Former Defense Officials Weigh-In On Proposed “UAP Legislation”

In early November, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) submitted an amendment for consideration in the F.Y. 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDDA, H.R. 4350), detailing expansive requirements for the U.S. military and Intelligence Community in addressing “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” (UAP), commonly known as UFOs. 

Entitled “Establishment of Structure and Authorities to Address Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” Gillibrand’s proposal outlines the establishment of an Anomaly Surveillance, Tracking, and Resolution Office (ASTRO). The newly formed office would be responsible for extensive investigations into reputed sightings of UAP. 

If passed, the Bill would represent the most comprehensive legislation targeting the lingering mystery of UFOs since the 1969 closure of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book. 

Speaking on background, several current senior Defense and Intelligence officials expressed to The Debrief that the proposed Bill is significant and very necessary. Not all were convinced that UAP might represent anything “otherworldly.” However, officials said the mere fact incidents are being reported that defy explanation warrants serious investigation. 

“It should be treated like any other intelligence issue,” an executive from the U.S. Intelligence Community told The Debrief under the condition of anonymity. 

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence for Presidents Clinton and Bush, Christopher Mellon, says the proposed UAP legislation represents a landmark step in solving the lingering mystery of UFOs. 

“This is unquestionably the most significant legislation ever on the UAP issue,” Mellon told The Debrief. “This legislation, if enacted, will unshackle some at DoD who want to get to work on this issue, and it would compel the system to begin doing what it should have done long ago: establishing and implementing a serious plan to answer critical questions regarding the capabilities and origin of these objects.” 

UAP Legislation
Christopher Mellon on the TV show Unidentified (Image Source: A&E Network/ History)

Mellon is no stranger to the topic of unidentified aerial phenomena. Since helping traffic the release of three DoD videos reportedly depicting UAP, Mellon has been one of the most prominent supporters for serious scrutiny into these mysterious events. 

“It is public knowledge that I worked patiently for months with Lue Elizondo, the OSD official responsible for the UAP issue in 2017, to try to get this issue taken seriously within the department. It was only when that failed that Mr. Elizondo and I chose to stick our necks out by taking the UAP videos and the UAP issue to the press and to Congress,” Mellon recently wrote in a blog

Mellon is hardly alone in saying that sightings of unexplained and inexplicable aerial objects are both occurring and potentially represent a threat to national security. 

In the past few years, former defense and intelligence officials, including – a former CIA Director, Secretary of the Navy, notable lawmakers, an eminent Harvard professor, current head of NASA, current Director of National Intelligence, and numerous military veterans– have all gone on record saying the occurrence of UAP is very much real. A claim many likewise say is supported by data collected from some of the most sophisticated sensor systems in the world. 

At the end of June, the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) released an unclassified “Preliminary Assessment on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” 

While the public had been previously aware of a handful of UAP events in recent history, ODNI revealed the Pentagon’s UAP Task Force and ODNI’s National Intelligence Manager for Aviation had examined 144 different incidents of reported UAP in the last few years. Of those cases, only one had been explained as likely a “large deflating balloon.” The other 143 reports remain unexplained. 

Most striking, according to the ODNI report, 18 incidents or 21 reports demonstrated “unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics.” [ Read The Debrief’s detailed analysis of the ODNI report on UAP.] 

Having previously discussed the topic of UAP with The Debrief, former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said he supported the proposed UAP legislation. Mabus, however, says the threat of aliens being responsible for these sightings shouldn’t be the driving force behind the Bill. 

“I support this proposal in order to find out what, if anything, has been flying around our ships,” Mabus told The Debrief. “I don’t worry about aliens especially but about more earthly sources for some new technology.” 

Gimbal UFO
Still image (artistically edited) from “Gimbal” UAP video. (Image Source: DoD)

According to the proposed UAP legislation, in addition to collecting and analyzing UAP incidents, the newly formed Anomaly Surveillance, Tracking, and Resolution Office (ASTRO) would be tasked with investigating adverse physiological effects claimed to have been caused by UAP encounters. 

Individuals’ claims of suffering adverse health effects represent one of the least discussed but most concerning aspects of claimed UAP encounters. 

Mellon said he was encouraged to see that adverse health effects were explicitly mentioned in Sen. Gillibrand’s proposed UAP legislation. 

“I was surprised but pleased to see the inclusion of the reference to “adverse physiological effects.” This is not commonplace, but like the ‘Havana syndrome,’ there have been some instances involving medical effects,” said Mellon. “Government cases are mostly confidential, but anyone curious about this might want to Google the extraordinary ‘Cash-Landrum’ incident as an example.” 

The “Cash-Landrum” event mentioned by Mellon refers to a 1980 incident in which two women suffered severe medical complications after a claimed encounter with a UFO or UAP outside Houston, Texas. 

According to accounts by Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum, the women were driving home to Dayton, Texas, on December 29, 1980, when they encountered an “intensely bright diamond shaped object” hovering at treetop level near Texas state highway, just south of Inland Road. As the mysterious craft began to depart the area, the women said it was joined by nearly two-dozen Boeing CH-47 Chinook military helicopters. 

Shortly after the encounter, both women experienced nausea, vomiting, weakness, a burning sensation in their eyes, and feeling as if they had suffered a sunburn. The women would later experience lingering malaise, skin sores, and hair loss. Medical reports suggest the women suffered from acute radiation exposure or chemical contamination. 

Cash and Landrum eventually sued the U.S. Government, accusing the military of being responsible for their health issues. However, the case was dismissed in 1986 after the women could not provide proof that the helicopters they witnessed were associated with the U.S. government and military officials testified that the U.S. did not possess any large diamond-shaped aircraft. 

Curiously, 24-hours before the “Cash-Landrum” incident and a continent away, another well-known and controversial UFO incident occurred: “The Rendlesham Forest Incident.” 

On December 26-28, 1980, U.S. Air Force personnel stationed at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England, had repeated sightings of a glowing metallic object with colored lights, including at least one close encounter. 

While none of the Airmen claimed to suffer immediate adverse effects from the encounter, several witnesses say they ultimately suffered later health issues, which they attributed to the event. After a protracted legal battle, the U.S. Veterans Association (V.A.) finally granted full benefits to former Airman and Rendlesham witness John Burroughs for heart issues said to be the result of the 1980 UFO encounter. 

During the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) 2008-2012 quasi-secret UFO research program – the “Advanced Aerospace Systems Applications Program” or “AAWSAP” – a research paper was prepared, entitled “Clinical Medical Acute & Subacute Field Effects on Human Dermal & Neurological Tissues.” 

In an interview published in Popular Mechanics, the paper’s author, former CIA Officer, forensic clinician, and neuroscientist, Dr. Christopher “Kit” Green, confirmed the archival study was “focused on forensically assessing accounts of injuries that could have resulted from claimed encounters with UAP.” 

Speaking with The Debrief, Dr. Green praised the proposed UAP legislation’s mention of adverse physiological effects associated with UAP encounters. 

“I would like to associate myself in the strongest possible way with the language concerning physiological effects and sometimes adverse health effects, specifically mentioned in Sen. Gillibrand’s proposed legislation,” said Dr. Green. 

“It is time that direct veridical observations by numerous credible witnesses of anomalous encounters by militaries or any persons should be treated sanely,” emphasized Dr. Green. “To deny investigating early and with complete medical attention of demonstrated injuries is terrible.”

“The time for the invention of false alternative realities, memes, or narratives, as excuses for denial, distraction, and delay for providing help should end. As with all forensic medical concerns…realities of the physically harmed should be first, not excused with disdain. The time to identify perpetrators whether off-target, off-world or imaginal should be after treatment of those for whom we first respect, care and love.”

Alien technosignatures

The proposed UAP legislation also includes a section detailing the establishment of a 20-person “Aerial and Transmedium Phenomena Advisory Committee.” Committee members would include persons from other U.S. government agencies, such as NASA and the FAA, along with academic organizations, like the Galileo Project at Harvard University. 

“I strongly support the Gillibrand amendment and hope that it will bring better coordination within the different sections of government regarding the analysis and interpretation of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,”said the  head of the Galileo Project and Harvard University professor Dr. Avi Loeb. “It will also help to remove the stigma from discussions on UAP and enable additional reports that were previously suppressed by prejudice.” 

Speaking with The Debrief, Dr. Loeb pointed out that during the recent Ignatius Forum on “The Future of Space,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines both discussed UAP and the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations in the cosmos. When asked by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “What is the most exciting project in your organization?” Nelson and Haines both replied, “It is classified.”

“I was fortunate to represent the Galileo Project which embodies a different answer to this question: ‘It is unclassified,’ remarked Dr. Loeb. “The Galileo Project is only interested in openly available scientific data and a transparent analysis of it.  Thus, classified (government-owned) information, which can not be shared with all scientists, can not be used. Such information would compromise the scope of our scientific research program, which is designed to acquire valid scientific data and provide transparent (open to peer review) analysis of this data.” 

The specific mention of “transmedium” phenomena, or objects which appear capable of operating in and out of water, was another intriguing tidbit in the proposed amendment. In an exclusive, last year The Debrief revealed that occurrences of “transmedium” phenomena was a particular area of interest for DoD’s UAP Task Force. 


In a recent interview with Politico, Sen. Gillibrand explained the importance of the proposed UAP legislation. “If it is technology possessed by adversaries or any other entity, we need to know,” said Gillibrand. “Burying our heads in the sand is neither a strategy nor an acceptable approach.”

Gillibrand, a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, told Politico’s Bryan Bender she was motivated to craft the legislation after hearing credible eye-witness accounts and “repeated reports over the last two or three years of these increased sightings by Navy pilots and Air Force pilots.”

One of those credible eye-witnesses, former Navy F/A-18 fighter pilot Ryan Graves, says he’s encouraged at seeing Congress finally take some serious action towards investigating UAP incidents. 

“For the first time ever, Sen. Gillibrand’s proposed legislation would create an office with the ability to meet their potential namesake and find a resolution for this mystery,” Graves told The Debrief. “Just as important, the proposal calls for the formation of a public communication channel via the ATAC to ensure this process involves the wider community. I am very happy with the contents of the amendment, and I would urge others to contact their legislators to voice their support.” 

In 2014 and 2015, Graves and fellow Naval Aviators said they had repeated encounters with bizarre unidentified airborne contacts off the East Coast of the United States. At least two of these encounters were captured by the F/A-18’s ATFLIR targeting pod. The footage was subsequently released in what has colloquially become known as the “Go Fast” and “Gimbal” videos. 

Fellow former Navy F/A-18 fighter pilot and eye-witness to the 2004 “Nimitz Incident,” Alex Dietrich, told The Debrief she hadn’t read the proposed UAP legislation yet; however, she’s similarly supportive of a more rigorous investigation into the UAP issue. 

“Whether the UAP we are encountering during military ops are lurking adversaries, natural phenomena, or something sci-fi worthy, I support a systematic approach to investigating and establishing standard observation & reporting protocols,” said Deitrich. “We should be concerned about the safety of flight for the aircrew in close proximity to the UAPs and potential National Security implications in general. I hope this won’t become political or sensationalized. But yes, I do support this development.”

In past conversations with The Debrief, both Graves and Dietrich have been steadfast in their concern that UAP represents a safety hazard to fellow aviators, rather than mere idle curiosity that these events may represent visiting aliens. 

UAP Legislation
(Image Source: NASA)

So far, the amendment appears to have strong bipartisan support amongst lawmakers. 

First mentioned by researcher Douglas Dean Johnson, the proposed UAP legislation has already garnered several notable sponsors and cosponsors including, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). 

Johnson, who closely follows UAP Congressional action, has become a foremost source for current updates on UAP action on Capitol Hill – providing frequent updates on his blog and Twitter

“In the 435-member House, 860 amendments were proposed to the National Defense Authorization Act — but not one attacked the Gallego UAP section,” Johnson told The Debrief. The “Gallego UAP section” mentioned by Johnson was an earlier September amendment to the FY2022 NDAA by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), which called for establishing a permanent UAP office within the DoD. 

Johnson says the bipartisan support for the legislation is encouraging but not uncommon with national security matters.  

“In the Senate, a far more robust proposal was filed by Gillibrand, a liberal Democrat, but the prime cosponsor is the conservative Republican Marco Rubio, ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee,” Johnson explained. “So far, they’ve been joined by two other conservative Republicans and one Democrat. What all five sponsors have in common is that they serve on committees with purview over national security.” 

Johnson, however, cautions that enactment of the “Gillibrand-Rubio Amendment” is far from a foregone conclusion. 

“As Sen. Gillibrand herself remarked in her interview with Politico’s Bryan Bender, ‘I don’t see opposition to this at any level,'” Johnson remarked. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Gillibrand-Rubio Amendment will simply sail into law. The shoulders of the legislative roadways are littered with ideas that had bipartisan support, but that we were well far down the priority list for most lawmakers. The voices of those who think UAP is a very important issue are as yet barely audible on Capitol Hill.” 

As of November 22nd, there have been four minor revisions to the amendment since its initial November 4th introduction. The most significant revision being a change of name for the new UAP office from the “Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office” (ASRO) to the “Anomaly Surveillance, Tracking, and Resolution Office” (ASTRO). Three separate sources from Capitol Hill, who are intimately familiar with the legislation, told The Debrief that they expect the name of the new UAP office to be again changed in upcoming revisions. 

Speaking on background, officials from the DoD and Intelligence Community told The Debrief that reaction inside the Pentagon has been predictably mixed, but largely supportive of the proposed legislation. 

Officials said that some of the major players in the U.S. National Security world-  such as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), National Security Agency (NSA), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Army, and Navy- were in favor of establishing a new permanent body to specifically investigate UAP. 

Conversely, the branch of the military with the most significant historical involvement with UFOs, the Air Force, was said to be standoffish to the idea of a new UAP office. 

Even if the proposed UAP legislation passes, defense and intelligence officials say there will still be an uphill battle in trying to thoroughly investigate reported UAP incidents. “To comprehensively examine the issue, you’ve got to have involvement from agencies outside just the DoD or IC-  like the FAA, Homeland Security, the FBI, just to name a few,” explained an official from the U.S. Intelligence Community. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Bureau of Investigation  Homeland Security (FBI), and Department of Homeland Security, each fall under differing Executive Departments, outside the Department of Defense. Each of those agencies are said to be supportive of the current UAP efforts and have assisted the DoD’s UAP Task Force. However, those department’s involvement has been at-will, and not mandated by formal policy. 

For now, advocates of the proposed UAP legislation will anxiously await to see if the amendment will be included in the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, ultimately being signed into law by President Joe Biden. 

The Bill’s backers, including longtime D.C. stalwarts like Christopher Mellon, urge the public to reach out to their Congressional representatives and express their support for the proposed UAP legislation. 

“This legislation is absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented. Not only will it get the government moving at long last, but it builds bridges to the civilian UAP research community,” Mellon stressed to The Debrief. “The only proper response to my mind is extreme gratitude and thanks to members of Congress willing to courageously set aside fear of ridicule to do the right thing for national security and science.” 

Follow and connect with author Tim McMillan on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan or encrypted email: