‘This is urgent’: Bipartisan proposal for UFO office pushes new boundaries
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says in an exclusive interview she is concerned about the impact of encounters on military personnel.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images
By BRYAN BENDER
11/17/2021 05:21 PM EST
A bipartisan proposal to create a more expansive military and intelligence program to study UFOs is urgently needed to determine whether unexplained sightings by Navy and Air Force pilots pose a threat or are evidence of some “other entity,” the lead sponsor said Wednesday.
“If it is technology possessed by adversaries or any other entity, we need to know,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in her first interview about the effort. “Burying our heads in the sand is neither a strategy nor an acceptable approach.”
Gillibrand is behind an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that is being debated this week to create an ‘‘Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office” with authority to pursue “any resource, capability, asset, or process of the Department and the intelligence community” to get to the bottom of the sightings of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAPs.
It would also require regular public reports about sensitive topics that until recently were considered to be on the fringe, including whether the government has any materials from the incidents of UFOs or data on any biological or health effects linked to any encounters.
“We’ve not had oversight into this area for a very long time,” Gillibrand said. “I can count on one hand the number of hearings I had in 10 years on this topic. That’s fairly concerning given the experience our service members have had over the last decade.”
The measure goes well beyond a similar provision that was adopted as part of the House version of the bill, or previous public efforts to study UAPs.
Gillibrand, a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said she was heavily influenced by the “repeated reports over the last two or three years of these increased sightings by Navy pilots and Air Force pilots.”
She believes the fact that the possible explanations are so varied is why a dedicated effort is required.Sharehttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.490.0_en.html#goog_1204453959Play Video
“You have a million questions that must be answered for a million reasons,” she said, citing “the entire spectrum of unidentified aerial phenomena.”
“You’re talking about drone technology, you’re talking about balloon technology, you’re talking about other aerial phenomena, and then you’re talking about the unknown,” she said. “Regardless of where you fall on the question of the unknown, you have to answer the rest of the questions. That’s why this is urgent. That’s why having no oversight or accountability up until now to me is unacceptable.”
Her amendment also would create a separate “aerial and transmedium advisory committee” made up of experts from NASA, the FAA, the National Academies of Sciences, the head of the Galileo Project at Harvard University, the director of the Optical Technology Center at Montana State University, the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, and the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics.
“You have to have the smartest, most informed minds from the world convening on these issues so you know what you’re up against,” Gillibrand said.
The increased attention follows a preliminary assessment from the director of national intelligence in June that reviewed more than 140 UAP incidents that could not be readily explained, including 18 that maneuvered in ways that appeared to defy known aerodynamics.
“There’s always the question of ‘is there something else that we simply do not understand, that might come extraterrestrially?’” DNI Avril Haines said during a public forum last week.
Gillibrand, who chairs the personnel subcommittee on Armed Services, said she is also concerned for military service members, who she contends have often been ostracized, including some who have reported what they believe to be related health effects.
“When you tell people, ‘don’t report a sighting of something that’s odd or out of the norm because people will say ‘you’re crazy,’ or you’ll lose your credibility as an airman or as a naval aviator, you’re obviously not going to report it if something is wrong with your health. The same response was received with people who were experiencing Havana Syndrome,” she said, referring to the recent mysterious injuries experienced by diplomats and other personnel.
“The treatment with which our service members have been subjected is unacceptable,” Gillibrand added. “When this happens over and over in the military, people learn to keep their mouth shut.”
She has enlisted several co-sponsors from both parties, including Republicans Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Roy Blunt and fellow Democrat Martin Heinrich. “I don’t see opposition to this on any level,” she said.
While she mostly couches her effort in national security terms, the former presidential candidate also acknowledges that the “sci-fi” implications of UFOs also compelled her to take action.
“The first question I got when I got on the Intelligence Committee was ‘Mom, tell us about the aliens.’ I go, ‘I know nothing about it,’” she recalled conversations with her two sons. “I’m getting the coolest mom jersey for sure this year.”
Indeed, she is clearly enjoying her role, joking how Congress’ oversight may lead to a congressional delegation visiting new destinations or dimensions.
“And then as soon as we plan a CODEL, I’ll let you know,” Gillibrand quipped. ”The outer space CODEL is coming.”