Last June, senators and staff involved in Intelligence and Defense subcommittees were reportedly “coming out of the woodwork” to receive briefings on unidentified flying objects. Whether inspired by the evidence or just a feeling of generosity, the Senate Intelligence Committee now wants to extend that courtesy to the public: On Tuesday, the committee voted to require the Defense Department and U.S. intelligence agencies to provide a public analysis of any data related to “unidentified aerial phenomenon” as soon as 2021.
The vote, part of the annual intelligence-authorization bill, comes at a time of a larger government reckoning surrounding the transparency of the UFO reporting process. “The [Intelligence Committee] remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” the senators wrote in their report on the bill.
According to Politico, if the proposal is approved by the full Senate and the House, it would require the “executive branch to centralize all relevant information about such intrusions collected from a wide range of sources, including the Office of Naval Intelligence, the FBI, satellites or other technical means, and human spies.” Such an unclassified report would be compiled by the director of National Intelligence and the secretary of Defense and would have to identify “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
According to Christopher Mellon, a former Pentagon intelligence official and advocate for UFO research, such a public accounting could be a major breakthrough. “Assuming the report is properly prepared and delivered, there is no telling what the impacts could be,” Mellon told Politico. “That could range from revealing an unknown threat or military vulnerability to there having been probes visiting our planet, or anything in between.”
Interest in the reporting process of military encounters with UFOs surged in December 2017, following a New York Times account of the Defense Department’s previously unknown Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which was founded in 2007 to investigate military sightings of UFOs. By 2019, the Navy had announced it would update the process by which pilots reported unidentified aircraft in order to approach the matter more objectively; this was followed by substantial lawmaker interest in the matter. And if Marco Rubio and the Senate Intelligence Committee get their way, the public may soon reap the benefits of the reform effort.