The U.S. could enter a new age of UFO transparency with the passage of several amendments tucked into the "other matters" section of the voluminous 2023 defense bill.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), approved by the House on Friday in a 219-210 vote, includes the UAP Disclosure Act, which requires the release of known sightings of UAPs, or Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, the U.S. government's preferred term for unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
The bill requires the Department of Defense to declassify any documents and records about publicly-known UFO sightings that won't compromise national security.
It also requires the creation of a "secure" channel for UFO reporting that includes protection of government employees' jobs and from retribution; searches for all nondisclosure agreements related to UFOs/extraterrestrial life; and updates to Congress by Sept. 30, 2023, and every fiscal year until 2026.
The bipartisan UAP Disclosure Act includes a search for records about UFOs going back to Jan. 1, 1945, the bill states.
Specifically, records of "any program or activity was protected by restricted access that has not been explicitly and clearly reported to Congress" and efforts to "obfuscate, manipulate public opinion, hide or otherwise provide incorrect unclassified or classified information" about UFOs.
It was modeled after the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collections Act of 1992 and will create a UAP Records Collection and an independent UAP Records Review Board.
"The UAP Records Collection would carry the presumption of immediate disclosure, which means that a review board would have to provide a reasoning for the documents to stay classified," the office of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a press release.
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The Review Board will have 72 hours to either release the records or postpone disclosure. The president can agree or overturn the board's decision.
Many of the UAP amendments were proposed in the Senate by Sens. Schumer and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and in the House by Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who has been outspoken on the UFO topic and pushing for more transparency.
"For decades, many Americans have been fascinated by objects mysterious and unexplained, and it’s long past time they get some answers," Schumer said in a statement.
"The American public has a right to learn about technologies of unknown origins, non-human intelligence, and unexplainable phenomena. We are not only working to declassify what the government has previously learned about these phenomena but to create a pipeline for future research to be made public."
The hunt for UFOs, and the subsequent destigmatization of the topic, has been like a pressure cooker for the last few years.
It became boiling hot when decorated Air Force veteran David Grusch blew the whistle on a secret UFO retrieval program run by the government, which he claims has "dead, non-human" pilots and extraterrestrial tech that it's reverse engineering.
Grusch claims this information has been hidden from Congress. None of his assertions have been verified to date, although he's largely believed by experts in the field.
Vice Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told NewsNation in a recent interview that other members of the intelligence committee have come forward with "firsthand" accounts of crashed UFO tech that supports Grusch's assertions.
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"There is a lot we still don’t know about these UAPs and that is a big problem," Rubio said after the bill passed Friday.
"We’ve taken some important steps over the last few years to increase transparency and reduce stigmas, but more needs to be done. This is yet another step in that direction, and one that I hope will spur further cooperation from the executive branch."
Grusch likely spurred the creation of Intelligence Authorization Act, which is also included in the 2023 defense bill.
It states any employee under contract that "has in their possession material or information provided by or derived from the" government relating to UAP has 60 days to notify the DoD's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).
All "recovered technologies of unknown origin (TUO) and biological evidence of non-human intelligence (NHI)" is considered to be property of the federal government by eminent domain, the bill states.
AARO is a specialized department in the Pentagon that investigates UAPs. It's headed by Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, who said about 2%-5% of the 800 cases AARO is looking into are "truly anomalous."
NASA is also investigating UFOs, running on a separate but parallel track as AARO.
Both NASA and AARO are expected to release separate reports this summer.