Pentagon UFO chief says there’s no evidence of 'extraterrestrial activity'

Sean Kirkpatrick says he’s seen no proof of 'off-world technology or objects that defy the known laws of physics.'

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The person in charge of the Pentagon’s efforts to study UFOs told members of the U.S. Senate at a Wednesday hearing that he has no evidence they come from outer space.

Three members of the Senate Armed Services committee heard testimony from Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office. AARO was formed last year by the Pentagon to help study unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, the government’s preferred term for mysterious objects seen in the sky.

Silhouette of an astronomer with a telescope gazing at the night sky.
Astronomer with a telescope gazing at the night sky. (Getty images)

“This is a hunt mission for what [somebody might] be doing in our backyard that we don't know about,” said Kirkpatrick, who added that the goal was to set a standard across the entire Department of Defense for this type of investigation.

Kirkpatrick spent much of the hearing discussing the logistics of his organization’s process, their work with other agencies and their progress in meeting benchmarks set by Congress. But he did present examples of UAPs they had studied, including a small sphere zipping over the Middle East that Kirkpatrick conceded would “be virtually impossible to fully identify” based only on the video.

While Kirkpatrick said his group hasn’t been able to identify every encounter it has studied, it hadn’t found any evidence that visitors from another planet were responsible for any of them.

“I should also state clearly for the record that in our research, ARRO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology or objects that defy the known laws of physics,” Kirkpatrick said.

Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, with a U.S. flag and Defense Department flag behind him.
Sean Kirkpatrick (Department of Defense)

However, Kirkpatrick did say there was a plan in place should evidence of an alien technology arise, stating, “In the event sufficient scientific data were ever obtained that a UAP encountered can only be explained by extraterrestrial origin, we are committed to working with our interagency partners at NASA to appropriately inform U.S. government's leadership of its findings.”

Kirkpatrick showed a chart with reporting trends of anomalies from 1996 to 2023, which found that most sightings were of a round object, one to four meters in length and typically white, silver or translucent, at an altitude between 10,000 and 30,000 feet with no thermal exhaust detected.

The sightings were clustered along the East and West coasts of the United States, in the Middle East and near Japan and the Korean peninsula.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York speaks during a news conference.

The hearing chaired by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also addressed what Kirkpatrick and the senators viewed as potential threats from China and Russia, citing the incident earlier this year when a Chinese weather balloon crossed over the continental United States and the series of UAPs that were shot down in the immediate aftermath.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked Kirkpatrick if Chinese or Russian technology was responsible for any of the sightings. Kirkpatrick said that while the two countries have technology on par or ahead of the United States, it is “really hard” to know “if what we observe doesn't have a Chinese or Russian flag on the side of it.”

“Are there capabilities that could be employed against us in both [a surveillance] and a weapons fashion?” Kirkpatrick said. “Absolutely. Do I have evidence that they're doing it in these cases? No, but I have concerning indicators.”

The hearing followed a 2021 Department of Defense report on UAPs that found 144 sightings dating back to 2004 as well as a May 2022 House Intelligence panel that was the first Congressional hearing on the topic in more than 50 years. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., who chaired it, said, “Unidentified aerial phenomena are a potential national security threat, and they need to be treated that way.

“For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis,” he added. “Pilots avoided reporting or were laughed at when they did. [Pentagon] officials relegated the issues to the back room or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community.

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., speaks outdoors in front of the U.S. Capitol in 2022.
Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Today we know better,” Carson continued. “UAPs are unexplained, it’s true, but they are real. They need to be investigated, and any threats they pose need to be mitigated.”

During his testimony Wednesday, Kirkpatrick said that anyone with alternate theories should submit them to credible scientific journals, stating, “that is how science works, not by blog or social media.” Kirkpatrick added that the goal of his agency was to attempt to balance transparency with protecting the secrets of the U.S. military and the intelligence community.

“By its very nature, the UAP challenge has for decades lent itself to mystery, sensationalism and even conspiracy,” Kirkpatrick said. “For that reason, ARRO remains committed to transparency, accountability and to sharing as much with the American public as we can, consistent with our obligation to protect not only intelligence sources and methods but U.S. and allied capabilities.”

The military has had an interest in UFOs since at least the 1940s. In 1952, the Air Force set up Project Blue Book, a classified program that counted more than 12,000 UFO sightings over its 17-year existence, with hundreds still unexplained.

Protesters holding signs such as
Protesters march in Washington, D.C., in 1995 to raise awareness about a weather balloon crash at Roswell, N.M., in 1947. (Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images)

In a March 1966 letter to two fellow congressmen, then-Rep. Gerald Ford wrote, “In the firm belief that the American public deserve a better explanation than that thus far given by the Air Force, I strongly recommend that there be a committee investigation of the UFO phenomena. I think we owe it to the people to establish credibility regarding UFOs and to produce the greatest possible enlightenment on this subject.”

The following month, Ford issued a statement saying that while some had “ridiculed” his call for a congressional investigation, they were a fraction of those who supported looking into a March event in which 40 people, including 12 police officers, claimed to have seen a cluster of UFOs.

In 2017, the New York Times published a story about how former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had pushed for funding for the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which investigated unexplained aerial sightings. The program ran from 2007 to 2012.

“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” said Reid. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”