Detailed Summary of the UAP Disclosure Act of 2023 (Part I)
by Pepper Domina
This is not legal advice, please engage counsel if you have specific legal questions or needs.
The following is a detailed breakdown of the relevant sections of S.2226 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 with a focus on the Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Disclosure Act of 2023 as amended to the FY 2024 military budget. This paper will examine each relevant section and summarize important points and offer analysis where prudent. The bill contains two sections specifically concerning UAP phenomenon, a funding limitation and reporting section (Section 1546) and the later Schumer introduced UAP Disclosure Act of 2023 (Sections 9001-9015).
The purpose of this is not to be entertaining, but to provide a human-readable reference of the significant components of the Act.
Extremely briefly, this legislation stops all funding for projects regarding UAP unless expressly approved by public officials, seizes all UAP related records and materials, sets up various organizations and bodies to process and disclose these records with legal powers, gives a UAP Review Board access the Attorney General to petition courts in the US and abroad, compels the Secretary of State to travel to other nations to advocate for disclosure, provides guidelines for declassification and postponement with the ultimate goal of full public disclosure, and more.
The language of this bill is extremely thorough and serious and shows deep conviction that the issue is credible and urgent. Actions are required by the Senate, congressional leadership, numerous departments, and the President themselves based on the text of the bill further indicating that this is something to be taken seriously.
Due to the length of these legal documents, this will be split into two sections: 1546 and 9001-9006 (this page) and 9007-9015 (available here).
SEC. 1546, titled “Funding Limitation on Certain Unreported Programs,” lays down stringent conditions for the use of funds authorized by this Act for the fiscal year 2024. This section blocks all funds for anything (security, reverse engineering, recruitment, etc.) regarding UAP, both to government and contractors, unless it’s explicitly explained to and approved by congressional leadership and the director of AARO. Further, it requires all materials relating to UAP to be reported to AARO within 60 days and all material turned over within 180 days or face legal consequences (this is the amnesty window). This essentially “renationalizes” any UAP material that may have been turned over to private industry.
Under subsection (a), it restricts the expenditure of these funds for any activities related to “unidentified anomalous phenomena”—unless they have been thoroughly detailed and justified to specific congressional committees, congressional leadership (majority and minority speaker of the Senate, Speaker of the House and minority house leader), and the Director of the All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). The covered activities include:
- Recruitment and operational tasks (both governmental and contractors) related to the handling of UAP craft.
- Analysis of the properties, origins, and usage of these crafts, and efforts towards reverse-engineering their technology.
- The management and security of information related to unidentified anomalous phenomena to prevent leaks.
- Reverse engineering or replication of the technology, materials, or performance of these phenomena, including data based on sensor and observational information.
- Development of non-conventional propulsion technology or aerospace craft derived from or inspired by anomalous phenomena.
- Aerospace crafts that use non-standard propulsion technology (non-chemical propellants, solar power, or electric ion thrust).
Subsection (b) requires individuals or entities currently or previously contracted by the Federal Government (including contractors), who possess materials or information related to unidentified anomalous phenomena (past, present, regardless of classification), to report to the Director within 60 days and provide access within 180 days all material and comprehensive lists of all non-earth origin or exotic anomalous phenomena materiel [sic] to obtain amnesty.
Subsection (c) disallows independent research and development funding relating to such material or information to be counted as indirect expenses unless provided to the Director as per subsection (b).
Subsection (d) instructs the Director to notify Congress and congressional leadership within 30 days after receiving any notification or material under subsection (b)(1).
In essence, SEC. 1546 aims to ensure accountability and transparency in activities related to unidentified anomalous phenomena by enforcing strict funding limitations, reporting requirements, and oversight by key governmental entities.
SEC. 9001 serves as the designation of this Division, which may be referred to as the “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Disclosure Act of 2023” or the “UAP Disclosure Act of 2023.”
SEC. 9002 provides the findings, declarations, and purposes of this act. It consists of two subsections: (a) Findings and Declarations, and (b) Purposes. It goes so far as to insist that all material relating to UAP should eventually be disclosed to inform the public, and emphasizes that FOIA has been insufficient for this purpose (in part because of DoE exclusions which it explicitly overrules in later sections). These demands are due to “credible evidence and testimonies,” likely from David Grusch and others via the Inspector General of the Intelligence Committee (IGIC) and their subsequent disclosures to the Gang of Eight (high ranking congressional members with privileged intelligence access). The section emphasizes that proper oversight must be reestablished and should be done as soon as possible. In achieving portions of these goals, it establishes a UAP records collection effort at the National Archives.
In short, the amendment underscores the necessity of legislative action for the preservation, centralization, and timely public disclosure of all records related to UAP, emphasizing the need for comprehensive open scientific and technological research in the interests of national security and the public.
In subsection (a), Congress states seven crucial findings and declarations:
- It is essential for historical and federal purposes to preserve and centralize all Federal Government records related to unidentified anomalous phenomena.
- All such records should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure, and eventually, all should be disclosed to keep the public fully informed about the Federal Government’s knowledge and involvement surrounding unidentified anomalous phenomena.
- There is a need for legislation to establish an enforceable, independent, and accountable process for the public disclosure of such records.
- Legislation is necessary due to credible evidence and testimonies that indicate the existence of unidentified anomalous phenomena records within the Federal Government that have not been declassified or subject to mandatory declassification review. This lack of declassification is partly due to exemptions under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the broad interpretation of “transclassified foreign nuclear information” exempt from mandatory declassification, preventing public disclosure under existing laws.
- Legislation is necessary as the “Freedom of Information Act,” as implemented by the Federal Government’s Executive branch, has proven inadequate in ensuring the timely public disclosure of Government records related to unidentified anomalous phenomena.
- Legislation is necessary to restore proper oversight over unidentified anomalous phenomena records by elected officials in both the executive and legislative branches of the Federal Government, which has been lacking up until the enactment of this Act.
- Legislation is necessary to provide complete and timely access to all knowledge acquired by the Federal Government concerning unidentified anomalous phenomena. This is important for comprehensive open scientific and technological research and development, essential to avoiding or mitigating potential technological surprise in the interest of national security and the public.
Subsection (b) outlines the purposes of this division:
- The creation of the unidentified anomalous phenomena Records Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration.
- The expeditious public transmission to the Archivist and public disclosure of such records.
SEC. 9003 defines critical terms and concepts used throughout the bill to limit and control interpretations and effectiveness. There are 23 definitions with a number of sub-definitions. En lieu of going through them all, I want to highlight interesting and critical language.
- Close observer: Anyone who has come into close proximity to UAP or non-human intelligence
- Controlling authority: Any Federal, State, or local government department, office, agency, committee, commission, commercial company, academic institution, or private sector entity in physical possession of technologies of unknown origin or biological evidence of non-human intelligence (NHI)
- Government office: Any department, office, agency, committee, or commission of the Federal Government and any independent office or agency without exception that has possession or control, including via contract or other agreement, of unidentified anomalous phenomena records
- Legacy program: All Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector endeavors to collect, exploit, or reverse engineer technologies of unknown origin or examine biological evidence of living or deceased NHI that pre-dates the date of the enactment of this Act
- Non-human intelligence: Any sentient intelligent non-human lifeform regardless of nature or ultimate origin that may be presumed responsible for UAP or of which the Federal Government has become aware
- Prosaic attribution: Having a human (either foreign or domestic) origin and operating according to current, proven, and generally understood scientific and engineering principles and established laws-of-nature and not attributable to NHI
- Record: Includes a book, paper, report, memorandum, directive, email, text, or other form of communication, or map, photograph, sound or video recording, machine-readable material, computerized, digitized, or electronic information, including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition sensor data, regardless of the medium on which it is stored, or other documentary material, regardless of its physical form or characteristics
- Technologies of unknown origin: Any materials or meta-materials, ejecta, crash debris, mechanisms, machinery, equipment, assemblies or sub-assemblies, engineering models or processes, damaged or intact aerospace vehicles, and damaged or intact ocean-surface and undersea craft associated with UAP or incorporating science and technology that lacks prosaic attribution or known means of human manufacture
- Temporarily non-attributed objects: the class of objects that temporarily resist prosaic attribution by the initial observer as a result of environmental or system limitations associated with the observation process that nevertheless ultimately have an accepted human origin or known physical cause. Although some unidentified anomalous phenomena may at first be interpreted as temporarily non-attributed objects, they are not temporarily non-attributed objects, and the two categories are mutually exclusive. The term includes natural celestial, meteorological, and undersea weather phenomena, mundane human-made airborne objects, clutter, and marine debris; Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector aerospace platforms; Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector ocean-surface and undersea vehicles; and known foreign systems
- Unidentified anomalous phenomena: In general, the term UAP means any object operating or judged capable of operating in outer-space, the atmosphere, ocean surfaces, or undersea lacking prosaic attribution due to performance characteristics and properties not previously known to be achievable based upon commonly accepted physical principles. This includes the terms flying discs, flying saucers, unidentified aerial phenomena, unidentified flying objects (UFOs), and unidentified submerged objects (USOs). UAP are differentiated from both attributed and temporarily non-attributed objects by one or more of the following observables: (i) Instantaneous acceleration absent apparent inertia. (ii) Hypersonic velocity absent a thermal signature and sonic shockwave. (iii) Transmedium (such as space-to-ground and air-to- undersea) travel. (iv) Positive lift contrary to known aerodynamic principles. (v) Multispectral signature control. (vi) Physical or invasive biological effects to close observers and the environment
In SEC. 9004 overviews the creation (within 60 days), administration, and security of the “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Records Collection” (the Collection) under the oversight of the National Archives. The Collection aims to act as a consolidated repository for all official records relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena—broadly encapsulating elements such as unexplained phenomena, technologies of unknown origin, and non-human intelligence. The mandate and ethos for this collection emanate from a desire to secure, centralize, and make accessible these records, ensuring public transparency and fostering potential avenues for research and analysis.
What is fascinating in this statute is the role it assigns to the National Archives. As a primarily passive recipient of government documents, the Archives are typically an agency designed for preservation, not investigation or interpretation. This bill positions the Archives as a critical node in an institutional network dealing with the unexplained—hilariously, almost an actual X file repository. It attempts to balance the public right to knowledge with necessary precautions in a realm where new findings could have profound implications on our understanding.
Emphasized is the need for preserving the integrity and provenance of the records in the Collection. In archival theory, maintaining the provenance of a document ensures that it retains its contextual relevance and authenticity. This attention to provenance is interesting for its foresight in the role scientific, legal, and historical rigor will eventually play for the public when reviewing these files. To this end, the provision mandates the construction of a central directory, a subject guidebook, and an index to the Collection. This aims to facilitate the accessibility of this information so things won’t be “lost in a drawer” and overlooked. In the interest of this public consumption, all material marked for disclosure must be made available within 30 days and digitally available online no later than 180 days of disclosure.
SEC. 9005 mandates a thorough identification, organization, and protection of records related to UAP held by any and all government offices “as soon as practicable,” but no later than 300 days from enactment of this Act for the purpose of disclosure to the public, review, and transmission to the Collection. Further, it establishes a review process and specifies all UAP records will be made publicly available in full no later than 25 years after the originating date, except by express interference from the President under certain circumstances.
Section (a) sets prohibitions to ensure the preservation of these records. It dictates that no UAP record can be destroyed, altered, or mutilated in any way. It protects any such record disclosed to the public prior to the enactment of the Act from being withheld, redacted, postponed for public disclosure, or reclassified. Further, any such records created by an entity outside the Federal Government cannot be withheld, redacted, postponed for public disclosure, or reclassified, except where necessary to conceal names or identities consistent with requirements of section 9006.
Subsections (b) and (c) establish a review procedure. The former specifies that, until the review has been conducted, the heads of government offices will retain the records for preservation, security, and efficiency. The latter requires heads of government offices to review, identify, and organize each unidentified anomalous phenomena record within 300 days of the Act’s enactment for the purposes of public disclosure, review by the Review Board, and transmission to the Archivist. This section also provides a detailed list of requirements for government offices to follow during this process, such as identifying which records are unidentified anomalous phenomena records and determining which of these have been disclosed publicly in an unredacted form.
Subsection (d) then mandates the preparation of identification aids to be attached to every UAP record subject to review for easy cataloging within the Collection. It also establishes a uniform system for cataloging and locating each such record.
Subsection (e) specifies that the heads of government offices must transmit to the Archivist all UAP records and make those which can be publicly disclosed immediately available to the public. Records whose disclosure has been postponed must also be transmitted to the Archivist to be reclassified by the Review Board.
Subsection (f) deals with the custody of postponed records, stipulating that these should be held for reasons of security and preservation by the originating body until such time as the information security program has been established at the National Archives (SEC 9004).
Subsection (g) requires periodic reviews by the Archivist and originating agency that can downgrade or declassify postponed or redacted records with an aim toward public disclosure. Any records deemed to require continued postponement must come with an unclassified written description of the reason for such continued postponement. Further, it specifies that each UAP record shall be publicly disclosed in full and available in the Collection no later than 25 years after the originating date of the record unless the President certifies that “continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations and the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
Lastly, subsection (h) stipulates that Executive agencies must transmit digital records electronically in accordance with section 2107 of title 44, United States Code, and must charge fees (no more than cost) for copying unidentified anomalous phenomena records - waivers may be granted.
SEC 9006 lays out the grounds for postponement of UAP records. Due to the obvious sensitive nature these records may carry, the amendment allows postponement for threats to military, intelligence, or foreign relations that outweigh public interest (such as protecting an intelligence asset, source, or method or a national security defensive secret).
Part two is available here.