Sen. Gillibrand's historic legislation would revolutionize study of UFOs

Sen. Gillibrand's historic legislation would revolutionize study of UFOs
© Greg Nash

In recent years, U.S. naval aviators reported numerous encounters with mysterious flying objects, many of which maneuvered in ways that appeared to defy physics and aerodynamics. Alarmingly, the unknown craft operated with apparent impunity in restricted airspace.

As details of these incidents became public, high-level officials – including former Presidents Obama and Clinton, two former CIA directors, an ex-director of national intelligence and the current NASA administrator – made a series of unprecedented, eyebrow-raising comments about the phenomena.

Now, Congress is poised to debate a historic UFO-related amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is a critical, “must-pass” law.

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As first reported by veteran researcher Douglas Dean Johnson, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandEx-officials voice deep concerns over new Pentagon UFO unit Paid leave advocates ramping up the pressure on Manchin and Schumer Gillibrand, bipartisan lawmakers push to keep military justice overhaul in NDAA MORE’s (D-N.Y.) proposed legislation would fundamentally transform the government’s approach to the UFO phenomenon. Indeed, the Gillibrand amendment would shift decades of official, Cold War-induced deflection and obfuscation towards increasingly transparent, objective scientific analysis.

If adopted, Gillibrand’s proposal would expand significantly on House-approved legislation authored by Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoWith Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Poll shows Sinema's popularity dropping further among Arizona Democrats Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (D-Ariz.) that establishes a government office tasked with analyzing and evaluating UFO reporting from U.S. military and intelligence personnel.

Critically, the Gillibrand amendment requires the government to submit comprehensive annual reports on UFO activity in an unclassified format. If the proposed legislation is passed as written, it would mandate unprecedented government transparency on the UFO phenomenon. This alone should prompt interested citizens to contact their elected representatives regarding Gillibrand’s bold amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

Beyond granting a new, UFO-focused unit robust bureaucratic authorities and access to an array of critical government resources, Gillibrand’s amendment would empower the office’s leadership to initiate and supervise rapid field investigations of UFO encounters.

Moreover, the Gillibrand proposal requires that all elements of the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community share UFO-related data with the new office (which Gillibrand calls the “Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office”). Importantly, the amendment mandates regular reporting to Congress if any UFO-related information was withheld from the office due to “classification restrictions” “or for any other reason.”

To top it off, the amendment requires collaboration on UFOs with several key government agencies – including NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security – as well as with “allies and partners of the United States.”

Intriguingly, Gillibrand’s proposed legislation also zeroes in on several noteworthy elements of the UFO phenomenon.

In a nod to decades of military reporting that unknown objects appear to exhibit extraordinary technology, the Gillibrand amendment would require the government to study “characteristics and performance of [UFOs] that exceed the known state of the art in science or technology.” The goal, according to Gillibrand’s legislation, is to “replicate any such advanced characteristics and performance.”

At the same time, the amendment significantly broadens the definition of UFOs to include “transmedium” craft, which the legislation defines as “objects or devices that are observed to transition between space and the atmosphere, or between the atmosphere and bodies of water.”

Gillibrand’s proposal also dives headlong into an apparent link between UFO encounters and nuclear technology.

Broadly speaking, the contemporary UFO phenomenon commenced shortly after the development of nuclear weapons. Moreover, researchers have documented a long, perplexing history of UFO sightings in close proximity to military bases hosting nuclear arms. At the same time, the encounters that touched off the recent flurry of interest in UFOs were reported by naval aviators flying fighter aircraft from nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

By mandating annual reports of UFO encounters “associated with military nuclear assets, including strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered ships and submarines,” Sen. Gillibrand appears determined to get to the bottom of this apparent connection.

Moreover, in a possible acknowledgement of persistent rumors that the U.S. government may have recovered exotic materials from crashed UFOs, Gillibrand’s amendment would require annual reporting on “any efforts to capture or exploit recovered” UFOs. Similarly, the proposal mandates standardized analysis and reporting of “adverse physiological effects” and “any health-related effects for any individuals who have encountered” UFOs.

Perhaps the most important element of the Gillibrand proposal is the establishment of a 25-member “Aerial and Transmedium Phenomena Advisory Committee.”

If the Gillibrand amendment is adopted as written, this committee would bring a broad array of scientific expertise to bear on the UFO phenomenon. As outlined in the proposed legislation, the panel’s membership would include NASA scientists and robust representation from independent scientific organizations such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the Galileo Project at Harvard University and the Scientific Coalition for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Studies.

The inclusion of such external scientific expertise is critical to any objective assessment of the UFO phenomenon. Indeed, the experience of the only two civilian scientists – renowned atmospheric physicist James McDonald and astronomer J. Allen Hynek – who enjoyed unfettered access to the U.S. Air Force’s 20-year effort to debunk UFO sightings is instructive.

Both initially skeptical of the UFO phenomenon, McDonald and Hynek’s years of meticulous research ultimately led them to make convincing arguments that some UFO encounters – especially those captured by multiple sensor platforms and reported by highly credible observers – may have extraordinary explanations.

More recent comments by former top intelligence officials stating that some UFOs exhibit “technologies that we don’t have and, frankly, that we are not capable of defending against,” and that such phenomena might constitute “a different form of life” only reinforce the need for a robust, scientific inquiry. Ditto for statements that U.S. intelligence analysts have “high confidence” that foreign adversaries could not have developed the seemingly advanced technology observed by military aviators in recent years.

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Ultimately, passage of Gillibrand’s NDAA amendment would mark a historic shift in how the government treats the UFO phenomenon. By drawing upon scientific expertise while demanding – and empowering – analytic objectivity, Gillibrand’s proposed legislation may ultimately be a critical step toward unraveling a deep and enduring mystery.

Today, UFOs are a rare bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill. As such, Americans of all political stripes should support Sen. Gillibrand’s bold proposal.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.