Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) has authored a legislative amendment which will give Congress more tools to understand the UAP phenomenon. In addition to mandatory language requiring a serious “nuts and bolts” UAP study, the Gillibrand Amendment requires the federal government to study the “health-related effects” linked to close contact with UAP. Study of the health effects will help military personnel who experience contact.
While there has been real progress by Congress over the last few years, this amendment is a bold step that should speed up congressional understanding of the mystery. Senator Gillibrand’s proposed amendment builds upon the foundational language, largely drafted by Congressman Reuben Gallego (D-Ariz.), found in Section 1652 of the 2022 Defense Authorization Act. The Amendment could fundamentally change the government’s approach by requiring independent scientific, engineering and medical expertise to UAP study.
Section 1652 and the Gillibrand Amendment
Gillibrand’s original proposal (Senate Amendment (“S.A.”) 4281) amends UAP language in section 1652 (Establishment of Office to Address Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). Two weeks after formal introduction of her amendment, Gillibrand reintroduced it with four Senate cosponsors. (S.A. 4810.) Section 1652 of the 2022 Defense Authorization Act sets up a six year program for the study of UAP. The current language of the defense funding bill requires an annual report to Congress on the progress of a new Pentagon-wide UAP program. 1652 mostly leaves the details to the Pentagon, but requires regular updates to six committees, House and Senate Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations/Affairs on progress. It also gives the discretion to the Pentagon to consult with our allies about the subject.
If adopted, the Gillibrand Amendment takes the UAP provisions in the Defense Authorization Bill to a new level. It adds new mandates including with whom the Pentagon consults with (foreign and domestic); what is studied (UAP, USOs and health-related issues); and how the new office (“Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office” (“ASRO”) is funded.
The Gillibrand Amendment adds greater specificity to many of the original Bill’s consultation requirements. An example is found under an amendment in subsection 1652(c)(6). In the original bill, the Pentagon UAP program was required to coordinate with other federal departments as determined by the Pentagon. The Amendment names specific federal departments that must be consulted. They include the FAA, NASA, Homeland Security, NOAA, and the Department of Energy. Each department would likely have relevant information that the military does not possess. The mandated consultation is meant to address, in part, the current lack of coordination between agencies.
While most of the language continues procedures placed in the original House Bill (HR 4350, Section 1652), there are stricter oversight provisions. For instance, if the Pentagon’s ASRO is denied access to data in a classified program, notice of the denial must be given to chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. This requirement will give the four military/intelligence committees information about where future bottlenecks are located. (HR 4350, Section 1652(k)(4).)
One of the most underreported, yet significant, proposed amendment is the “Assignment of Priority” subsection. (HR 4350, section 1652(h).) This portion of the amendment requires that the UAP program be designated as a priority under National Intelligence Priorities Framework. The Framework designation helps the UAP program receive funds from programs intended for “general intelligence gathering and intelligence analysis” (1652(h)(1)), “strategic defense” purposes (1652(h)(2)), and “any additional existing funding sources as may be so designated by the Secretary (Defense) or the Director (National Intelligence). This should eliminate one of the banes of the serious study of the subject, lack of funding. Previous UFO/UAP study programs were usually limited to a fixed amount of funding. This provision elevates the study of UAP higher up the funding food chain. It can be funded through general funding sources that continue from year to year. The top intelligence and military officials would also have the authority to add funding sources. However, they could not cut off funding during the six year cycle authorized by law if this amendment is added to the Defense Authorization bill. This is a massive step forward that makes the UAP program a top defense/intelligence priority.
The Gillibrand Amendment could have long term benefits for service personnel who have had UAP/USO interactions. The Pentagon must study the “health-related effects” of interactions with UAP. (Section 1652(j)(2)(J)(S.A. 4281).) The language goes beyond physical injuries as follows:
(2) military and civilian personnel employed by or under contract to the Department or an element of the intelligence community shall have access to procedures by which they shall report incidents or information, including adverse physiological effects, involving or associated with unidentified aerial phenomena directly to the Office. (Section 1652(b)(2)(S.A. 4281).) (emphasis added.)
There are several possible areas of inquiry. The most obvious are potential physical effects from close contact with UAP. While the June 25, 2021, Preliminary Assessment did not mention any physical injuries from UAP Contact, a recent book about the previous UAP program (Advanced Aerospace Weapon Systems Applications Program (AAWSAP)) discussed radiation-related injuries sustained by government personnel studying the phenomenon. (Lacatski, Kelleher, Knapp. Skinwalkers at the Pentagon: An Insiders’ Account of the Secret Government UFO Program (2021).) This book chronicles portions of the investigations undertaken by a contractor to the Pentagon’s first UAP program, starting in 2007. Because it discussed a classified program, it was reviewed and approved by the government before publication. Since intelligence community censors approved the book’s contents, including these disturbing incidents, they must be considered true and should be known to congressional committees with proper clearance.
In addition to physical effects, former military personnel have been discussing the physiological and psychological effects of contact with non-terrestrial objects and their occupants. The physiological/psychological impacts also have surfaced for many active duty and veterans as a result of government policies that ridicule their on-duty experiences. The June 25th Report to Congress made note of this policy that has led to many service personnel leaving the service over the way they were treated in the aftermath of a UAP sighting/experience.
Focusing on the study of the health effects of UAP, Senator Gillibrand is well suited to guide this new approach to the USO/UAP phenomenon. She is one of a few Senators that are on both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both are the main committees engaged in oversight of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. In her role as a committee member, she has taken on tough issues, most notably elimination of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and reforms to address sexual assault claims against military personnel. Her approach to the USO/UAP subject is similar to how the Senator approached those reforms. She addresses the problems of the unrepresented who face institutional stigmatization.
Congressional legislation that mandates the study of these effects is a significant step forward towards understanding the UAP phenomenon. Physical and psychological trauma, whether caused by government policy or the phenomenon itself, has the potential for bringing the psychological impacts with the UAP phenomenon to a national stage. Overall, the Gillibrand Amendment mandates many functions left to the discretion of the Pentagon under the current text of the bill. It allows UAP research funding from many national security programs, and it untethers it from funding limitations that have hampered many past UFO/UAP studies. The Gillibrand Amendment is the most important congressional proposal in the history of the phenomenon.
Status of Amendment and Political Concerns
Despite all of the positives of the New York Senator’s amendment, it will accomplish little if it is not added to the 2022 Defense Authorization Bill. It must still pass the Senate. After it passes the Senate, it must go to a conference committee so that differences between the original House version and the Senate’s version can be worked out. Once the conference committee agrees to the contents of the Bill, the final version must be approved by both House and Senate.
Annually, this Bill is a contentious matter. This year it has 722 proposed amendments pending in the Senate. Considering the impasse over the federal government’s debt ceiling, the current bipartisan disfunction stands in the way of approval of any proposal, let alone the Defense Bill. However, the UAP issue seems to be generating an eclectic group of bipartisan supporters.
Despite the lack of any organized lobbying from the UFO community, the efforts of a small group of members of Congress have made the UAP issue a national defense priority. The emergence of Senator Gillibrand as an advocate for UAP study has changed the focus of study to include impacts of UAP on service personnel. Her outreach to Senate colleagues with the Amendment is gaining momentum.
Since the November 4, 2021, introduction of the amendment, there has been a flurry of activity, both in the Senate and Pentagon. On November 18, 2021, Senator Gillibrand reintroduced the amendment. (S.A. 4810.) The reintroduced amendment has four cosponsors, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Except for Sen. Graham, the other cosponsors are members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, with Sen. Rubio serving as Vice-Chair. Graham is a former member of the Air Force and Air Force Reserves with a combined 33 years of service. The addition of these cosponsors significantly increased the amendment’s chance of passage.
Within five days of the reintroduction of the amendment with cosponsors, the Deputy Director of the Pentagon issued a policy memorandum that replaced the UAP Task Force with the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG). This Pentagon-based group was established without any of the legislative oversight provisions of the current UAP language in the annual defense funding bill or the provisions of the Gillibrand Amendment. Essentially, it is an “end run” around the proposed congressional legislation to help keep the Pentagon and the intelligence community in full control of the UAP evaluation process, limiting congressional oversight. The timing of this policy issuance with what appears to be a pre-drafted policy interferes with the legislative process going on in the Senate. This highly unusual move may complicate the issue and prevent passage of the Gillibrand Amendment.
The Gillibrand Amendment will give Congress the tools to understand much about the UFO phenomenon. The codification of a Pentagon mandate to study “health-related effects” of the phenomenon, if properly implemented, could assist current and former service personnel who have had contact with the phenomenon. This could have positive benefits for all who have interacted with non-terrestrial entities.