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That blahhh feeling
AARO boss: Let's make UFOs 'somebody else's problem'
See those tiny white dots in the image up there? Those are radioactive isotopes at work. And that’s a photo of my prostate gland, which at the moment is harboring stage 2 cancer. The dots are, in medical lingo, palladium “seeds” implanted to do to mutating cells what Fat Man did to Nagasaki in 1945.
As an insurance policy, I’m now undergoing external beam radiation therapy, which will zap the borders of the target area and theoretically destroy any stragglers hiding in the peripheries. To tighten the aperture before dialing in the heat, the medtechs lay me flat on my back, order me to spread my elevated legs, take a small balloon, and shove it straight up my ass. Then, as I’m laying flat on my back, they inflate it with a little squirt of air, which makes it feel like a ping-pong ball’s about to pop out my mouth.
Cued by my gasping, one of the medtechs (both women) can’t resist and says “Now you get an idea of what we have to go through.” I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate; a lady friend begs to differ: “There’s no comparison between invading the two orifices – I’ve done both.” Still, I get the basic concept. And as the indignities of being human stack up and mortality looms ever larger, I’m beginning to have diminishing tolerance for the glacial pacing of “progress,” on all fronts. Especially this one:
Wednesday’s testimony of All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office director Sean Kirkpatrick, before the skeleton crew of a Senate Armed Services subcommittee. The novelty of our long-deferred adult conversation is wearing off. We’re locked into first gear on the interstate, and I’m over it.
Take my job — please!
Committee chair Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the guiding light behind this push for transparency, kicked it off with a gloomy and not unpredictable announcement.
“We added very substantial initial funding for the office but despite our best efforts, the president’s budget for fiscal year 2023-24 requested only enough funding to defray the operating expenses of AARO. It included almost no funds,” she added, “to sustain the critical research and development necessary to support a serious investigation.”
Smart move, lowered expectations. Then Kirkpatrick, sitting there with graphs, charts and videos at the ready, proceeded with far more confidence and competence than the uniforms who addressed a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence subcommittee in 2022.
He reaffirmed the importance of the mission, touting the professionalism of “more than three dozen experts,” whose top priorities are on national security and aviation safety. Two teams — lifers from science and intelligence disciplines — study UAP cases separately before comparing findings to reach consensus. Investigators will “approach these cases with the highest level of objectivity and analytic rigor.” Kirkpatrick sent a signal to the private sector. While UFOs will be subjected to “the nation’s most advanced sensors,” AARO can’t do it alone, he said. The project’s “ultimate success will require partnerships with the interagency, industry, academia, the scientific community, and the public.”
Kirkpatrick assured his small audience that his experts have encountered no cases involving “objects that defy the known laws of physics.” That’s reassuring because it means AARO’s experts have already solved the 2013 Aguadilla UFO transmedium mystery, which continues to draw worldwide attention. But Kirkpatrick should do a favor for one of AARO’s potential partners — the nonprofit Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies — by releasing its Aguadilla analysis and showing SCU what it got wrong.
He offered a video tutorial to explain what does and does not constitute an anomalous object. He played drone footage acquired from somewhere over the Middle East; at 20 seconds, it’s just a fraction of the nearly four-minute long Aguadilla sequence. At least no one’s seen this one before. The dronecam tracked a metallic-looking sphere gliding across the arid landscape below. Kirkpatrick played a separate clip showing how a “sensor artifact” distorted a dark blurry object streaking across the sky. He then explained how AARO identified it as a commuter aircraft.
He offered the latest numbers — 650 UFO cases spanning 1996-2023 are being tracked and analyzed by the experts. Half of those remain unresolved. He acknowledged “confirmation bias,” which skews UFO data acquired from geographical and altitudinal locations according to the proximity of U.S. sensors and assets. Furthermore, although the Office of the Director of National Intelligence refuses to declassify the actual shapes of UFOs that have been zipping around in our skies since forever, Kirkpatrick appeared to flash an independent streak. He brought a pie chart that AARO slices into numerous categories, including shape (lights, oval, triangle, cylinder, etc.). But even he couldn’t wrest the official-shapes chart from ODNI.
And this is a little curious: Just seven minutes into his opening statement, Kirkpatrick paused to veer off script, for just one sentence. It came right after the part where AARO, after having identified and demystified an anomaly, will “hand off” the case to the relevant agency, civilian or military. “In other words,” he ad libbed for emphasis, “AARO’s mission is to turn UAPs into SEP – somebody else’s problem.” He returned immediately to the prepared remarks.
Kirkpatrick got to the heart of it during the Q&A followup. With an eye on the budget and reducing redundancies, Sen. Joni Ernst asked a question that likely arose in the closed-door AARO briefing earlier Wednesday morning. “What steps are you taking right now,” wondered the Iowa Republican, “to make sure that your particular office and function is unique to any of the other agencies that might be involved in these types of cases?”
All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office director Sean Kirkpatrick squares off against a lot of empty seats during Senate subcommittee hearings on Wednesday. [defense.gov]
Kirkpatrick called it a “great question,” as if he’d been waiting for it. “The vision is, at some point in the future, you should not need an AARO. If I’m successful in what I’m doing, we should be able to normalize everything that we’re doing into existing processes, functions, agencies, and organizations, and make that part of their mission and their role.
“Right now the niche that we form is really going after the unknowns. I think you (Ernst) articulated it early on. This is a hunt mission for what might somebody be doing in our back yard that we don’t know about. Well, that is what we are doing. But at some point, we should be able to normalize that. That’s why it’s so important, the work we’re doing with Joint Staff, to normalize that into DOD policy and guidance.”
Normalize. What exactly does that mean? Letting the usual suspects handle these reports any way they see fit, without an independent third party “committed to transparency, accountability, and to sharing as much with the American public as we can”– Kirkpatrick’s description of AARO – keeping them honest?
Bureaucracies, military and civilian, are notoriously renowned for resource competition and turf wars. As 9/11 taught us, and as Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines continues to warn, they’re also quick to sequester information on a scale that impacts national security. Kirkpatrick’s confidence in AARO’s ability to transform an institutional culture’s hard-wired instincts for the secrecy around UFO data reeks of magical thinking. And his comments about handing off the demystified cases begged an obvious question.
“I’m not gonna go chase the Chinese high altitude balloon, for example. That’s not my job,” he said. “It’s not an unknown, and its not anomalous anymore. Now it goes over to them.”
Then whose job is it to chase the legitimate unknowns? The Air Force? Back to them? Really?
Oh, and those shootdown videos . . .
Speaking of Chicom balloons, not a single senator bothered to ask Kirkpatrick why videos of the UFO shootdowns by U.S. warplanes in early February still haven’t been released. Nevada’s Jacky Rosen managed to inquire about cheaper ways to destroy UFOs than wasting half-million dollar Sidewinder missiles, and Kirkpatrick responded with an allusion to “kinetic and non-kinetic” remedies. But not a peep about the vids. From anybody. Despite the fact that Kirkpatrick said he’d been contacted in February by Joint Chief of Staff members “to view events as they were unfolding” in NORAD airspace.
There might’ve been a bit more spontaneity if more than three lawmakers on the Senate’s Emerging Threats and Capabilities 11-member subcommittee had showed up for Wednesday’s hour-long tiny step in the right direction. Ultimately, Gillibrand and Kirkpatrick agreed to collaborate on statutory language demanding more resources. Punctuality would be a nice one to have. Kirkpatrick said he had submitted a portal format “before Christmas” for potential whistleblowers to access, but has yet to hear back from superiors in the Defense Department.
To reiterate, Kirkpatrick stressed that his team “has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics.” Suggestive evidence, he added, should be submitted to “credible peer-reviewed scientific journals . . . That is how science works, not by blog or social media.”
And that’s right. But that’s not how news works. News is untidy, chaotic and urgent, but no less essential. And more news is what would’ve come out of Wednesday’s hearing had Kirkpatrick been asked just one of the 10 UFO-related questions posed in The Hill this week by former State Department analyst Marik von Rennenkampff. But no.
Peer-reviewed journals are indispensable for formally expanding the boundaries of the known world. But as researchers who advocate for what Kirkpatrick describes as “alternative theories or views” discovered long ago, finding a refereed top-shelf platform eager to challenge the primacy of anthropocentrism with UFOs can take years. If at all. And that suits the obstructionists just fine.
Bottom line, whether you’ve got cancer or not, this much is true: It’s always later than you think.
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