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Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI) introduced legislation on Jan. 11 that would allow pilots and other civilian aviation personnel to report unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs, without fear of negative career or other repercussions.
UAPs are perhaps more commonly known as UFOs, or "unidentified flying objects."
"Since I was a child, unidentified objects in our airspace have been a topic of interest," said Grothman, who represents Wisconsin's 6th District.
Known as the "Safe Airspace for Americans Act," Grothman introduced the bill with Congressman Robert Garcia (D-CA). The bill would require the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to "establish procedures and reporting requirements for incidents relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena."
"The bill specifically enables civilian aircrew, FAA air traffic controllers, flight attendants, maintenance workers, dispatchers, and airlines to report UAP encounters to the FAA," Grothman's office wrote in a statement.
Then, the FAA would need to compile "relevant communication, information, or data," on reports before sharing them with the Department of Defense's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). The FAA would also be tasked with studying any threats such incidents could pose to the national airspace system.
Grothman hopes to highlight the need for transparency from the federal government regarding UAPs "to better protect the safety and security of American citizens." According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 68% of Americans surveyed said "the U.S. government knows more about UFOs than it is telling us."
Under the proposed legislation, reporting UAPs could not be used to medically disqualify pilots and other aviation employees, and reporting can't be taken into account when evaluating pilots' competency to earn Airmen Certificates.
Additionally, federal employees would be protected from retaliatory actions, such as termination or suspension of security clearances, for reporting UAPs. Airlines also would not be able to retaliate against or terminate employees for reporting or issue cease-and-desist letters.
"We've heard from pilots that they're sometimes afraid to report things," Grothman told the Journal Sentinel. "They may not know where to report it and may be afraid to report it because they might be subject to a mental health evaluation, or they're afraid somebody's going to say they're crazy."
"I think, more important than giving them a place to report, is that they know they're not going to be subject to any negative stuff in their career."
What else has happened in Congress regarding UAPs?
This isn't the first time Congress has shown interest in UAPs recently.
In July, three former military members went before Congress for a hearing on the national security threats UAPs could pose. Those who testified were former Navy pilot and executive director of Americans for Safe Aerospace Lt. Ryan Graves, Retired Navy Commander David Fravor and David Grusch, a former Air Force and intelligence official who was a member of a previous Pentagon task force that investigated UAPs.
The men spoke about specific incidents involving UAPs that they'd either witnessed over the years or heard about and deemed credible from other pilots. Some of the accounts they described were of aircrafts displaying capabilities they believed were beyond any known human technology.
Read more about the hearing: Witnesses call for increased military transparency on UFOs during hearing: 'Long overdue'
The hearing was held by the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, the Border and Foreign Affairs ― on which Grothman and Garcia serve as chairman and ranking member, respectively.
"Pilots are trained observers of our skies, but I have heard from dozens of frustrated pilots for major airlines who witnessed UAP yet had no confidential way to report them to the government. ...," Graves said in a statement. "I am incredibly encouraged to see Congressman Garcia and Congressman Grothman standing with pilots and taking a pragmatic and historic step forward for national security and aviation safety."
Within weeks of the hearing, the Pentagon's office to investigate UFOs unveiled a website where current and former military members and government workers can make reports of sightings dating back to 1945, USA TODAY reported. While the public can access declassified information about UFOs on the website, they are unable to make reports of their own.
"I think, still, the most illuminating thing is that we had two pilots who were sure they saw interesting things, both naval pilots, ... and we still don't have what the government makes of this or of anything," Grothman said of the hearing.
The congressman said he thinks the government should "open up old records" to grant the public more certainty and more information on UAPs.
"I mean, this stuff has been around since the 1940s," he said. "You can say maybe something today is confidential. ... But why are you keeping something confidential from the 1980s or 1970s?"
USA TODAY reporter Eric Lagatta contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: New UFO bill from Wisconsin lawmaker to help pilots report sightings