The provision, passed on Thursday as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, requires the new office to be set up within 180 days.
According to the law, its main role will be “to synchronize and standardize the recording, reporting and analysis of incidents related to unidentified aerial phenomena across the Ministry of Defense”.
The provision now to be passed by the Senate also says that the military must try to determine whether UAPs have ties to foreign opponents, including “non-state actors”, and whether they could pose a threat.
In recent years there have been an increasing number of reports from Navy pilots and other military personnel of sophisticated vehicles of unknown origin violating protected airspace, some of them maneuvering in ways that appear to defy known aerodynamics.
The revelations sparked a series of secret briefings to members of Congress. A public report required by last year’s Intelligence Act concluded in a “preliminary assessment” in June that the military and intelligence agencies do not have enough information to identify more than 100 such reported UAP sightings, including some who “show up to demonstrate advanced technology.”
Then Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks directed the military and other organizations to recommend “process improvements” in order to collect and analyze such data and “develop a plan to formalize the mission.”
But it is not clear whether all military leaders got the message. Last month, US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he was not convinced that UAPs are a serious problem that requires his attention.
“I do not consider it an imminent threat to the United States or humanity when these phenomena occur,” he replied to a question from POLITICO. “I should see evidence that it is something that deserves the US Air Force’s attention as a threat.”
“Our job is to protect the United States from threats,” added Kendall. “I have many known threats that we are working very hard against to protect the United States. This is what I want to focus on. ”However, he said,“ If we are asked to do this, we will. ”
But Gallego insists that his attitude must change.
His amendment to the Defense Policy Bill requires that the new Pentagon office, which would replace a temporary UAP Task Torce established last year, “develop processes and procedures to ensure that such incidents are reported by every military department and kept in a central location Archive to be included “.
This means that data will be collected from a variety of information gathering tools, including satellites, electronic eavesdropping and human espionage as required by law.
“I decided to put action into words,” said Gallego. “We had a briefing on this phenomenon. One of the things that came out of this briefing without breaking too many walls here was that there just had to be better data collection. There must be standardized data acquisition across the services. “
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Susan Gough, told POLITICO on Saturday that “an activity is planned around the [task force] Mission is ongoing. “
Not everyone is convinced that Gallego’s efforts will make significant progress, especially if the new office does not have sufficient resources and access to all relevant and in some cases highly classified intelligence programs that may contain relevant information.
A former senior US intelligence official who has campaigned for more attention to be paid to UAPs said the real challenge will be getting espionage agencies and the military to share their knowledge. A data collection and analysis agency can only be successful if the person leading it has the authority to enforce collaboration.
“It is encouraging to see serious interest shown,” said Christopher Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence who served on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, he said a Pentagon employee was “in no position to conduct an interagency effort to identify the most useful signatures for tracking UAPs, or to develop or implement a collection plan. Above all, that is missing. “
He said “a good alternative would be for Congress to instruct the Secretary of Defense to identify a four-star official in charge of the UAP issue” and “can implement an effective program of collection and analysis”.
“This is the only way we can determine the origin and performance of these vehicles,” he added.
However, Gallego insists that another goal of ongoing intelligence gathering is to make sure military personnel are comfortable experiencing something they cannot explain.
“We had to further reduce the stigma of reporting these phenomena,” said Gallego. “There are a lot of people who are afraid to report this because they are afraid … it will cost their careers. People think they are crazy.”
Only by reducing the stigma, he said, will more useful data be available. “We won’t be able to get to the bottom of this unless we gather information, get enough information to find out exactly what is going on [and] the pilots and other people who have seen it are actually comfortable talking about it. “
That also means simply ruling out some of the more fanciful theories: “So if you happen to catch one of those giant weather balloons and think it’s an unidentified object, it’s important that we find out … why it’s a reaction to one Radar caused, ”said Gallego.
The congressman said he was personally not too concerned about the potential political ramifications linked to an issue that has long been on the sidelines.
“Look, I’m from Arizona, I’ve even lived a little in New Mexico. Very far from Roswell, but still, ”joked Gallego, referring to one of the most legendary locations of an alleged alien crash in UFO history. “Part of my job is to reduce the stigma of talking about it, especially for the military. If that means being a little cheeky, so be it.”
Then there is the other stigma: the persistent belief by much of the public that the government is covering up their knowledge of UFOs.
“There is a lot of disinformation, a lot of misinformation out there and we just have to deal with it professionally and really get to the heart of the matter,” said Gallego.
He admitted that he believes the government has more information that it is not disclosing. But he says he doesn’t think it hides the whole story either.
“I don’t think we have enough information to be honest to know whether or not to worry,” he said. “So I’m structurally trying to put this together so that we can actually collect data and treat this like a scientific and military target, rather than … some crazy conspiracy theorists.”
The next step he is considering is public hearings. “I’ve definitely thought about hearings,” he said.
But first, more data needs to be collected and shared.
“A hearing without a real understanding of what is going on, without real data, is not going to do anyone any good,” said Gallego. “Maybe for the Twitter world so they can talk about it. But that’s not our job. It’s not our job to be entertainers. Our job is to find solutions where there is a problem, a problem, until we actually collect data. “
“It’s okay for us to say we don’t know what is happening, so let’s find out,” he added. “That’s not a bad thing in government. The only way to really do this is to actually find out if you want to find out.”