Lawmakers in the House and Senate have submitted amendments to this year’s defense budget bill to declassify a greater number of documents related to unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs.
Authored by Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., the House amendment for the fiscal year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act seeks to provide greater transparency of UAP sightings, especially those witnessed by the public, without disclosing methods of intelligence gathering and sources.
“[T]he Secretary of Defense shall declassify any Department of Defense documents and other Department of Defense records relating to publicly known sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena,” the amendment reads.
Defense Department officials would have 180 days after the passage of the legislation to provide such documents, if the legislation is adopted by both chambers. The House version of the defense bill narrowly passed today, despite opposition over restricting abortion services for troops. Burchett, who has taken up the cause of anomalous phenomena oversight in the lower chamber, celebrated the inclusion of his amendment.
“Our government needs to be transparent with its people,” Burchett told Military Times via email. “I understand taking measures to avoid compromising national security, but the American people deserve to know what’s going on and what the Pentagon really knows. They can handle it.”
A sister amendment is also making its way through the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Times he was introducing an amendment to the Senate’s defense bill that would give a review board the authority to review and declassify government documents related to unidentified phenomena.
Schumer said the amendment, which would allow the president to appoint a nine-person group with Senate approval, was modeled after the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act. That bill, passed in 1992, provided greater transparency to counter claims that Kennedy had been killed by a secret government conspiracy.
The amendment comes amid reports that a hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena would soon be held in the House. Politico first reported on the plans for a hearing later this month.
Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of the Pentagon’s office responsible for studying UAPs, announced in April that his office had tracked a surge in unidentified aerial sightings. In the second UAP-related congressional hearing in 50 years, Kirkpatrick said the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office had tracked more than 650 UAP sightings since January.
Kirkpatrick emphasized, however, that he had seen nothing to suggest that any of the phenomena has extraterrestrial origins.
“AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology or objects that defy the known laws of physics,” Kirkpatrick told lawmakers. “In the event sufficient scientific data [emerges] that a UAP encountered can only be explained by extraterrestrial origin, we are committed to working with our interagency partners at NASA to appropriately inform [the] government’s leadership of its findings.”
In past years, House and Senate lawmakers have used the annual defense bill to modify how the government studies and handles information on UAPs. During this year’s round of legislative haggling, the Senate version of the defense authorization bill fully funded the unidentified phenomena office, and the intelligence spending bill gave Kirkpatrick a greater role in coordinating the government’s response to UAPs.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.