The head of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, testified before the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee on April 19 regarding the “mission, activities, oversight, and budget” of the UAP Task Force. Although no bombshell revelations were made during the hearing, Kirkpatrick offered insight into the sheer volume of UAP cases they’ve received, the challenges of data collection and analysis that the AARO faces, and that they have not yet encountered any evidence that UAP have an extraterrestrial origin.

Kirkpatrick was up-front in stating that the AARO’s research “has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology or objects that defy the known laws of physics,” despite the large number of cases the office has accumulated since it was formed. He went on to say that the AARO is “tracking over a total of 650 cases;” in regards to the UAP report released in January, approximately 150 cases were “balloon-like,” but he stressed that that initial observation didn’t mean that all of those cases were closed; instead, they were still under investigation, with only 20 to 30 cases fully analyzed at the time of the hearing.

This small number of properly-investigated cases is apparently due to poor funding for the AARO: although the subject was only touched upon in the hearing’s opening comments, a bipartisan group of lawmakers issued a letter in February to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stacey Dixon, calling for more funding for the AARO to enable the office to execute its investigative duties.

“Because of the UFO stigma the response has been irresponsibly anemic and slow,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand remarked during the hearing; despite the AARO’s mandate, the budget for 2023 and 2024 “requested only enough funding to defray the operating expenses of AARO; it included almost no funds to sustain the critical research and development necessary to support a serious investigation. It took a letter to Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin from Senator [Marco] Rubio and me and 14 other Senators to get the office temporary relief for the current fiscal year.”

When asked whether or not the UAP being reported could have been produced by foreign powers such as China or Russia, Kirkpatrick said that they were unable to identify the origins of any of the reported objects, but he warned that “in many instances Russia and China, China in particular, are on par or ahead of us in some areas,” for instance in the field of hypersonic weapons.

Drawing from his tenure as an intelligence officer at the DoD, Kirkpatrick offered that China and Russia “are less risk-averse at technical advancement than we are” and that “they are just willing to try things and see if it works; are there capabilities that could be employed against us in both an ISR and a weapons fashion: absolutely; do I have evidence that they’re doing it in these cases: no, but I have concerning indicators.”

To illustrate the types of UAP encounters the AARO investigates, Dr. Kirkpatrick provided the Subcommittee with two cases, one resolved and the other remaining unidentified: the first consisted of video footage taken by an MQ-9 Reaper drone operating in the Middle East that shows a spherical object passing at speed below the aircraft; the presentation slide states that the object’s “characteristics and behavior [are] consistent with other ‘metallic orb’ observations in the region;” that the object did not demonstrate any “enigmatic technical capabilities” and was not an “apparent threat to airborne-asset safety.”

“This is essentially all of the data we have associated with this event from some years ago,” Dr. Kirkpatrick remarked. “It is going to be virtually impossible to fully identify that, just based off of that video.” Kirkpatrick went on to say that AARO will keep the case on file for future analysis, as part of an effort to establish overall trends amongst the objects being sighted.

Kirkpatrick also provided a second example that AARO investigators had resolved, that of a video of a cylindrical object taken by another MQ-9 drone in South Asia that left an apparent trail behind it as it transited across the screen. Through traffic control data, the object was identified as a commercial aircraft that had its appearance obscured in the recording by the compression software employed by the FLIR camera; the trail that appeared behind the object was also a software artifact, a “shadow image” [quite probably a keyframing artifact] left in the file; the trail also followed the position of the camera, rather than that of the object, indicating that that aspect of the video was not present in the real world.

Despite the apparent lack of involvement by AARO in regards to the recent shoot-downs of four objects over North American airspace, including one confirmed to be a Chinese surveillance balloon, Kirkpatrick said that “when the when the objects were first detected I got called by joint staff leadership to come in late one night to review events as they were unfolding, and to give them an assessment based on what we knew at that time,” although AARO did not play a role in formulating a response to the presence of the objects.

Consistent with the findings of both government and civilian researchers throughout the history of UFOs, Kirkpatrick pointed out that the majority of UAP reports turn out to be mundane objects, but there remains a cadre of cases that defy explanation, although Kirkpatrick seems to expect that this is just due to a lack of sufficient information on a given case.

“I want to underscore today that only a very small percentage of UAP reports display signatures that could reasonably be described as anomalous: the majority of unidentified objects reported to AARO demonstrate mundane characteristics of balloons, unmanned aerial systems, clutter, natural phenomena [and] other readily explainable sources,” Kirkpatrick stated.

“While a large number of cases in our holdings remain technically unresolved, this is primarily due to a lack of data associated with those cases: without sufficient data we are unable to reach defendable conclusions that meet the high scientific standards we set for resolution and I will not close a case that I cannot defend the conclusions of.”

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