THIS is a good summary of both articles.
The WaPo story included footage of the plane's camera-sensor and there was audio of pilots having an encounter with "a whole fleet of them" (at least on sensors). The description was, well, standard: a generally featureless object, flying, hovering, changing direction in contradiction to the known mechanics of possible aircraft, and accelerating possibly outside the bounds of known physics.
According to NPR's "On Point" podcast / radio-show, who interviewed the guy who was the head of the UFO-Program (called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program), as per the Pentagon program there is "no question" that "these things" are flying around up there. It's just not clear what they are.
He also said that, for the money spent, the government had gotten a "much better handle" on the physics of the thing.
The guy who was the head of the program now works for
What Does The Omnivore Make of This?
Let us be perfectly clear here: this, as presented, is mind-blowing to The Omnivore. Like, in the way that The Omnivore cannot really process it--or even think about it too hard. It's that kind of Mind Blowing. It's Lovecraftian.
Well, let's first do "Why it isn't Mind Blowing"--because that kind of negative-space analysis is one that The Omnivore prefers when putting things in perspective.
- It is not super-duper credible because it's a "Navy Pilot" saying things. Firstly, aircraft pilots have been reporting strange things in the sky since, pretty much, flying began. The Omnivore has read those reports and concluded that while, yeah, credible in the sense of "not a crank" people can, and do, convincingly see strange things. Also--your intellectual / emotional priors (such as being a extreme skeptic or a kinda-believer) are so important here--and so unknown--as to make these reports simply non-entities. The credibility of the subject does not meet the absurd standard of proof for a flying saucer (which, yes, despite what UFO literally means, is what "UFO" actually means).
- It is not because the government spent several million bucks studying things. The Air Force probably spent a lot on Project Blue Book and the stated conclusion there was "Nothing to See Here." Sure--maybe it "went black budget" and "covered everything up"--but as far as we can tell without conjecture, it looked into it and found nothing to study. Remember that in the 60's the CIA was giving people LSD and the military trying to see if people could walk through walls or kill goats with their minds (these reports are also credible). The government is quite capable of spending money on stupid or crazy things just "to see."
- It is not because the NYT or WaPo reported it. They are, yes, credible sources (despite what the politics-golem in your head may tell you)--but in this case (and very carefully) the story is factual: Blah-Money was spent. Air-Man-Bleh said this, and so on. The reports are true: the Pentagon admits the program exists and happened, etc.
No--the scenario is mind blowing because if the guy is taken at his word then it is "generally considered fact" that "these things are flying around up there" and we have 'learned something about physics from studying them.' If these baldly stated claims are true then things are fucked.
Why Are Things Fucked?
Well, things are fucked (in The Omnivore's world view) because The Omnivore sees a crisis coming of the battle between Conspiracy Theory and Rationality (yes, yes, the CIA invented Conspiracy Theory to discredit--blah, blah, blah: you think orbital weapons blew up the Twin Towers even if you won't admit it, dude--or, at least, that's where your conclusions go).
No, the problem is the governor of Texas calling out the National Guard to "keep an eye on" the Army for Operation Jade Helm '15 because his constituents were convinced that it was an attempt to seize America by Obama. It's #pizzagate. It's "Seth Rich was assassinated." It's all this shit that people are believing because it fits a psychological need and overpowers their rational mind.
We're awash in that stuff. Trump is the Conspiracy Theory president (3MM illegal voters, Deep-State, etc.). This stuff is bad. When otherwise intelligent people believe insane things because of a dysfunctional matrix of misguided trust (conservative personalities who have taken advantage of their listeners / viewers) and emotional neediness they wind up making very bad decisions (taking an AR-15 to a pizza parlor, voting for Trump to protect their health care).
Even worse, The Omnivore's bullshit detector pinged pretty strongly on UFOs--they can fill enough psychological needs that you don't have to go beyond that for an explanation for them. The visual evidence is, it turns out, hard to validate (The Omnivore is not a photo-intelligence analyst--that's an actual skill. You don't have it either--so it isn't seeing-is-believing but rather believing-is-seeing.
If UFOs turn out to be real, then things are fucked because a Truth--and one of the least likely Truths--comes out of the conspiracy cloud and . . . buzzes Navy fighters. The idea that "things have been learned" from them would really meet the bar of "extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary claim."
The idea that people in the military simply "accept that these things are real and flying around up there" would mean that the military has actual gnosis (hidden truths). That they accept things as true The Omnivore finds mind boggling. It would mean that the world is not as it appears (that the speed-of-light is a serious limit even for advanced technology, that We Are Not Alone, that, maybe, The Government has been keeping mega-secrets?).
It Goes Nowhere Good
There are not many very-good (in the beneficial sense) scenarios where alien-visitation turns out to be real. Why aren't they talking to us? The best scenario is a Federation of Planets prohibition on contact--but then why fly around where we can see? For what purpose? Even if we assume abductions are fake--but flying saucers are real, it doesn't explain what they are doing here. Or why.
If they are "so alien that they cannot communicate" then we have an even bigger problem: they build ships, they take evasive maneuvers. They clearly seem to recognize an artificially made jet-fighter. This is pretty "human-like behavior" for something that has nothing in common for us as a basis of discussion. It, instead, suggests they are either afraid of jets--or have other reasons for evading (they don't want their activity exposed to us?). That isn't good--either one. If they're scared of jets, and can travel across interstellar space, a confrontation . . . would not go well.
Maybe they are talking to us? To some of us. If so, what the heck are they saying? That doesn't sound too good to The Omnivore. If it's good stuff then why not, you know, come out with it? Yes, it would be disruptive--but . . . well, the options don't seem good here either.
Maybe these things are self-replicating probes that are the answer to the Fermi Paradox? If so, maybe they're just flying cameras. Maybe they evade because they can't really communicate--they just take data and send it home? Could be. What's home like?
So Where Does The Omnivore Come Down?
The Omnivore lands on "there's some angle of this story we definitely have not been told." The story is that the head guy quit because he wasn't getting enough funding pursuant to the importance of this stuff. If what he says was true--that we have learned things, that they are generally regarded as "real," that doesn't make sense.
Studying these things would be the most important thing humanity could do. The level of potential threat would be off the charts. In the story, Harry Reid acknowledges that he made the program secret because it wouldn't have passed muster in the senate.
That, pretty much, limits how true "everyone knows/believes" and "we've learned things" could be. No--it looks like, here, there is not enough hard evidence to convince people with real-world pressing problems and that whatever has been "learned" is speculative conjecture rather than any serious advance.
So The Omnivore is still a skeptic.
But hey, maybe we'll shoot one down and get a look inside.
KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES