The Pentagon’s “lack of a comprehensive, coordinated approach to address” Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) “may pose a threat to military forces and national security,” the Defense Department’s inspector general (DoD OIG) stated publicly for the first time on Thursday. UAP is the Pentagon's new term art for UFOs.
In an unclassified version of a classified report delivered to Congress in August, the OIG said the Pentagon “has no overarching UAP policy and, as a result, it lacks assurance that national security and flight safety threats to the United States from UAP have been identified and mitigated.”
The report reviewed the extent to which the DoD, military services, defense and military counterintelligence agencies “took intelligence, counterintelligence, and force protection actions to detect, report, collect, analyze, and identify what is more commonly known as unidentified flying objects.”
That effort is currently being led by the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), which was launched in July 2022. It was created to handle the government’s investigation into unidentified objects on and under the sea, in the air as well as in space - and any “transmedium” objects shifting between those domains. It was stood up amid growing concerns about threats to U.S. military installations and naval and air assets from objects of unknown origin.
However, as we noted nearly a year ago, the shootdown of a Chinese spy balloon that traversed much of the U.S. in February 2023 and three other unidentified objects a week later raised questions about AARO’s role and overall mission.
From our report at the time: “Altogether, the recent aerial incidents over the United States and Canada have certainly raised questions about AARO's overall role and exactly how it functions in the context of broader UAP-related intelligence efforts. By all indications, it is exposing a need to further define its duties and its relationship to other stakeholders across the U.S. government, as well as the various legal authorities, policies, and procedures that govern its work.”
The War Zone has also repeatedly made the case for greater transparency and government coordination of these efforts, to shine the light and put to rest conspiracy theories about what these objects might be.
The OIG report released Thursday found that the Pentagon’s efforts to identify and understand UAP “have been irregular because of competing priorities, lack of substantive progress, and inconclusive findings,” the report found. All the while, military pilots “have continued to report UAP incidents despite the sporadic efforts of the DoD to identify, report, and analyze the events.”
Compounding the problem, the Pentagon has largely excluded geographic combatant commands - responsible for detecting, deterring, and preventing threats and attacks against the U.S. - from developing UAP policies and procedures. In addition, there has been a lack of coordination across the DoD in procedures “to collect, analyze, and identify UAP incidents.”
The OIG made five recommendations, three of which are directed at the services:
- The Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (OUSDI&S), in coordination with the AARO Director, should issue a DoD policy to integrate unidentified anomalous phenomena roles, responsibilities, requirements, and coordination procedures into existing intelligence, counterintelligence, and force protection policies and procedures.
- The Air Force, Army and Navy should issue interim guidance for unidentified anomalous phenomena while waiting for the DoD to issue policy.
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should issue guidance to the geographic combatant commanders regarding unidentified anomalous phenomena detection, reporting, collection, analysis, and identification within their area of responsibility.
The OUSDI&S concurred with the recommendations but noted that much of the findings predated the creation of AARO. Representatives from the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Joint Staff generally agreed with the recommendations as well.
Since the OIG report released today is a previously classified version of the one it gave to Congress in August, one major element in the discussion of UAPs that went unaddressed was the retirement in December of AARO’s founding director, Sean Kirkpatrick. During his tenure, AARO says it investigated more than 800 cases, led a search for U.S government and contractor programs associated with UAP, and established the department's first public-facing website, among other activities.
According to Kirkpatrick, who has become a controversial figure in UFO circles, his team has found no evidence of aliens or otherworldly craft uncovered. This is at odds with a high-profile whistleblower, ex-Air Force intelligence officer David Grusch, who claims he has many first-hand witnesses that have testified about UAP crash retrieval programs and contact with so-called non-human intelligence.
As we reported in January 2023, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued a 12-page report saying that AARO was investigating 510 incidents and that its “initial analysis and characterization” of 366 newly-identified reports showed that more than half exhibited “unremarkable characteristics."
Nearly half of those - 163 - were characterized as balloon or balloon-like entities.
The War Zone for years has called attention to this likely reality, laying out a particularly detailed case back in 2021 for why many UAP sightings are more likely to be balloons or drones, some of which are being used by foreign powers for intelligence-gathering and other malign purposes.
David Grusch, who served with the now-shuttered Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force (UAPTF), testified under oath before a House Oversight Committee’s subcommittee in July 2023 that he has evidence there is a cabal of people inside and outside the government involved in ongoing programs dealing with non-human craft and lifeforms, and the cover-up of those programs has been going on since at least the 1930s. He testified that the U.S. government possesses multiple alien craft and the remains of their crew; that government contractors have “misappropriated” money to fund these ongoing programs and that there have been efforts to silence those who come forward that may have even included murder.
During a rare media engagement in October 2023, Kirkpatrick, who was still acting in his role as AARO director, addressed questions about Grusch.
He said Grusch has yet to respond to requests by AARO to meet and that the last time the two spoke was five years ago. Kirkpatrick said he was in the intelligence directorate of U.S. Space Command at the time and the conversation “was not on this topic.”
“I think we've interviewed most of the people that he may have talked to, but we don't know that. And we have extended an invitation at least four or five times for him to come in over the last eight months or so, and has been declined.”
In a piece he authored for Scientific American published on Jan. 19, Kirkpatrick said the constant drumbeat of conspiracy theories impacted his teams' work.
“After painstakingly assembling a team of highly talented and motivated personnel and working with them to develop a rational, systematic and science-based strategy to investigate these phenomena, our efforts were ultimately overwhelmed by sensational but unsupported claims that ignored contradictory evidence yet captured the attention of policy makers and the public, driving legislative battles and dominating the public narrative.”
Kirkpatrick further addressed the issue in @peterbergencnn's podcast, saying "a small group of people inside the US government, or with close ties to it" is currently duping Congress into hunt aliens.
"If you follow the information that we've laid out in the historical report, you've got people that talked to people, who come in to tell the story or tell the media," Kirkpatrick additionally told Bergen. "But it turns out, none them have any firsthand evidence or knowledge. They're all relaying stories that they've heard from other people. And if you track where all those people know each other, it all goes back to the same core set of people."
Kirkpatrick's high-profile detractors, however, remain unconvinced that he is being forthright.
As it sits now, it is unclear how much the Pentagon, services and Joint Staff have integrated changes recommended by the OIG since its report was first delivered to Congress in August. Asked about the OIG report during a press briefing Thursday, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said she would have to look into the matter.
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