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The Pentagon is considering giving the Space Force a greater role in a stepped-up effort to track and investigate reports of UFOs. But the newest military branch isn't over the moon about the idea.

Space Force leaders are still struggling to rebrand an organization that has been lampooned since before its birth. Now, they are conflicted about becoming the military's go-to on what the Pentagon now calls "unidentified aerial phenomena," according to five current and former officials taking part in the discussions.

Advocates for the Space Force taking over for the Navy, which is currently leading the Pentagon's task force responsible for studying them, believe the new service is better suited to oversee a more robust effort aimed at collecting information on UFOs, and that its association with a topic of such public fascination, particularly among young people, could even boost recruiting.

"It makes perfect sense," said one former intelligence official who is advising the military in the planning, citing its more expansive geographic responsibilities than other military branches and access to global — and even galactic — surveillance technologies through the U.S. Space Command. "There is no limit to the Space Force mission. It doesn't have a geographic boundary like the other services."

But the former official also said some fear it will only deepen the branch's public relations challenge by providing more material for the jokes, science-fiction-themed memes and other forms of popular ridicule that the Space Force has endured since it was championed by then-President Donald Trump in 2018, who made it an applause line in his political rallies.

"They really are sensitive to that," the former official said. "They want people to take them seriously. They don't want to do anything that is embarrassing. But this is national security. This is their job."

The deliberations over what to do next about the unexplained sightings of high performance aircraft are part of a new push to establish a more permanent government research effort.

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