by Douglas Dean Johnson
@ddeanjohnson on X/Twitter
Originally posted: September 3, 2023
The purpose of this page is mainly to provide easy access to the texts of the latest versions of the array of legislative proposals currently under consideration in Congress that deal directly or indirectly with Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP), or UFOs.
You will find elsewhere on this site more detailed discussions of some but not all of the current proposals, and of the UAP-related laws that were enacted in 2021 and 2022. During the months ahead, I expect to provide further analysis and updates on pertinent developments. This article, however, is intended mainly as a short-term resource for those who wish to study the text of currently active proposals.
SENATE-APPROVED UAP MEASURES
All of the most significant current UAP-related legislative proposals are found in the version of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2226) that was passed by the U.S. Senate on July 27, 2023, on a roll call vote of 86-11.
Immediately thereafter, the Senate approved the same text a second time, inserting the Senate-approved text into an NDAA that had earlier been passed by the House of Representatives, H.R. 2670. In other words, the same Senate-approved text can now be found both as the Senate-approved S. 2226 and as the Senate-approved amendment to H.R. 2670. This is the usual procedure to set the stage for a conference committee with the House. I have chosen to embed here the text as approved under the Senate number, S. 2226. (H.R. 2670 as passed by the House contained only one minor UAP-related measure, as detailed below.)
It is important to keep in mind that none of the far-reaching Senate-approved UAP language has yet been considered by the House of Representatives.
S. 2226 as passed by the Senate is an omnibus vehicle – it includes defense authorization legislation that originated in the Senate Armed Services Committee, but also other measures originating with other committees, or advanced by individual senators or groups of senators, that were attached to the defense bill on the Senate floor. These include the entire Intelligence Authorization Act produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the UAP Disclosure Act first unveiled by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and others on July 14, 2023.
The entire Senate-passed text of S. 2226 is 2,376 pages pages long. I am not embedding it here, as 96 percent of the document deals with matters unrelated to UAP. (The complete Senate-passed bill, called the "engrossed bill," is available on Congress.gov.) What I have inserted below is a PDF file consisting of all of the pages from the Senate-approved S. 2226 that contain UAP-related provisions.
Here is a locator for the UAP-related items of interest within the engrossed S. 2226:
Pages 1096-1101: This provision, which originated in the Senate Armed Services Committee and is associated with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would prohibit the obligation or expenditure of funds during fiscal year 2024 for any classified program involving unidentified anomalous phenomena that has not been briefed to the appropriate committees of Congress, congressional leadership, and the director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). The provision also requires "any person currently or formerly under contract with the Federal Government that has in their possession material or information provided by or derived from the Federal Government relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena" to make all such material available to the AARO Director, and to provide "a comprehensive list of all non-earth origin or exotic unidentified anomalous phenomena material." The measure requires the AARO Director to notify designated congressional leaders and committees of information or material that comes to him in response to these requirements. A similar (but not identical) provision originating in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence appears on pages 2368-2374 of the bill.
Page 1509: The Senate Armed Services Committee added $27 million to the original amount requested in the President's budget for the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office for Fiscal Year 2024. (That original budget request amount is classified.) This additional funding was authorized by an amendment offered in the committee by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Pages 1939-2004: This is the UAP Disclosure Act, unveiled by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and others on July 14, 2023, and added to S. 2226 without objection days later. This proposal would create, as a temporary (through Sept. 30, 2030) independent government agency, a nine-member Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Records Review Board, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Board's mission would be to gather and engage in "controlled disclosure" of records relating to "unidentified anomalous phenomena, technologies of unknown origin, or non-human intelligence" held by any components of the government. The proposal also contains a provision allowing the government to exercise eminent domain (ownership) over any "recovered technologies of unknown origin" and "biological evidence of non-human intelligence" currently under private control. The Schumer-Rounds proposal in many respects is based on the structure found in the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-526), embedded below. As was the case with that law, many aspects of the new UAP disclosure enterprise would be handled by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and for this reason, primary congressional oversight would be exercised by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Accountability, as these committees hold longstanding oversight jurisdiction over NARA.
Pages 2303-2339: This portion of the bill, originating in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), contains enhancements in current protections for whistleblowers within the Intelligence Community. These provisions are apparently a response, at least in part, to the committee's interactions with persons professing to have UAP-related information. The proposed changes pertain, among other things, with procedures by which whistleblowers may communicate with Congress, the remedies for cases in which a whistleblower's identity is unlawfully disclosed, and the remedies available in cases in which a whistleblower suffers adverse actions with respect to his security clearances or access in reprisal for a making a lawful whistleblower disclosure.
Page 2368: Current law requires an annual report on UAP, which is provided in unclassified form to the public and in classified form to designated congressional committees and leaders, issued in the names of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence. This provision, originating in the SSCI, provides that the annual report instead would be issued by the AARO Director beginning in 2024.
Page 2368: This is a proposal originating in the SSCI, sponsored by Senators Gillibrand, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rounds, and John Cornyn (R-TX), to deny funding to any UAP-related classified programs that have not been explicitly reported to Congress, and to require that government-linked entities make available to AARO any UAP-related information or material. This is similar but not identical to the provision found on pages 1096 to 1101, described above, which originated in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE REPORT LANGUAGE ON AARO FUNDING
When a congressional committee reports out a bill, it often issues a explanatory "committee report" on the bill. In its report on the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2226) (Report No. 118-58), the Senate Armed Services Committee offered a terse explanation for its decision to increase authorized funding for AARO by $27 million above the President's budget request (the total amount being classified).
2023 ACTION TO DATE ON UAP-RELATED MEASURES BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by the House of Representatives on July 14, 2023 (H.R. 2670) contains only a single UAP-related provision. It originated as a proposed floor amendment submitted by Congressman Tim Burchett (R-TN). The amendment was made in order by the House Rules Committee and then adopted as part of a bloc of amendments, without debate or a separate vote. The amendment, which appears on page 865-866 of the House-passed H.R, 2670, would prod the Executive Branch to declassify more UAP-related information. The pages containing the Burchett text are embedded below.
[A second UAP-related amendment proposed for H.R. 2670 was submitted to the House Rules Committee by Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), containing language like the Gillibrand Amendment dealing with classified UAP programs that is now included in the NDAA passed by the Senate on pages 1096-1101, as described above. However, the Gallagher amendment was not made in order by the House Rules Committee, apparently due to some manner of objection informally lodged by leadership of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.]
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on July 13, 2023, approved its version of the FY 2024 Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 3932. As approved by the committee, the bill contains only a single UAP-related provision, which changes current law to give the AARO Director the responsibility for issuing an annual UAP report, rather than Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence; this is the same as a change proposed by Senate Intelligence committee and now found on page 2368 of the Senate-passed S. 2226, as described above. The full House of Representatives has not yet acted on H.R. 3932. Since the Senate has coupled its Intelligence Authorization Act with its NDAA, the upcoming conference committee will encompass both, and House conferees will consider H.R. 3932 as the House baseline on intelligence matters, even if the full House does not take up the H.R. 3932.
In July, 2023, Congressman Tim Burchett (R-TN) submitted to the House Rules Committee an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization act (H.R. 3935) to require the FAA Administrator to issue a non-classified report about encounters between commercial pilots and unidentified objects. However, the Rules Committee did not make this amendment in order for floor consideration. No similar provision appears in an FAA reauthorization bill that has been introduced in the Senate (S. 1939).
SENATE AND HOUSE ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE REPORT DIRECTIVES ON AERIAL INCURSIONS
The Senate Armed Services Committee report on S. 2226 (Report No. 118-58) directs the Comptroller General to review the "aerospace warning and control mission and procedures" of the U.S.-Canada North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), including assessment of NORAD procedures to "manage command and control systems to determine the capacity for dealing with multiple airspace incursions of unknown or hostile aircraft" and "deal with incursions into airspace over military installations, and coordination and information sharing, both in near-real time and after the fact, between military installations regarding airspace incursions of all types."
The report further directs the Comptroller General to provide a preliminary briefing to the congressional defense committees by January 15, 2024, with a final report due "in a mutually agreed upon format and timeframe." The committee says it expects the Department of Defense "to provide the Comptroller General full cooperation and access to the information and documentation related to this review, including relevant operational plans and policies."
The Comptroller General heads the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is an agency of Congress (not a component of the Executive Branch). Because this is a directive from the Senate committee to the GAO, it does not require any language in the bill itself to be effectual.
The House Armed Services Committee included a directive reflecting similar concerns in the committee report on its version of NDAA (Report No. 118-125, issued June 20, 2023). That report directs the Commander of U.S. Northern Command, in coordination with the Commander of the U.S. Space Command, to submit a briefing to the committee no later than January 2, 2024, "on all foreign objects that have operated either actively or passively in United States airspace from January 2021 through the date of the briefing." This briefing "shall be submitted in unclassified form but may include a classified portion."
ITEMS OF INTEREST IN DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS BILLS AND ASSOCIATED COMMITTEE REPORTS
Persons not well versed in the workings of Congress often confuse authorization bills, appropriations bills, and budget resolutions. In the congressional system, these are three different things. I have inserted below a primer on the relationship between authorization bills and appropriations bill, published by the Congressional Research Service.
Everything discussed so far on this page pertains to authorization (policy) bills. For many programs, however, money is only actually spent for an authorized purpose if it is also approved within annual appropriations bills. These appropriations bills are written, in the first instance, in subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations committees. Most military and intelligence programs are funded via annual bills written in the Appropriations Defense subcommittees. The amounts appropriated for specific intelligence-related programs are generally classified.
I am not aware that any UAP-specific language has ever appeared in any public bill originating in either Appropriations committee, although language dealing in a veiled manner with the subject may have been included in a classified annex dealing with intelligence programs on at least one occasion.
It is of some interest that in its report on S. 2587, the FY 2024 defense appropriations bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee declared it "imperative" that incidents like the Chinese spy balloon incursion of January-February 2023 "do not occur," and noted that the committee had approved a Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations increase (above the President's budget request) of $293.5 million for upgrades and expansions of three U.S. Northern Command radar systems. The report states: "The Committee encourages the Department [of Defense] to act expeditiously in executing these improvements to homeland defense networks." I take note of this provision because of ongoing commentaries on how often existing defense-oriented radar systems may register UAP, and what happens to such data.
At this writing (September 3, 2023), the full Senate has not yet taken up S. 2587. Nor has the House of Representatives taken up its version of the FY 2024 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4365), although it may do so during September. There is no reference to radar upgrades in the House Appropriations Committee report on H.R. 4365 as the committee approved it on June 27, 2023, nor has any proposed amendment dealing with U.S. Northern Command radar systems (or any aspect of UAP) yet been filed with the House Rules Committee.
THE NEXT STEPS
During the fall months, there will be extended non-public negotiations primarily among the members of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees of the two houses, crafting a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Members of some other committees will also be involved in the negotiations with respect to specific components that implicate their respective jurisdictions. For example, because the Senate-passed Schumer-Rounds UAP Disclosure Act would place extensive duties on the National Archives and Records Administration, I expect that leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, will be involved in discussions of that component.
It is to be expected that Executive Branch components will make their views regarding various provisions known to key lawmakers during in the conference committee process. This includes the White House, which sometimes enunciates its positions in a public fashion, but may also choose to communicate with lawmakers in less visible ways.
At the completion of this largely out-of-view process, a House-Senate conference committee would approve a final bill, which will then go to the floor of each house for final approval– first to the House, then to the Senate. It is highly likely that both houses would consider the legislation under "take it or leave it" procedures– that is, the product of the conference committee would not be open to further amendment in either house. Following approval by the second house (the Senate), the bill would go to President Biden for his signature. The President must also accept or reject the final package as a whole– unlike some governors, the President has no line-item veto authority.
It is likely that the negotiation process will play out over a time span of months. In each of the last four years, an NDAA was not enacted until late December. (In 2020, President Trump vetoed the NDAA, but Congress quickly overrode his veto.) Enactment of an NDAA is highly likely – it has happened for the last 62 years running. However, it is by no means certain that any or all of the UAP-related provisions discussed on this page will be part of the final legislation. Any of these provisions could be modified a little or a lot, or dropped entirely, during the House-Senate negotiations. It is also possible that essentially new provisions dealing with the same general subject matter could emerge during the House-Senate negotiations.
To subscribe to receive further updates on these matters during the months ahead, click the "Subscribe" button on this page (it is free and your email address will be used for no commercial purpose), and follow my account on X/Twitter, @ddeanjohnson.
REVISIONS SINCE INITIAL PUBLICATION ON SEPT. 3, 2023
(1) On September 19, 2023, republished on Mirador front page with revised titled "Quick guide to UAP-related provisions currently under consideration in Congress."
My most recent full-length articles on Mirador:
May 20, 2023 and September 29, 2023: "Crash Story File: The Reme Baca smoking-gun interview" and "Crash Story File: 'My father is a pathological liar'." The only two claimed eyewitnesses to the Trinity UFO crash have both been caught telling very big lies about their backgrounds and about the claimed incident – yet, the thoroughly discredited story continues to be promoted by Jacques Vallee and Paola Harris.