Sci-Fi Stimulus Secrets: Why Did UFOs Appear in the December 2020 COVID-19 Relief Package?

By Helen LinLast Updated Mar 22, 2021 12:04:20 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: KTSDESIGN/Science Photo Library/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On December 27, 2020, Donald Trump signed a $2.3 trillion government funding bill — H.R. 133 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 — into law. This funding package contained a number of long-anticipated provisions, including $600 stimulus checks and $900 billion in COVID-19 relief benefits for individuals and businesses in the United States. But that's not all the bill did, and some of its other provisions started treading into strange waters — extraterrestrially strange waters.

The December 2020 spending bill contained other, less-talked-about legislation, including what was dubbed the Intelligence Authorization Act. Deep within the text of the Intelligence Authorization Act lies a heading titled "Committee Comments." And buried in those comments is the sub-heading "Advanced Aerial Threats."

If that doesn’t sound cryptic enough yet, the bill required the Director of National Intelligence and others to submit a report on "unidentified aerial phenomena (also known as 'anomalous aerial vehicles'), including observed airborne objects that have not been identified." In other words — UFOs. But why are provisions related to UFOs tucked away in a COVID-19 relief bill, and what is the government attempting to find out?

Exactly Who Has to Do What With UFO-Related Data?

The premise behind the provisions of this bill is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — the group of Senators who oversee the country’s various intelligence agencies and bureaus, including the FBI, CIA and NSA — is concerned that the U.S. government has no coordinated or comprehensive process for collecting and assessing intelligence data about unidentified aerial phenomena. The provisions of H.R. 133 are determined to fix that problem.

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Photo Courtesy: Bill Clark/Getty Images

The legislation obligates the Director of National Intelligence — Avril Haines under the Biden Administration — to consult with the Secretary of Defense — Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III (Ret'd) under the Biden Administration — and to submit a report to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees. Here's what the report has to include:

  • A detailed analysis of the data and intelligence about UFOs that’s been collected and held by the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force
  • A detailed analysis of UFO data collected by geospatial, signal, human and measurement intelligence
  • A detailed analysis of FBI data related to investigations of UFO intrusions into restricted U.S. airspace
  • Identification of potential threats UFOs may pose to national security
  • In assessment of whether those UFO threats are attributable to a foreign adversary
  • Identification of any patterns indicating whether any adversary may have obtained "breakthrough aerospace capabilities" that could put U.S. forces at risk

What Triggered the Sudden Interest in UFOs?

Remember at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Pentagon decided to release UFO footage? If you don’t, we don’t blame you — we had much more important things to worry about. But this declassification eventually led to the establishing of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) Task Force under then-Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist. This was done to "improve [the Department of Defense's] understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs." The task force was also responsible for detecting, analyzing and cataloging UFOs that could potentially threaten American national security.

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Photo Courtesy: Reuters/YouTube

This creation of the task force followed the Pentagon's April 2020 declassification and release of hazard reports that described close encounters between unidentified aerial phenomena and aircraft operated by the U.S. Navy. The reports related to incidents that took place in June of 2013, November of 2013 and March of 2014:

  • In the June 2013 incident, a Navy aircraft encountered an "aircraft [that] was white in color and approximately the size and shape of a drone or missile."
  • In the November 2013 incident, a Navy pilot described encountering a small aircraft that "had an approximately 5-foot wingspan and was colored white with no other distinguishable features."
  • In the March 2014 incident, Navy F/A-18 jets passed within 1,000 feet of a suitcase-sized and silver object "but [were] unable to positively determine the identity of the aircraft." Despite efforts, the pilot was unable to "regain visual contact with the aircraft."

The videos are said to have been filmed by Navy pilots as they performed practice missions over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They'd been released unofficially in 2017 but essentially fell into the cracks of other unexplained "evidence" of unidentified phenomena. The official declassification and release of the same videos in April 2020 triggered all kinds of questions — like "Why now?" and "What else is there?" — many of which weren’t formalized until H.R. 133 was enacted.

What Is Everyone Worried About?

The Pentagon's own April 2020 statement about the videos didn't answer the "what else?" part of the question. But here's what it said, in part: "After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos."

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Photo Courtesy: David Wall/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What does seem clear from the videos and the Pentagon's own statement is that the things that the Navy’s pilots were "unidentified," they were "flying" and they were "objects." By definition, then, they were UFOs. But not knowing for sure what they were — and what other incidents might have happened that could reveal answers or spark even more questions — leaves a lot to officials’ imaginations. And without that knowledge, it’s difficult to start formulating plans and anticipating formalized responses to keep the country protected if needed.

The language of the legislative provisions tucked into the COVID-19 relief bill is very careful to avoid any mention of extraterrestrial life. It doesn't even say "unidentified flying objects" but instead opts for the more ambiguous "aerial phenomena," which appears like an intentional effort to prevent discussions about the topic from devolving into conspiracy theory fodder. It does clearly indicate the Senate Intelligence Committee's concern, though, that there’s a potential risk that unknown or poorly understood technologies created by uncertain entities — foreign, domestic or maybe even intergalactic (fingers crossed!) — may be capable of interfering with American forces or gathering intelligence on or above American soil.


In June 2020, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, made the following statement to a Miami television station: "We have things flying over our military bases and places where we are conducting military exercises, and we don't know what it is and it isn't ours...." He went on to say, "Frankly, if it's something from outside this planet, that might actually be better than the fact that we've seen some sort of technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary."

Rubio and others want to know if there's more to the stories that the Pentagon released in April 2020 and, if so, just how frightening or concerning those stories are. They aren't the only ones asking the same questions, of course. Will we soon be regaled with tales of mysterious greys or the little green men — or merely more reports of what might turn out to be drones? In 180 days from the passage of the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill, we might finally have an answer...or may find ourselves with even more questions about whether the truth really is out there.