Friday, May 1, 2020

Book Publication: July 2020

This Book is in the final stage of publication. It will be published in July of 2020. Available in paperback printed edition and on Kindle electronic edition. A link to purchase the book will be posted here as well as on the publishers website soon

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What caused the Failure of the BAASS - MUFON SIP Program ?

MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), was the largest international UFO research organization in the world. The STAR Team was a Rapid Response UFO Investigation Unit, that was funded by a special program within MUFON known as the SIP Project.

During the period from February 2009 until the end of January 2010, I served as the STAR Team Manager and SIP Project Coordinator. 

This investigative program came to an unexpected end in January of 2010.

Since then, I have received countless phone calls and email requests, asking me to explain or confirm details about the SIP project.  Rumors floating around the internet have caused many questions to come to the surface about the controversy that surrounded the SIP Project and it's premature ending. I currently do not have any official association with the MUFON organization. I am no longer a member of MUFON or an employee.

It is not my intention to finger-point or accuse anyone. I will admit that I do not completely understand the motivations of some of the individuals that played roles in MUFON Board leadership. I do not know what they were thinking, but I do know a lot about what happened!

The following pages reflect the facts and occurrences as I remember them, from my perspective and will help one understand what went wrong.
Richard Lang

The STAR Team Impact Project (SIP) was a MUFON program funded in part by Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), where MUFON was subcontracted to provide information about witness reports related to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) from the CMS data base (website) directly to BAASS.

MUFON had a contract with BAASS (per the terms of the contract agreement) MUFON provided data from sighting reports that were submitted to MUFON CMS website, in exchange for BAASS paying funds directly to MUFON each month. This Contract was sometimes referred to as a Purchase Agreement (purchase of information) and the project was referred to as the SIP Project (STAR Team Impact Project).

Part of this money was used to directly fund the STAR TEAM, which consisted of paid investigators who would be deployed to investigate the most compelling cases and a dispatch operation that would work continuous shifts to monitor the activity of the cases coming into the CMS website. 

It is not my propose herein to discuss the actual SIP Project cases or the impact the SIP Project Investigators and the Dispatch Operators had on the MUFON organization. Most of you have looked at the cases, read the reports, seen the articles in the MUFON Journal and have decided for yourself about the worth of the SIP Project.

In General I believe that the management at BAASS was very satisfied (at least from an operational standpoint)  with the quality of the reporting (data sent to them) and investigative work performed by our SIP Project Investigators.

Information Provided to BAASS / BAASS access to CMS
Shortly after the start of the SIP project, MUFON CMS was modified to include the "third party Release Agreement Question"  which comes up during the initial internet submission of every sighting report.  This question allows the witness to decide if they want to have their personal contact information released to third parties like BAASS. (Note: you can see this question directly under the witness narrative section).

Those individuals (witnesses) who chose to answer "YES" to release of their contact information to third parties, essentially agreed to having their contact information shared with third parties and would be subject to being contacted by such third parties as BAASS.

Note: witnesses answered YES in about 95% of case reports.

BAASS was given full access (password and user ID) to the CMS data base, in all the cases where the witness answered "YES" to the "third party release question" and their investigators could see all that case information in CMS including witness contact information.

Note: BAASS Investigators were independently investigating UAP events reported to them by MUFON witnesses. BAASS is a private research organization and they do not share their proprietary information and research with MUFON. 

MUFON also provided data to BAASS about significant events that were reported in CMS. These events were identified by the Dispatch operators and reported via email by me to BAASS as they developed (and summarized in a weekly report which was sent to BAASS and selected Board members). 

A Significant Reportable Event would be (for example) multiple witnesses reporting  an object within close proximity, or a case report submitted by a trained observer like a Pilot, Police officer or Air Traffic Controller. Any landing case or one that involves possible physical evidence would be passed along as well.
Upon completion of every SIP Project Investigation the final complete investigative reports were also shared with BAASS. I reviewed all the reports and signed off on them.

A conference call was facilitated Between MUFON and BAASS every Friday to discuss the weekly report, review cases and discuss issues between the two organizations. I facilitated this conference call every week. Sometimes James Carrion, Jan Harzan and Chuck Reever (who were also MUFON Board members) participated in these calls. Chuck Modlin was Chief Technical Advisor for the STAR Team and he was on most of the calls as well. Modlin and I were not on the Board.

FUNDING for the SIP Project
Funding for the project was initiated at the beginning of March 2009 when the first check was sent from BAASS to MUFON in the amount of $56,000 for the month of MARCH. (I cannot state the exact date but I remember the first check came to MUFON HQ sometime during the last week in Feb.2009).  The SIP Project was actually not operational until the first week in April 2009, however I am sure some of that funding was used for the ramp up costs associated with the project.  

The SIP Project ran for 10 months. During that time we deployed on (investigated) about 65 SIP cases. 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.  

Confidentially Agreement / Secret Side
From the onset there has always been this misconception about the SIP Project, the idea that there was some kind of secret side to the program. I have repeatedly defended the SIP Project at least from the operational standpoint (which I managed) in terms of complete disclosure of all investigative data developed for the project, during the time I managed the project.

Each Investigator and Dispatch operator was asked to sign a confidentially agreement that required strict confidentiality in force during the deployment and no media communication. The agreement also states that information and data from a SIP case that is published in the MUFON Journal can be considered available publicly and is released from the restrictions in the agreement. (see Appendix - C)

Note: All STAR Team deployment (cases investigated) were put in CMS and Published In the Journal after completion. According to the confidentially agreement they are public information.

Financial Issues that lead to the demise of the SIP Project
As indicated in previous updates, I managed the SIP project as far as operations, Dispatch, Deployments and Investigations.  I did not have responsibility for the financial management and did not have direct access to the bank accounts or accounting.

The Contract Agreement provided for the amount of $56,000 to be paid to MUFON each month. It was initiated at the end of February 2009 and ran through the end of February 2010. It was a one year agreement with performance reviews every 4 months, the first being in June 2009 and then again in Oct 2009. Provisions were made for merit-based increases in funding  as well as for BAASS or MUFON to cancel the agreement. 

In total, MUFON received only about $324,000 from BAASS SIP Project, which was a little less than half of the original contract deal that could have paid a total of $672,000 in the first year to MUFON.

MUFON Board ultimately left over half of the allocated SIP Project funding on the table, leaving  MUFON almost broke, having to close the office in Fort Collins and lay off the last of the remaining two employees.

Chronology of Events
February 2009 - BAASS Contract Agreement was finalized and approved by MUFON Board.
  • Planning and development of a PowerPoint presentation for State Directors and Membership was initiated to outline the project and invite participation in the project.
  • This PowerPoint presentation was emailed to State Directors.
  • Live Presentation for a rollout of SIP Project to State Directors was set up via scheduled conference calls, looking for State Directors suggestions and input, fielding questions and getting their buy-into program.
  • Final planning for SIP Project completed based on State Directors input.
  • Application and  enrollment period – received applications at MUFON HQ.
  • SIP Project Management Team meeting in Colorado (4 days) to review applications and finalize hiring of Dispatchers and STAR Team Field Investigators.
  • Applications processed and paperwork was completed for employment and tax withholding for 12 Dispatchers and 54 Investigators.
  • Live training meetings were conducted for the Dispatch Team, via a series of conference calls.
  • SOP for Dispatch operation was finalized.
  • Management team works closely with Dispatchers for first 2-3 weeks
  • ShiftBoard, which was a scheduling website was set up with teams for each state and region
  • BAASS and MUFON management team start weekly meetings
  • Discussions about project and weekly sighting reports
  • Deployments and Investigation Reports were forwarded to BAASS
  • BAASS had paid MUFON $224,000 by June ($56,000 X 4 Months)
  • MUFON was spending about $25,000 per month on the project and had accumulated about $120,000 in savings, which was not spend on the SIP project. 
  • $5000. each month was to allocated for a special Rewards Program (bonus)
  • for incentive Bonus for SIP Investigators ($1500 and $750 monthly)
  • for incentive Bonus for Dispatchers ($750)
  • Advertising MUFON on National Media
  • Creating a paid Public Relations position
  • Advertising to Police departments across the USA
  • Paying for Google ad status (MUFON on top in searches for "Reporting UFOs")
As part of the performance review process, in June, BAASS reduced the amount of money they were paying MUFON to $25,000 a month.
  • There was a lot of good publicity about the SIP project. The quality of the SIP investigative work was considered very high. The dispatch operation was well organized and producing very useful information.
  • The weekly Conference calls with the BAASS management team were getting more intense, with Carrion, Harzan and Reever very upset with BAASS, while Modlin and I remained supportive of the project. I was in a sticky spot trying to keep the SIP project going forward, while tension continued to build about the funding issues. The BAASS guys were always very professional with me. I was embarrassed at times with the way MUFON Leadership treated them.
  • BAASS was still very cognizant of the $120,000 which they believed to be in savings and it was clear they were going to take a stand with MUFON to get more money  spent on the project.
  • Behind the scenes, there was a lot of tough talk about BAASS trying to control MUFON and the MUFON Board wasn't going to put up with it! I never understood this because no one  at BAASS ever tried to interfere with the operation of the SIP Project or tell me what to do.
  • The BAASS guys had articulated to me a number of times that they wanted to work this out with MUFON. At that time my relationship with the BAASS management was good and a high level of trust had developed.
  • The project was going better that ever expected. BAASS was very happy with the Dispatch Operation (data) and the quality of the work the SIP investigators were providing. 
  • It did not appear that much communication was taking place, in that that Carrion and Harzan were at an impasse with BAASS. 
  • In any event, Carrion and Harzan essentially refused the deal. (not sure if an actual check was returned, destroyed or just not accepted) It is not clear which other Board Members behind the scenes were involved in this decision.
  • No additional funding was ever received form BAASS after that.
  • During the last couple months I was never able to discuss this with Carrion and do not know what his thinking was, but it was obvious that he was not happy with BAASS and was losing interest in the SIP project.
  • On 12-26-09 I received an email from Carrion indicating that Jan Harzan was taking charge of SIP project. (see Appendix - B)
  • During the Christmas holiday I initiated a conference call with the Dispatchers and let them know we were running out of money. Moral was very low on the team. They had worked so hard to build the STAR Team to a level that had not been expected.
  • Harzan made several requests to BAASS asking them to at least send enough money to cover salaries. You have to wonder what they were thinking when back in October MUFON was  offered  $15,000 a month (from BAASS) and they refused it.
  • I discovered by accident one night (late) when I got a call from BAASS that there was a problem. The lady (BAASS office) wanted the operations manager's phone number. I asked if I could help with anything and she told me that they were having trouble opening the Quick-Books that MUFON sent over, which seemed very strange to me.
  • I spoke with the our SIP Operations Manager the next day. She confided to me that she was instructed (by Harzan) to turn over the Quick-Books for the SIP project to BAASS (for audit by their accountants). I did not realize until a couple of weeks later how devastating this actually was going to be.
  • MUFON was in a desperate situation financially and was now almost begging BAASS to help (by sending some funding).  What I didn't know until later, BAASS had been looking very carefully at the monthly reports they had been getting for the SIP Project.
  • On 1-22-10 the MUFON Dispatch operation was Shut down at 9:00pm EST. The Dispatch Operators were notified in a conference call (facilitated on 1-23-10) that their employment had been terminated
  • I was instructed to remove the BAASS Investigator's passwords and user IDs from the CMS data base and they were deactivated accordingly. BAASS no longer had access to the CMS System.
  • As the funding dwindled MUFON was asking me to stay on and help with damage control.  Harzan (and other board members) told me repeatedly not to worry because that they had enough money to pay me through the end of Feb. 2010 and probably March. They had made a promise to me that at least 2 weeks' notice to be given to end my employment.
  • The operations manager confided to me that they did not have as much money in the bank as they had previously thought.
  • Finally I got a call from Clifford Cliff on the last Friday in January (29th). He told me that this payroll check I was getting (that day) would be my last. He blamed it on BAASS indicating they had failed to send additional funding.
  • The SIP Operations Manager was terminated one week later. 
March 2009 - First Funding check from BAASS received by MUFON sometime before  March 1, 2009 and a campaign for hiring for Dispatch Operators and Field Investigators was initiated

April  2009 - First Successful month of SIP project and Dispatch Operation started to run continuous shifts.

Trouble Starts - Issues with Performance Review (June)
June, 2009 - Performance Review - Concerns were raised by BAASS about funding and the excess funds that were not spent on the project by MUFON. There was clearly some gray areas in the wording of the contract agreement, in that there was not specific language as to how MUFON could or should use unspent funds. Both parties had opposing thoughts on the issue.

MUFON taking a position that they could keep the excess money, without accounting to BAASS for how they used it.

On the other hand BAASS maintained that they expected that most of funds should be spent on the SIP Project in which money was budgeted for:

Note: incentive bonus was partly paid for one month and then discontinued to save money. A Public Relations person was ultimately hired late in the program. National police advertising and Google ads were never initiated. These problems were not resolved and it was obvious that animosity toward BAASS was building with-in MUFON Board Leadership.

July 2009 - Symposium - I personally made a presentation at the State Directors meeting explaining the SIP Project, which lasted over 2 hours and was well received. After I spoke a financial report was made to the State Directors. At the time I was very busy (with my presentation and the training meetings) but I remember being very surprised when the financial report indicated funds in MUFON at $54,000. At that time there was an additional $120,000 in a separate checking account for the SIP project, which was not disclosed to the membership. I have often wondered how this would affect the Non-profit status of the organization.

September 2009 - By September the animosity toward BAASS was continuing to build within MUFON Board Leadership. At the same time the SIP project was running in high gear and BAASS was very pleased with the work the STAR team was doing providing the Significant Reportable Events and Case Reports.

Note: apparently after the symposium, MUFON moved about $30,000 of the SIP Project money to the MUFON account, to help pay for the symposium, which was not disclosed to BAASS (in the monthly reports) at the time when it was done. MUFON later maintained that it was the equivalent of Carrion's salary that he donated to the symposium. It became an audit issue became it was not reported to BAASS until much later in the year.

Beginning of the end - Performance Review (October)
October 2009 - Carrion eventually stopped participating in the conference calls and sometimes Harzan called in. He was typically antagonistic and several times (more than once) I remember Harzan got on the weekly conference call with BAASS and then talked out loud to someone else in his office, which disrupted the call (I could tell the BAASS guys were uncomfortable with this)

October, 2009 Performance Review brought about another problem. BAASS sent a letter to MUFON indicating they were going to reduce the funding to $15,000 (which would force MUFON to spend some of the money in Savings). It was explained to me, that the $15,000 was intended to at least cover the salaries for next 4 months of the SIP Staff (SIP Manager , Operations Director, Public Relations Director and Dispatch operators) until the issues could be worked out. 

November and December 2009 - During November and December the SIP the project continued without any outside funding, rapidly dwindling the remaining financial resources within MUFON (cost then about $28,000 per month).

January 2010 - as MUFON was rapidly running out of money, the negotiation to get BAASS to continue funding was suddenly intensified on the part of the MUFON Leadership..

Serious Audit Issues come to surface
More critical there was a growing concern developing at BAASS about the monthly financial reports that had been provided to them for the SIP project.  Per the Contract agreement, each month a financial Report accounting for what was spent on the SIP project was required to be sent to BAASS. The report included salaries, operating expenses, travel, lodging and pay to investigators for each respective month.

Before the holidays (November)  BAASS had apparently made several requests for more detailed financial information to clearify how MUFON spent the funding, which were not acknowledged. BAASS made it clear that they would not send any more money until MUFON gave them the financial accounting information they asked for back in November.

later I learned that the SIP Project accounting (Quick-Books) did not match up with the bank statements and the monthly reports which were submitted to BAASS each month. Carrion did all of the monthly reporting to BAASS on spread sheets.

The BAASS auditors went through the Quick-Books and found that the monthly (spread sheet) reports did not match up. BAASS responded back to Harzan and asked for all of the MUFON bank statements from the SIP project and the MUFON checking accounts.  Harzan ordered the operations director to send them to BAASS. Harzan gave the order, but it was not clear which other Board Members behind the scenes were involved in this decision.

Harzan never conducted any kind of internal accounting on the bank records and made no effort to rectify any of the information on the monthly statements with Carrion. Essentially the whole bag of dirty laundry was handed over which was a very reckless mistake. 

Carrion was still International Director while all of this was going on, yet he was not told about any of this until it was all over. In all fairness, Carrion was never given a chance to rectify the accounting or put together any kind of  final report to make sense of it. It is not clear why Harzan did not take time to consult with Carrion and put the financial records in proper order.

The Operations Manager soon found herself in the middle of a modern day inquisition. She had worked closely with Carrion and basically took direction directly from him as to what information to record and who to pay. I personally believe she is honest and did the best she could in managing the funds for the project. In her defense she did not have any kind of financial training or bookkeeping experience.

She relied on Carrion for direction and with him suddenly out of the picture and many loose ends from the project laying around (unfinished business) she found herself being interrogated by the BAASS auditors.  The Auditors were questioning her about discrepancies  between the Monthly Statement reports sent to BAASS and bank statements.

Note: It should be noted here that the SIP bank statements reflected a number of ATM Cash withdrawals from the SIP account. These kind of transactions would be normal in a personal checking account, but are not at all typical in a business banking account and would understandably arouse the attention of any auditors.

It was the practice during the SIP Project  to provide money to investigators to pay hotel and  meal expenses. MUFON used Wal-Mart Visa cards, so when a deployment initialized, the operations manager would make a cash withdrawal from the SIP checking and then make a corresponding deposit into the respective Investigator's Visa Card at Wal-Mart, so they could pay the hotel bill.

None of this was clearly explained in the whole bag of raw financial records that was turned over to BAASS.  MUFON was presented in the absolute worst possible light.

MUFON Board Responds to AUDIT - MUFON Meltdown
January was a busy month for the MUFON Board. BAASS sent a formal letter on Jan.19th to the Board, essentially indicating BAASS auditors found about 35 financial indiscretions (discrepancies) in the reports MUFON provided to them each month in accounting for how the project money was spent.

BAASS was very professional in their correspondence, but thanks to Harzan (and all of the dirty laundry he shared with them) they had MUFON in a very delicate situation.

The MUFON Board now headed by the new international director (Clifford Cliff ), responded in a letter that apparently was not copied to Carrion, which blamed him for why the MUFON-BAASS relationship was in jeopardy. Specific language in the Board's letter like “we are sorry that we gave James responsibility without proper oversight” and "the Board was “shocked” about  (the discrepancies) appeared to be a last ditch effort to use
Carrion as scapegoat to take the full blame.

Someone leaked a copy of the Board's letter to James Carrion and he was understandably outraged. He responded (1-27-09) with a very sober Letter of Resignation to the MUFON Board, criticizing them  for not consulting with him and giving him a chance to get the books in order before they handed everything over to BAASS.

SIP Project Shut Down
The project ended prematurely in January 31 2010 when the remaining funding ran out. I was instructed by Harzan & Cliff to shut down the Dispatch Operation. Cliff stated that the official reason was to be "that the program was officially over due to an end in the contract".

By that point, MUFON was essentially broke and had to close the office in Fort Collins. They laid off the last of the two office staff employees.  


Copyright © 2011 - Richard Lang - All Rights Reserved.

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 ( 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