Can we please not screw this up?

A thorough, credible and transparent assessment of the UFO phenomenon will require us to attempt the unthinkable — and escape our own history.

From a political atmosphere so toxic and black that nobody can agree on the color of smoke comes an unlikely pair of bipartisan congressional proposals that could prove the most consequential legislation of our time. Don’t stick a fork in it yet – it’s not a done deal. And don’t pop the cork – if it becomes law, it’s just the bottom rung in the ladder towards accountability. But it appears as if, finally, after more than half a century of denial and subterfuge, our longstanding UFO dilemma will become a structural component of the national agenda.

Last month, building upon a provision of a spending bill stewarded by Republican counterpart Marco Rubio in 2020, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chair Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced S. 2610 into the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2022. Called “Support For and Oversight Of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force,” it orders the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to immediately release UFO data to the Pentagon’s one-year-old UAP Task Force. From there, it instructs the UAPTF to produce quarterly updates “to the appropriate committees of Congress.”

But the House upped the ante just a few days ago.

In its “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022,” H.R. 4350 calls for scrapping the UAPTF altogether. In its place, within 180 days of the Act’s passage, the Secretary of Defense will work with the DNI to establish a formal UFO research office. And, no later than 12/31/22, this joint project will be required to present “to the appropriate congressional committees a report on unidentified aerial phenomena.” The to-do list includes standardized reporting and cataloguing procedures across all service branches, coordination with other federal agencies, info-sharing with international allies, “evaluating links between [UAP] and adversarial foreign governments,” and issuing annual reports to congressional committees, at least through the end of 2026.

But it’s not until the page 2 printout, Sec. 1652 subsections (c)(2)(I) and (J) that the red lights start blinking. These clauses demand updates on “any efforts underway on the ability to capture or exploit discovered [UAP],” as well as “an assessment of any health-related effects for individuals that have encountered [UAP].”

Read that again. This is a minefield.

Exactly which items become law remains to be seen. But clearly, something big is going on.

“It sounds almost too good to be true. From the big picture standpoint, this is really significant, because we’ve never had Congress actually say, OK, create something that’s going to give us some information. Even Project Blue Book didn’t do that,” says researcher Robert Powell, alluding to the disgraced Air Force study that drew the curtains and turned off the lights in 1969. “Blue Book was purely done by the Air Force on its own, and we know how that turned out.”

Executive board member of the civilian nonprofit Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, Powell is co-author of UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry, and a key analyst of high-profile cases such as Stephenville 2008, the 2004 Nimitz Tic Tac incident, and 2013 Aguadilla mystery involving a videotaped UFO flaunting transmedium properties. While buoyed by the recent turn of events on Capitol Hill, Powell wonders what’s really driving lawmakers, especially with the proposed legislation’s allusions to health effects and UFO recoveries.

“Most government agencies don’t anticipate issues, they’re more reactive. I suspect (H.R. 4350) is a reaction to something they already know about,” he says. “They’re probably aware of military individuals who’ve had health problems after being exposed to a UAP. Have they measured electromagnetic emissions from a UAP, maybe in the microwave range, or gamma radiation? What do they know?”

Better yet, what do our rivals know?

“There’s a separate section in there about looking at links to foreign adversaries,” Powell says. “But if you thought UAP were Russian or Chinese, why wouldn’t you say ‘an update on any effort underway on our ability to capture and exploit discovered Russian or Chinese unidentified aerial phenomena’? It just doesn’t seem right to me. To me, that plank is in there because your concern is that Russia or China might capture one of these UAPs and figure something out that we didn’t.”

Is that happening? Has it already happened? There’s a chance we may never find out, even if Congress authorizes a continuing UFO/UAP investigation. The House bill makes no mention of disclosing results to taxpayers; the Senate version states only that quarterly updates to Congress “shall be submitted in classified form.”

And what of the scope of this research?

In June, in compliance with last year’s congressional mandate on the UAPTF, the DNI released a skimpy nine-page summary of UFO activity – all but one of the 144 studied incidents designated unexplained – logged by federal assets from November 2004 to March this year. A few months back, sensing a shift in the weather, noted Harvard astronomer and Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth author Avi Loeb joined the growing crowd. He founded the Galileo Project in hopes of developing ground-based cameras capable of acquiring detailed images of anomalous objects in near and deep space. According to the GP website, however, its research comes with a significant qualifier:

“The Galileo Project will not engage in retroactive attempts to analyze existing images or radar data, or speculate on prior UAP, observations or anecdotal reports, as these are not conducive to cross-validated, evidence-based scientific explanations.”

Pretending nothing happened before the 21st century, says Powell, does a disservice to science.

“Project Galileo is refusing to look backwards in time because they want to totally segregate themselves from the UFO community, and I can understand the ‘why’ behind that,” he says. “But you can’t ignore history. History tells you a lot about the characteristics of these objects, what to look for, patterns, how to configure your equipment.

“In my view, based on history, if the military is left to its own means, we will never see any of the data that is captured. I doubt that even Congress will necessarily see it all. I’m confident what they reported to Congress was not everything they had – it’s probably just a small fraction. Because even though we’re getting something that’s congressionally initiated, the military is going to keep the cards close to its vest, and we’ll only hear something if they want us to.”

Powell says the solution is civilian science, sharing open-source data, at home and abroad. He says SCU is collaborating with a handful of American nonprofits, the French Sigma 2 research group, and is reaching out to South American civilian research groups whose governments are far less secretive.

“On the possibility that we are truly dealing with first contact, it shouldn’t be driven by the nation state, but all of humanity, representatives of this planet,” he says. “We all have a right to this information, and we should be prepared. This should be something more than militaries and nation states of the world fighting over who gets to control it.”

The sticker price on a single F-18 Super Hornet is $67.4 million. Wonder how much money Congress will allot for an investigation into the mystery that made Boeing’s war machinery look obsolete?