] and the following month an announcement in the Directors Message acknowledged my appointment as STAR Team Coordinator, who would facilitate communication and deployment. [4]  

There was some funding for expense reimbursement on a few of the cases, but for the most part it was still a predominantly voluntary operation. MUFON had a little bit of money they could use to reimburse for gasoline and mileage. The Discovery Channel shows were the first real deployments involving STAR Team and the producers paid for lodging and travel expenses for some of the investigators during the filming.

Most of the investigators had their own equipment. Throughout the initial investigation of the Fayetteville case (first TV show) we videotaped many of the original witness interviews with a High-Definition camcorder. Later Discovery Channel actually used some of that video footage in the TV production. We also had a radiation detector (pictured - click on image to enlarge - use page back button to return to article) which was used and seen on the TV show as well.

There was really no formal report format and there was no system in place to look at CMS or monitor cases. When I became Coordinator they upgraded my CMS access, to include the cases in all 50 states. As far as any protocol for working on cases, there really wasn't any. The cases came up somewhat randomly, typically someone would send a heads up (email) about a case to the International Director (James Carrion) and he would ask me to look into it and send someone out to work it.

By February 2009 the original team consisted of 10 members. At that time the new logo was unveiled in an article about the development of the logo.[5] The design was based on original artwork that Kristine Winslet submitted. We re-worked the graphics and sent several versions out to members for comments and edits. The final draft (pictured) was the result of the collaborative efforts of the team members. The 10 members of the STAR Team were; Carrion, Webb, Winslet, Gagnon, Modlin, Jordan, Sheets, Aston, Lang and Reever.

STAR Team - BAASS SIP Project
In February 2009 the BAASS Contract was finalized and approved by MUFON Board. Final planning and development, which included a PowerPoint presentation for State Directors and the membership was initiated to outline the SIP project and invite member participation.

At that time MUFON was an organization of volunteers with a wide variety of members, with varying degrees of interests that were focused in many different directions. MUFON was also very decentralized and for the most part supported by its membership and benefactors. The organization was not at all run like a business. 

The idea of using the STAR Team to separate the funded SIP Project business from the general membership was taking shape. Since we suddenly had the capacity to pay people, we wanted to control the activities of the project and run it like a business, which made sense from an operational standpoint. So it was conveyed to the membership that applications were being accepted for prospective employee positions for Investigators and Dispatch operators.

At the same time this separation also manifested in the separate financial banking and record keeping for the SIP Project, which unfortunately turned out to be a problem that was not anticipated when the initiative started.

Press Release April 2009 - MUFON has now taken UFO Research to its next level This is possible through a funding arrangement between MUFON and BAASS (Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies). MUFON is the largest UFO research organization in the world and is the logical choice to carry out this mission. By mid April  we were definitely in the game and the SIP project was up and running.

Like most things in life, MONEY means everything and the funding from BAASS really did take the STAR Team up to the next level . . . way up! For the first time in history Non-government UFO investigative teams were going to be paid to conduct research. 

The SIP Project provided money to pay for part time dispatch operators. The dispatchers were paid hourly and worked continuous shifts through the day monitoring sighting reports coming into CMS and vetting the cases.


Every sighting report was categorized based on a set of criteria and protocols that was established at the onset of the program. These protocols were fine tuned after several months with the help of our friends at BAASS. 

Dispatchers also verified the witness contact information on all incoming cases, which was a first for MUFON. They would actually contact every new witness and validate the witness contact information and believability. In many cases they would have discussions with the witness to clarify the details of the narrative. A lot of very specialized training was done with the dispatchers on an ongoing basis.

Another first was the establishment of a paid operations manager position (full time employee). The operations manager made all arrangements for airline travel, car rental, hotel rooms, meals and equipment, plus everything was paid for up front and each investigator was issued a Visa money card so they had no out of pocket expenses.

Investigators were paid $100.00 per day for their time and $40.00 a day per diem for meals, plus the cost of all airline travel, rental cars, and hotel accommodations. The local State Coordinators were also paid $50.00 per case to help coordinate the investigation on the local level.

Two part-time research assistants were also hired to work on any special research as was needed and later in the SIP program a full time public relations person was hired to promote the SIP program and MUFON. They were also paid out of the SIP Project funds from BAASS.

A scheduling system, which was all virtual (web based), contained information about each investigator on stand-by, specifically listing their availability times, areas they were able to travel, and it was organized by geographic location. The dispatchers were also on ShiftBoard.

We purchased some high tech equipment and travel cases, to make equipment available via overnight shipping to investigators in field, typically equipment would be shipped to the hotel or delivered to the airport baggage area, waiting for the investigator to arrive.

When a deployment order was issued the equipment needed would be referenced so operations could make arrangements to send it. A formal SOP for deployment was established and used on each case deployment and a formal standardized report format was adopted.

Formal job descriptions with requirements for each position were established and training secessions were done in conference calls and using Skype.  

SIP Coordination Manager
Job Duties:
·        Supervises Dispatcher Operation
·        Deploys SIP investigators  to the scene of a MUFON Category 2/3 case
·        Overseas Deployment and Reviews Case report from Deployment
·        Coordinates with BAASS personnel  about deployment schedules and other operational requirements
·        Communicates Significant Reportable events to BAASS
·        Processes daily status reports into weekly and monthly status reports to be sent to the MUFON International Director and BAASS
·        Writes monthly STAR Team Report for MUFON Journal  outlining Significant Cases and recognizing Investigators and State Coordinators.

SIP Operations Manager
Job Duties:
·        Arranges all travel (airfare, hotel, car, per diem, etc.) for designated SIP personnel
·        Keeps detailed accounting of all SIP expenditures and submits weekly and monthly
·        Reports to the MUFON International Director
·        Handles all payroll for SIP salaried employees and independent contractors
·        Handles all equipment shipping for a SIP team deployment
·        Other administrative duties as required

Dispatch Operator
Job Duties:
·        Reviews incoming reports (email, phone, CMS)
·        Validates witness contact information and believability.
·        Assigns an initial Vallee classification to each case (CAT 1-2-3)
·        Identifies Significant Reportable Events that will be sent to BAASS
·        Updates CMS with DISPATCH NOTES
·        Communicates with Sip Manager about Category 2/3 cases and Significant Reportable events
·        Dispatchers are NOT to investigate cases ! (pave way for Investigator to investigate case)

STAR Team investigators received customized engraved identification ID Badges to go with the MUFON ID Card, which were required to be used while on deployment.  

We all signed a confidentially agreement with a provision to publish information and give public access to case reports, when the investigation was over and finally all case reports were published in the MUFON Journal to give the public access to our research.

The SIP Project was operational for 10 months. During that time we deployed paid investigators on 65 SIP cases. On more than one occasion two or more investigators were deployed on a given case. We also sent data in the form of Significant Reportable Events (about 25 per month) to BAASS as well.  At last count we had about 80 STAR Team contract Investigators and 8 Dispatchers.  

MUFON's Current STAR Team 
Shortly after the SIP project ended in January 2010, a number of former STAR Team members cane together to continue the research and investigation. In the shadow of the controversy, with the funding gone, and MUFON financial resources dwindling, they stepped up as volunteers offering their own resources and equipment make up the STAR Team as it is today.

The STAR Team has gone back to the way it originally started out, except with many more members. They have no funding or paid employees. There is a team coordinator but no formal CMS monitoring and everyone uses their own equipment.

Certainly these individuals are to be commended, because the course ahead without funding is a tough one and the SIP project is going to be a hard act to follow. These guys deserve all the support they can get for their efforts.

For the duration of time when the SIP project was operating, there were two very significant distinct synergetic operations in progress, Dispatch operations and Deployment operations

1) Dispatch Operations

Dispatchers monitored the MUFON CMS website data and reviewed all incoming sighting report cases. Most important in this effort was the review of all incoming sighting report case data and the categorization of the case reports based on specially developed criteria.

The "one thing" that was most significant about the SIP project would have to be the Dispatch Operation. We didn't completely realize this at first, but as time passed we were able to work together looking at sighting report data, coming in from all over the United States, through a single point of reference. While focusing on significant aspects of cases and the culmination of similar occurrences, we were seeing some interesting conclusions starting to materialize.

Particularly significant was the centralized effort in the surveillance of the incoming data as well as the scope of observation (looking at the whole Northern Hemisphere around the United States) which was highly significant and yielded very useful information.

A good example of this can be seen in this excerpt from a typical Dispatch report, about a series of events that occurred over a very busy 4th of July Holiday in 2009.

A Series of Events Occurred in Pennsylvania, Indiana and California during the 4th of July weekend that could be of high Significance (total 38 Reports) MUFON Dispatch verified contact information and details of the reported events and is currently monitoring for developing information.
Ø  Noteworthy Details: numerous witnesses reports coming into CMS describing Bright Orange balls, Red Orange and Amber lights, these reports were selected because they are very similar in nature as described in witness report narratives.
·       PENSYLVANIA - 12 Cases: in Bucks County, Beaver County, Delaware County, Luzerne County, Lawrence County, Lebanon County, Northampton County
·       INDIANA - 11 Cases: all describe almost the same object  (4 more case have been reported to the local state that are not in CMS yet)
·       SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA - 11 Cases: in  Los Angeles and San Bernardino

Prior to the SIP project the MUFON data (CMS) was viewed from the local prospective of each respective state director or chief investigator. They typically had access to only the cases that originated in their state.

Look at this same concept from a different angle. Take the example of a case report where a witness made a statement something like this. "We noticed the object bright in the night sky at a distance, but somehow its maneuvers appeared to anticipate our thoughts" or "it appeared to react to my thoughts" or "I noticed the object at a great distance and as I became cognizant of it, suddenly it moved directly toward me and instantly stopped almost right over my head"

Now put yourself in the shoes of the investigator who was assigned this case last night and drove for 4 hours to meet this woman. The Witness tells you her story in very sincere terms, she has a good job and seems credible with nothing to gain and everything to lose, if her employer hears of this. She takes you out to the pasture, and shows you where she witnessed this event. You check the local police reports, local newspapers, internet reports and interview the neighbors, looking for anything to corroborate the her story and come up with absolutely nothing. Driving home you think to yourself that well perhaps you did not have much of a case to start with, no physical evidence as such.

Looking at post SIP Project dispatch data and culmination of similar occurrences, particularly in light of the concepts in the "6-layer model" outlined in the Vallee Davis whitepaper, the consensus of thinking becomes much different.  

Take the case and point above, words like "it appeared to anticipate my thoughts" or "it appeared to react to my thoughts" have been articulated in hundreds of witness sighting reports. Those exact words are articulated in at least 50 sighting reports, which says something about the event and the possibility that the witness may have been stating what actually happened. Not only that, but what are the long term social effects on this person's life from an encounter like this? (in the upcoming blog article about Investigation, there are several sections devoted to the "6-layer model" outlined in the Vallee Davis whitepaper)

One final thought about Dispatch and CMS. We learned how powerful CMS is in term of the scope of sighting reports and reliability of information, for example:

Sunday Morning 9-20-09 MUFON Dispatch received approximately 70 sighting reports (during the overnight) describing a similar object and event. Witness descriptions were very similar and reports came in from Virginia to Nova Scotia:

§  Witnesses generally reported a Bright Ball like light
§  with a Cone shaped light coming from it, shining down to earth (also referred to as flood light and flash light beam)
§  Generally observed for about 30 seconds
§  Sighting reports timed the event from 1945 hrs to 2010 hours EST
§  Object reported to be high in the sky, general area where jets normally fly
§  Some Witnesses reported that they could see a triangular shaped object in front of the light coming down to earth.
 Note: There was a scheduled Rocket launch at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center`s Wallops Flight Facility, located on Virginia`s Eastern Shore. The time of the launch is consistent with the times of the multiple sighting reports coming into CMS.  Associated Press Article - NASA launches rocket, dozens report strange lights
(AP) – 12 hours ago WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — NASA says it successfully launched a rocket in Virginia as part of an experiment, and the blast may have caused dozens of people to report seeing strange lights in the sky. About the time of the launch, dozens of people in the Northeast started calling local television stations to report seeing strange lights.

CMS is an excellent and very powerful reference source that records what the public is seeing (or not seeing) in the sky over the United States.

2) Deployment operations
Significant cases that fit very carefully developed criteria for the project, were vetted and reviewed for possible deployment of a rapid response investigative team. In the context of this article, "Deployment" is defined as the operational process of putting an investigator or team of investigators at the scene of an event. This includes the process of selection (who is going to work on the case), the SOP (standard operating procedure) for the deployment, arranging transportation, lodging, making equipment available, organizing support personal and the report process. Deployment is expensive and requires funding to support an operations staff in order to be facilitated effectively.

During the SIP project as indicated we had a full time operations unit with personnel essentially on call almost 24/7 to make travel arrangements and ship equipment. We had a virtual schedule which outlined accessibility of Investigators, both from a time availability standpoint and geographic location. (you don't want to fly someone from California, to work a case in Virginia) and equipment (radiation detection, video equipment etc.) that was packed in shipping cases for immediate delivery to the location.

Throughout a deployment things happen very quickly and you have to be organized, well prepared in advance and have an SOP in effect. There is relationship between the time that elapses, from occurrence of an event to the time the investigator is on location, and the quality of information that can be obtained and developed. The sooner an investigator gets to the scene the more accurate the report is generally going to be. 

Confidentiality: The SIP project investigators all signed a confidentiality agreement and agreed that while the case was being investigated the elements of the case were to be kept confidential. We didn't want a lot of internet traffic about a case (or our witnesses) going on while we are interviewing and collecting evidence. This is especially critical when dealing with anonymous witnesses or law enforcement personnel who might be willing to help you, but do not want to be in the public view.

An event concerning confidentiality occurred at an airport. The following excerpt will provide some insight:

An Event Occurred in Louisville, Kentucky on the premises of Louisville International Airport.
Noteworthy details: MUFON Dispatch verified a report submitted by a ramp (cargo) employee at Louisville International Airport.  The event occurred during daylight while witness was on duty at the airport. The witness heard ground radio traffic talking about a UFO, and about a 1/2 hour later witness sighted an object and described the following:
·       a reflection as if someone had a mirror and was trying to signal you.
·       it would flash then be dark and then the sun would catch it and flash again,
·       it was about midway over the runway at this point, estimated altitude 600-1500 AGL
·       As object came closer Witness could make out it was rotating and was a cylinder and then a diamond shape. As it spun horizontally and clockwise the cylinder shape would catch the sun and reflect, but the diamond shape was black.
·       The speed of the rotation was about 4 times a minute
·       Numerous airport personal sighted object including, several Airport Public Safety Officers (Emergency Police / Fire dual role Responders) who videotaped the object in flight over airport.

One might be thinking "It just doesn't get much better that this!" with multiple highly qualified observers at an airport including police, emergency responders and even video tape. . . . well  . . . not exactly.. . what happened?

Behind the scenes (almost immediately) someone at MUFON filed a FOIA request with the FAA. A few days later, excited investigators who had contacted sources at the airport and made appointments to conduct interviews, were stopped dead in their tracks, as might be expected . . . suddenly no one would talk about it  . . . like it never happened!

Lesson learned; Move fast, deploy quickly and maintain confidentially while the investigation is in progress. "you can get more done in the shadows, than you can in the spotlight".

SOP (standard operating procedure): when we first started the SIP project there was so much excitement in the air and everyone was ready and anxious to deploy. Keep in mind even the most experienced airline pilots still use a checklist  and a good SOP with a set procedure for how a deployment should unfold is an absolute necessity.


On one of the first cases as soon as the investigator got the deployment notice, he immediately had operations make an airline reservation, and was actually at the location by late that same afternoon to interview the witness. Upon arrival at the residence of the witness, a woman, answered the door. She told the investigator that the witness had just left to go to a funeral for their cousin in another state. The investigator had to wait around for almost 3 more days in the hotel until the witnesses came home. Hence the first line of the new SOP "once you have been activated for deployment, do not jump in your car and head for the airport . . . .slow down and plan you deployment!"
Equipment: Very early on during the SIP project, we looked at a wide range of equipment that we wanted to buy and evaluated it in terms of usefulness and cost. For example a spectrum analyzer might be rented for the few times (within the life of a project) when needed, as opposed to purchasing such a piece of equipment for $25,000 - $30,000.

We found the same to be true when we looked at infrared camera equipment, which at that time cost between $10,000 and $25,000, fortunately on the 68 deployments during the SIP project, we never had an event that would have warranted us to rent one. We did have a very nice radiation detector, which was sent on about 8 deployments, but never once were recorded readings any more than background levels.

When it comes down to it on equipment, some of the basic stuff is most important. Absolutely number one is a Laptop, it must be required. You would think that is obvious but we actually had one of the first cases where an investigator deployed and did not have one. Next is a digital camera which absolutely must be required. Third a video camera is also highly desirable, not because you are likely to film anything related to the object reported in the event, but video of witness testimony is sometimes priceless.

Video: is very powerful (in the upcoming blog article about Investigation, there is a section on video interview techniques) here are some of the basic things:
·       Documents testimony forever (witness dies, changes mind, not available)
·       Video Lie detector (people tend to be more truthful and careful when filmed)
·       Can be reviewed later to corroborate and compare witness statements
·       Discrepancies can be easily identified and documented
·       Can be used to consult with other Investigators
·       Upload video interview via internet (YOUSENDIT) overnight to other investigator
·       Viewer can see body language, attitude, temperament and personality
·       Much more realistic than written report
·       Used on TV Discovery Channel Shows 

Luggage that has wheels and can be carried on airlines is also very important. Everything that is packed has to be able to fly (airport security) and having the clothes and equipment packed ready to go is an extra plus.

This is the sad part of the story because we lost a lot. The reference made to "We" in this section is directed to the research community at large and not just MUFON general membership.

First and foremost in my assessment we lost our good friends at BAASS. I thought that the people at BAASS including the infamous Mr."B" were pretty good guys in all of this. After all they put up the funding which paid all of the salaries and expenses for the SIP project.

As indicated part of my responsibility was to make decisions about deployments for the SIP Project investigators and review the case reports. Deployment was solely my responsibility and I had complete control of who went where, when and for how long. No one at BAASS ever interfered with us in this regard!

The terms of the contract agreement between MUFON and BAASS were pretty simple. MUFON provided data from sighting reports in exchange for BAASS paying funds directly to MUFON each month. BAASS was prohibited from exercising any management authority over MUFON. There was nothing sinister about any of this. We worked with these people on a day to day basis and form my prospective they kept their part of the deal.

BAASS investigated cases and used their case report information privately. They were paying us very generously for information and providing enough funding that we could freely investigate any cases we chose to and write reports about anything we desired without restriction. That was very powerful, and if it would have continued, the research community "we" would have benefited from it greatly.  

The other great loss was that of the leadership and collaborative effort on the part of some very dedicated individuals from both MUFON and BAASS, that came to gather in that short time to create what became the SIP project. The countless hours of hard work, the diligence of the dispatchers who surveyed the data, the objective investigation, and the investigators who would deploy on a moment's notice all made the program what it was. I am proud to have been a part of that collaborative effort!  

Finally, and worst of all "we" lost a lot of our own credibility . . . bottom line we had $672,000 that was put up to fund our research (with not very many strings attached).  Less than one year later, after the dust settled from the all the infighting, avariciousness and paranoia, the program was shut down, with over half the money left unspent still on the table, leaving the UFO research community at large as the big looser!


Copyright © 2011 - Richard Lang - All Rights Reserved.


[1] Note: more information about the structure of the BAASS MUFON SIP Project program can be found in the blog article of March 6th "What caused the Failure of the BAASS - MUFON SIP Program?"

[2]  Vallée, J. F. and Davis, E. W., “Incommensurability, Orthodoxy and the Physics of High Strangeness: A 6-Layer Model for Anomalous Phenomena,” in Proceedings of the 2nd International Forum on Science, Religion and Consciousness Oct. 2003, eds. J. Fernandes and N. L. Santos, Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Consciousness, University Fernando Pessoa, Porto, Portugal, 2005, pp. 225-239.
See full text (www.jacquesvallee.com) both in English and French. Follow the link to "personal research"
[3]  MUFON UFO Journal - August 2008 Volume No. 484 page 15 see: photo and article

[4] MUFON UFO Journal  - May 2008 Volume No. 485 page 22 see: Director's Message - MUFON STAR Team Coordinator

[5]  MUFON UFO Journal -  February 2008 Volume No. 490 page 11 see: STAR Team presents new logo