Gillibrand talks of "urgency" of creating UFO investigative office

AP Photo/John Locher

As we previously discussed, the Senate National Defense Authorization Act is making its way through the routine procedural steps this week and its eventual passage is virtually assured. Hundreds of amendments have been filed requesting additions or changes to the original bill and among them is one from New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that would replace the existing UAP Task Force with a more permanent Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office (ASRO). As of last night, an initial cloture vote was held on the NDAA allowing the process to move forward. The measure passed 84-15.

One curious item about Senator Gillibrand being the author of the sweeping amendment that would completely reshape the way the government and the military investigate reports of UFOs (or UAP if you insist) is the fact that I’ve been unable to find a single instance where she has ever publicly spoken about the topic. But that changed this week when Politico’s Bryan Bender got her to sit down and dig into the issue. It provides an intriguing look into what’s motivating her to do this and she described the “urgency” surrounding the issue, as well as why ASRO should be summoned into existence.

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.” …

“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.”

Several intriguing items came out of this interview and I applaud Bryan Bender for getting Gillibrand to go on the record about it. The way the amendment is written, assuming it passes into law, the government should have a new system of processes in place to move forward in understanding the entire Unidentified Areal Phenomena issue and be given some serious muscle to carry out such investigations.

The first thing that jumped out at me was how the Senator described the possible root causes of UFO sightings. Right out of the gate she gave Bender a quote on this sticky subject, saying, “If it is technology possessed by adversaries or any other entity, we need to know. Burying our heads in the sand is neither a strategy nor an acceptable approach.”

Notice how she specifically said “adversaries or any other entity.” By “adversaries” she’s obviously referring to Russia, China, Iran, and the rest of the usual list of suspects. But where did the phrase “any other entity” come from? If she’d meant some country not on that list she could have said “any other country,” such as an ally, right? And if she had intended to suggest any of the mundane phenomena listed in the June 25 report (clutter, such as balloons, weather phenomena, stars or planets, etc.) she could have readily said that as well. But “entity” has a special meaning. It refers to a “being” or “creature” of some sort. Just the other day I asked if anyone from the Senate was about to say “the A-word” (aliens) in public. Gillibrand may not have precisely said “aliens” in this quote, but I’m going to take “any other entity” and chalk it up as a win.

That wasn’t the only related reference in the interview, however. She even showed a sense of humor about it toward the end. When discussing “the entire spectrum of unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Senator listed a number of things. She included balloon technology or other aerial phenomena, “and then you’re talking about the unknown.” Again, she’s not saying the precise word, but I’m pretty sure we all know what she’s talking about.

She went on to tell a story about her children asking her about “the aliens.” (That time she actually said it.) Then she joked about a congressional delegation (CODEL) trip to look for extraterrestrials.

“And then as soon as we plan a CODEL, I’ll let you know,” Gillibrand quipped. ”The outer space CODEL is coming.”

On a more serious note, Gillibrand spoke at length about her concerns over repeated reports from our military personnel about encounters with inexplicable objects displaying bizarre properties and capabilities and our service members’ historic inability to report such events. She also brought up another key point from her amendment, speaking of reports of personnel experiencing adverse health effects following encounters with UFOs and their fear of even seeking medical treatment because it might negatively impact their careers.

There’s a lot to like in this amendment and I personally hope it sails through. As the process continues, the NDAA will likely have many of the submitted amendments left behind on the table, while some are passed in a block via a voice vote. A few may receive their own floor debate before final acceptance and the process of reconciliation with the House version begins. (If you’d like a more thorough explanation of how this process plays out, check out this informative Twitter thread from D. Dean Johnson.) Here’s to hoping that the Gillibrand amendment falls into one of the two latter categories and makes it into the eventual bill unscathed.