The provision, which was passed Thursday as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, requires the new office to be established within 180 days.
One of its main tasks will be “to synchronize and standardize the collection, reporting and analysis of incidents involving unidentified aerial phenomena across the Ministry of Defense”, according to the legislation.
The provision, now to be passed by the Senate, also says the military should try to determine whether the NAPs have links to foreign adversaries, including “non-state actors”, and whether they could pose a threat. .
There have been an increasing number of reports in recent years of Navy pilots and other military personnel of highly advanced craft of unknown origin violating protected airspace, some of them maneuvering from a way that seems to challenge known aerodynamics.
The revelations sparked a series of classified briefings to members of Congress. A public report that was required in last year’s intelligence bill concluded in a “preliminary assessment” in June that the military and intelligence agencies do not have enough information to draw firm conclusions on more than 100 reported PAN sightings, some of which “appear to demonstrate advanced technology.”
Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks at the time headed the military branches and other organizations recommend “process improvements” to collect and analyze this data and “develop a plan to formalize the mission”.
But it is not certain that all military leaders understood the message. Last month Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he was not convinced UAPs were a serious enough problem to demand his attention.
“I don’t see this as an imminent threat to the United States or the human race, these phenomena are happening,” he said in response to a question from POLITICO. “I should see proof that this was something worthy of the attention of the US Air Force as a threat.”
“Our job is to protect the United States from threats,” Kendall added. “I have a lot of known threats that we are working very hard against to protect the United States from. I would like to focus on those. However, he said that” if we are asked to do it, we will. ” .
But Gallego insists the attitude must change.
His amendment to the Defense Policy Bill requires the new Pentagon office, which would replace a UAP temporary working group established last year, “to synchronize and standardize the collection, reporting and analysis of incidents involving unidentified aerial phenomena across the Department of Defense”.
This means that information gleaned from a variety of intelligence gathering tools, including satellites, wiretaps and human spies, stipulates the legislation.
“I decided to put words to the action,” said Gallego. “We had a briefing on this phenomenon. One of the things that came out of that briefing, without breaking too many walls here, was that it just needed better data collection. There has to be standardized data collection. in all departments. “
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on the Gallego amendment, nor on the status of efforts to collect more data on NAPs.
Not everyone is convinced that Gallego’s efforts will make significant inroads, especially if the new office does not have adequate resources and access to all relevant and in some top-secret intelligence programs that may contain relevant information.
A former senior US intelligence official who lobbied for more attention to NAPs said the real challenge will be getting spy agencies and the military to share what they have. An office tasked with collecting and analyzing data can only be successful if the person who manages it has the power to force cooperation.
“It is encouraging to see serious interest expressed,” said Christopher Mellon, a former deputy defense assistant secretary for intelligence who also served on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, he said a Pentagon member “is unable to lead a multi-agency effort to identify the most useful signatures for monitoring NAPs or developing or implementing a collection plan. C ‘ is mostly what is missing. “
He said that “a good alternative would be for Congress to ask the Secretary of Defense to identify a 4-star official responsible for the UAP issue” and to “implement an effective program of collection and collection. to analyse”.
“This is the only way to determine the origin and the capabilities of these vehicles,” he added.
Gallego insists, however, that another goal of creating a permanent intelligence-gathering effort is to make sure the military feel comfortable coming forward if they experience something they don’t. can not explain.
“We had to continue to remove the stigma attached to reporting these phenomena,” said Gallego. “There are a lot of people who are afraid to report this because they’re afraid… it’s going to cost their careers. People think they’re crazy.”
Only by reducing stigma, he said, will more useful data become available. “We won’t be able to get to the bottom of it unless we collect information, get enough information to understand exactly what is going on. [and] the pilots and others who have seen it feel very comfortable talking about it. “
It also just means dismissing some of the more fantastic theories: “So if you capture one of those huge weather balloons and think it was an unidentified object, it’s important that we understand… why it caused a reaction. to a radar, ”Gallego said.
The congressman said he was not personally too worried about the potential political fallout of being associated with an issue that had long been on the fringes.
“Look, I’m from Arizona, I even lived a bit in New Mexico. Very far from Roswell, but still,” Gallego joked, referring to one of the most legendary places in a world. alleged alien crash in UFO lore. “Part of my job is to decrease the stigma of talking about this, especially for military personnel. If that means I have to take it a bit on the chin, so be it.”
Then there’s the other stigma, sort of: the lingering belief among much of the public that the government is covering up what it knows about UFOs.
“There is a lot of misinformation, a lot of misinformation and we just have to be professional about it and really get to the heart of what is going on,” Gallego said.
He admitted that he thinks the government has more information than it does not share. But he says he doesn’t think it hides the whole story either.
“I don’t think we have enough information to be honest, for us to know whether or not we need to worry,” he said. “That’s why I’m trying to structurally pull this together, so that we can actually collect data and treat it as a scientific and military objective rather than… some wacky conspiracy theorists.”
The next step he is considering is to hold public hearings. “I definitely thought about the hearings,” he said.
But first we need more data collected and shared.
“An audience without a real understanding of what’s going on, without real data, will do no one good,” said Gallego. “Maybe for the world of Twitter, so they can talk about it. But that’s not our job. Our job is not to be artists. Our job is to create solutions where there is. has a problem. And we don’t even know if we have a problem until we actually collect data. “
“It’s good for us to say that we don’t know what’s going on, so let’s try to figure it out,” he added. “It’s not a bad thing in government. The only way to really do it is to try to understand it if you really want to understand it.”