Two intelligence funding appropriation bills currently awaiting approval from the US Congress contain within them sections for the creation of a new office to investigate UFO sightings.
Interest in UFOs – known as UAPs or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in current US defence parlance – has increased over recent months following the preliminary release of an official US government report on UAP incidents in June this year [PDF].
The report was compiled by a Pentagon-mandated body known as the UAP Task Force after a number of videos featuring US Navy pilots intercepting unidentified objects were leaked in 2017, followed by a New York Times article in December of that year which revealed that the US Department of Defense's secret Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to investigate UAPs was still running, despite the Pentagon claiming it had been shut down in 2012.
The UAP Task Force was duly set up in 2020 to investigate 144 UAP sightings which occurred between 2004 and the present and attempt to determine what, if anything, was going on in each incident.
When the task force delivered its report to Congress in June 2021, it was revealed that the team had only been able to explain away one of the unexplained encounters, which was confirmed to be an errant weather balloon.
Of the remaining 143 incidents, some were thought to be down to "sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis," but ultimately 80 of them were recorded on multiple sensor platforms and remain unaccounted for.
Thus it is that two intelligence funding bills are currently waiting to be placed before the two respective houses of the US Congress, both containing different sections which would appropriate money for the continued investigation of UAPs.
The appropriations appear to be dedicated mostly to Earthly intelligence matters, however, meaning a full Congressional investigation into the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors is unlikely. Section 1652 of House Bill HR.4350 is dedicated to "Establishment of [an] Office to Address Unidentified Aerial Phenomena." It lays out its duties thus:
Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, shall establish an office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense to carry out, on a Department-wide basis, the mission currently performed by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force as of the date of the enactment of this Act.
It is extraordinary how governments manage to make even the cool stuff sound incredibly boring.
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It proposes to do this by standardising the reporting of such phenomena across the DoD's many branches, while also coordinating reports from across other sections of the US federal government and from the USA's "allies and partners."
But later, paragraphs 4 and 5 explicitly state that the purpose of the proposed office is "evaluating links between unidentified aerial phenomena and adversarial foreign governments, other foreign governments, or nonstate actors" and "evaluating the threat that such incidents present to the United States."
Section 1652 proposes that the new UAP office should deliver a report to Congress once a year for at least the next five years, with the first being delivered not later than the end of 2022.
But it does manage to go just a tiny bit X-Files at the end of explaining what should be in those reports, when it asks for "an update on any efforts underway on the ability to capture or exploit discovered unidentified aerial phenomena", which suggests that even if Area 51 isn't currently a top-secret base full of experimental flying machines, broken UFOs and dead aliens, it soon might be.
The bill does not state whether the public will be able to read any reports delivered to Congress, but the secret squirrel tendencies of the US DoD and intelligence community would suggest not.
Meanwhile, Section 345 of the Senate's S.2610 Bill lays out the basis for permanent establishment of the UAP Task Force responsible for the report from June this year. The two bills disagree on this point, since the House bill specifically states that the Secretary for Defense should establish a new office and terminate the UAP Task Force.
It is presumably not beyond the wit of the assembled Congress to simply make the UAP Task Force the designated office for the coordination of UAP investigation described in the House Bill, or to just rename it. Although the history of US military procurement does not inspire confidence that common sense will necessarily prevail.
Section 345 is otherwise similar in scope to its House counterpart, although it goes into less detail. It suggests the permanent UAP Task Force should give reports to Congress quarterly (rather than annually) and explicitly states that these reports "shall be submitted in classified form". Boooooo!
It is unclear whether a new office specifically tasked with looking into the UFO phenomenon will be established. The two bills involved have yet to be debated by their respective houses and the relevant sections may yet be cut or amended.
But it seems from recent Congressional history that the desire to find out more about UFOs is one of the few things which can elicit genuine bipartisan support, so we live in hope. ®