The panel said that it “supports the efforts of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force,” officially confirming the program’s continued existence, in a provision to the annual intelligence authorization bill.
In December 2017, the Pentagon acknowledged funding a secret multi-million dollar program to investigate sightings of UFOs, although it said it had ended in 2012.
The New York Times reported at the time, however, that it was still up and running.
The Senate’s focus on the program stems less out of a concern over extraterrestrials, and more from the threat posed by real-world US adversaries, such as China.
The program, managed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, is responsible for “collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to US military assets and installations.”
The United States is particularly worried about China’s espionage capabilities, including use of drones and other aerial technology.
While recognizing that the topic is sensitive, the senators said that previous “information sharing and coordination across the intelligence community has been inconsistent,” and called for a detailed and public report on the program’s progress as well as any phenomena it observes.
The provision is part of the 2021 intelligence authorization bill, which has yet to make its way to the full Senate. If it passes, the Pentagon will have 180 days to submit a report to Congress.
In April the Pentagon released three videos taken by US Navy pilots showing mid-air encounters with what appear to be UFOs.
One of videos was shot in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015.
In one, the weapons sensor operator appears to lose lock on a rapidly moving oblong object which seconds later suddenly accelerates away to the left and out of view.
In another video tracking an object above the clouds, one pilot wonders if it is a drone.