For years the Pentagon has catalogued and paid attention to unidentified phenomena. These are the kind of things that “do not have an explanation,” as the Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence said earlier this year. Recently the Department of Defense has been setting up official bodies to look into UFOs. Now, the Pentagon wants to do more: It wants to resolve the mysteries of these phenomena. This week it officially set up a new body, formally known as the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, to look at unidentified objects in all fields, including “transmedium” ones.
“The AARO will serve as the authoritative office of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) and UAP-related activities for the DoD,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in her memo.
The new AARO was created through a provision in the 2022 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act. It is an expansion of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, itself the successor to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The AARO has an expanded mission compared to the AOIMSG. It will look into “anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects,” per the Department of Defense. Before the Fox Mulders of the world get excited, the AARO is not explicitly looking for alien life, but simply unidentified objects–which the Pentagon generally theorizes could be unknown foreign technology, atmospheric conditions or similar matters. But the brief doesn’t explicitly rule out extraterrestrial elements. And given the “submerged” aspect, it also doesn’t rule out kaiju a la Godzilla (but don’t expect that).
The AARO’s full mission brief calls for six areas of focus: “Surveillance, Collection and Recording, System Capabilities and Design, Intelligence Operations and Analysis, Mitigation and Defeat, Governance Science, and Technology.” The fourth point, mitigation and defeat, is interesting as it suggests that the Pentagon wants to counter these phenomena. The office’s name as well adds to that, but what a “resolution” means is unclear. It could be simply identifying something in a photo or video as a foreign plane, or something more intensive, depending on what the office finds.
There are some legitimate reasons for setting this up, beyond jokes about aliens. Unidentified objects, flying or otherwise, are real. In May, Politico reported that intelligence agencies and the Pentagon were debating what to reveal about this to Congress, ahead of hearings in Congress. The Pentagon has released images and video of UFOs, or “unidentified aerial phenomena,” before, in 2019. In 2021 the Director of National Intelligence released a report on the matter. The establishment of this office and its expanded mandate suggests that the Pentagon wants to take this seriously.
Another sign of the Pentagon’s serious approach here is who they put in charge of the office. The first director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office is Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, who most recently was Chief Scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center. His scientific credentials are strong—per his DoD bio, he got his PhD studying “nonlinear and nonequilibrium phonon dynamics of rare earth doped fluoride crystals.” He’s also worked in defense and scientific fields for more than two decades.
So will the new department actually resolve some of these anomalies? That remains to be seen. But clearly the Pentagon wants to believe that it can. Keep an eye out for any other aerial mysteries and what results the AARO reports. The truth is out there, or at least that’s what the AARO hopes.
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