Douglas D. Johnson, a volunteer researcher affiliated with the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), first observed these developments and offered invaluable analysis and context for this piece.
Yesterday (July 23, 2020) the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization bill (NDAA) on a 86-14 vote. The closely watched "Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021" was merged within the NDAA.
The Intelligence bill contained a striking request for a joint intelligence community and Department of Defense report on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP). The request acknowledged an ongoing "Task Force," currently situated within the Office of Naval Intelligence, and calls for a report within six months from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
The language pertaining to UAP is reproduced below:
Recent Comment from Senators on the UAP Issue
Several Senators have commented on this matter. The acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio, made these remarks to CBS following the committee report:
Previously, the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Mark Warner, made similar remarks in 2019 emphasizing the seriousness of the question:
Some Senators who are not members of the SSCI have also commented. Senator Klobuchar said the following from the campaign trail in December of 2019:
What happens next?
The combination Defense and Intelligence legislation is still a long way from enactment. Based on precedent, it is unlikely to be enacted prior to an anticipated post-election lame-duck session in November.
The next immediate step is a Senate-House conference committee to negotiate the final legislation. Based on sixty years of precedent, the Defense Authorization portion will almost surely become law. However, the intelligence authorization is not guaranteed to survive.
That said, even if the intelligence authorization component fails, the request from SSCI will at a minimum stand as a formal expression of the will of the Senate.
Importantly, even if the language is adopted wholesale it will not become a binding law – simply an expression of the will of the legislative branch. It is also important to note that portions of the bill are classified, so it is not possible to know if there are other more binding UAP related directives in the legislation.
Another important piece of context: Congress frequently directs various entities of the executive branch to produce reports. Nearly as often, they comply in minimal ways, and sometimes not at all. The key force behind this report request remains the commitment of individual Senators. Without their continued attention, the report request can likely be ignored, or complied with in a merely performative way.
In the larger picture, it is also important to remember that many key players and appointees may change – including the President of the United States. Keep a close eye on a possible future DNI, and new chairs of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Key things to watch:
- Those watching S.3905 should now start watching S.4049 instead.
- Keep an eye out for a potential worldwide threat hearing, potentially in August. In this hearing, the DNI and other intelligence community leaders give a presentation on intelligence issues to the House and Senate intelligence committees. This year, DNI Ratcliffe has proposed only giving an opening statement and taking questions in a closed-door setting. Even so, this is one of the premiere public hearings for intelligence issues.
- Closely follow the views of key members of the House and Senate committees to see their resolve in pursuing this issue. Passage of the authorization bills is important, but real movement will likely only come from persistence on the part of individual lawmakers.
- Look for any changes in the office of the DNI if President Trump does not win his reelection bid. DNI Ratcliffe is widely perceived as a partisan figure, and would likely not hold his position for long in a Democratic administration. The implementation of this request will largely be led by the head of the intelligence community.