David Wall/Getty Images

National Archives tees up new rules for UFO records

New legislation mandates a governmentwide repository of records dealing with "unidentified anomalous phenomena."

Congress wants to know what agencies know about UFOs, and, under a new law, agencies have to tell them.

New records management provisions included in the recently enacted 2024 defense policy bill require federal agencies to organize and tag records related to what the government calls "unidentified anomalous phenomena" or UAP. 

Agencies have until the end of the current fiscal year to "review, identify, and organize each UAP record in its custody for disclosure to the public and transmission to the National Archives," according to a memo sent Tuesday afternoon from Laurence Brewer, chief records officer for the U.S. Government, and Chris Naylor, NARA's executive for research services, to federal agency records managers.

A new, central collection of UAP records will be housed at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The law passed without measures sought by backers, notably Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that would have set up a presidential commission with the authority to declassify records pertaining to UAP.

"For decades, many Americans have been fascinated by objects mysterious and unexplained and it’s long past time they get some answers,” Schumer said last July when the bipartisan legislation was introduced. "The American public has a right to learn about technologies of unknown origins, non-human intelligence, and unexplainable phenomena.

Brewer and his team at NARA are tasked with providing records officers with guidance on the information required to set up the UAP collection and with creating a form agencies can use to tag records for collection in the UAP archive.

The memo gets into the weeds about what records officers can expect from the metadata requirements, including information on classification levels and restrictions, as well as what can and can't be publicly disclosed.

NARA is asking agencies to get started identifying relevant records and to expect further instructions on tagging and transmitting records to the Archives.