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Welcome to the Pentagon’s new “weird shit” office – led by a former CIA CTO

The US’s Department of Defence (DOD) has launched a new “all-domain anomaly resolution office” (AARO) – a rebrand and widening of its UFO investigations office which will now also assess reports of not just flying saucers but also “anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects.”

At a congressional hearing in May 2022, Scott Bray, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence told lawmakers: “There are a small handful [of events] in which there are flight characteristics or signature management that we can’t explain with the data we have available. Those are obviously the ones that are of most interest to us.”

A 2021 report by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) concluded that “most of the UAP [unidentified aerial phenomena] reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation” — its investigation included 144 reports originating from government sources: 80 involved “observation with multiple sensors” and many “interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.”

What will new UFO office AARO do?

AARO was previously known as the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group, which was launched in November 2021 with a mandate to “synchronize efforts across the Department and the broader US government to detect, identify and attribute objects of interests in Special Use Airspace…”

AARO’s launch comes as the US has vowed to deploy more sophisticated data analytics to help winnow out low value reports of UFOs or other mystery craft, with a naval taskforce dedicated to such sightings, for example, saying expects its “ability to employ data analytics to detect trends will also improve [with the] initial focus will be to employ artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms to cluster and recognize similarities and patterns in features of the data points. As the database accumulates information from known aerial objects such as weather balloons, high-altitude or super-pressure balloons, and wildlife, machine learning can add efficiency by pre-assessing UAP reports to see if those records match similar events already in the database.”

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Dr Sean Kirkpatrick.

The Pentagon on July 20, 2022, named respected intelligence services veteran Dr Sean M. Kirkpatrick, most recently the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, as the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office’s director in a sign of how seriously it is taking the new office’s mission amid a flurry in UFO sightings.

A rphysicist with decades of experience in intelligence, Dr Kirkpatrick has served as Deputy Director of Intelligence, US Strategic Command and as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in a joint CIA-DIA programme office. He has recently been leading the Intelligence Community’s support to the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Centre, DOD said on July 20. An earlier biography from 2013 describes his government responsibilities as “preventing technical surprise in all critical domains”

AARO’s mandate, broadly, spans:

  1. Surveillance, Collection and Reporting
  2.  System Capabilities and Design
  3. Intelligence Operations and Analysis
  4. Mitigation and Defeat
  5. Governance
  6. Science and Technology

US forces including naval intelligence are looking for “novel ways to increase collection of UAP cluster areas when U.S. forces are not present as a way to baseline “standard” UAP activity and mitigate the collection bias in the dataset. One proposal is to use advanced algorithms to search historical data captured and stored by radars” the 2021 ODNI report noted, adding that “we currently lack data to indicate any UAP are part of a foreign collection program or indicative of a major technological advancement by a potential adversary. We continue to monitor for evidence of such programs given the counter intelligence challenge they would pose, particularly as some UAP have been detected near military facilities or by aircraft carrying the USG’s most advanced sensor systems.”

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Ed Targett

Ed Targett is the founder of The Stack. He has served as editor of Tech Monitor, Computer Business Review, and Roubini Global Economics. He has 15 years of experience in newsrooms and consultancies. His interests span technology, foreign policy, and sustainability.

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