Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon’s UFO investigation program known as the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), told Politico in an interview last Tuesday that he is stepping down from his post in December.
He will retire after serving in the position for almost 18 months. Kirkpatrick—a physicist who worked as a military scientist for decades—had previously deferred his retirement to accept the role as director of AARO, but said he now feels he has achieved his goals.
“I’m ready to move on. I have accomplished everything I said I was going to do,” Kirkpatrick said.
He added that there are still a few tasks he’d like to complete before leaving, such as finishing up the first volume of an historical review of the UFO phenomenon.
Kirkpatrick’s tenure has been marred by controversy, most recently when he described government whistleblower David Grusch’s testimony, presented at a congressional hearing last summer, as “insulting.”
“I was informed, in the course of my official duties, of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse-engineering program, to which I was denied access,” Grusch testified, adding that information regarding the recovered craft had been illegally withheld from Congress and he had filed a complaint alleging that he was the victim of illegal retaliation for his confidential disclosures.
Unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) is the current government nomenclature for UFOs.
“To be clear, AARO has yet to find any credible evidence to support the allegations of any reverse engineering program for non-human technology,” Kirkpatrick wrote in a memo following the hearing. “[…] I cannot let yesterday’s hearing pass without sharing how insulting it was to the officers of the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community who chose to join AARO, many with not unreasonable anxieties about the career risks this would entail.”
Accusations of a coverup haunted Kirkpatrick throughout his career with AARO.
At a congressional hearing last April, he said that “AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics.”
Some saw his denial of any “objects that defy the known laws of physics” as a contradiction of the 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, which stated that some unidentified anomalous phenomena included in the report “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities and require further analysis.”
Kirkpatrick maintained that some reported cases of UFOs could indicate incursions by adversaries of the U.S, like Russia and China.
“They are less risk averse at technical advancement than we are. They are just willing to try things and see if it works,” he said. “Are there capabilities that could be employed against us in both ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] and a weapons fashion? Absolutely. Do I have evidence they’re doing it in these cases? No, but I have concerning indicators.”
However, Kirkpatrick also co-authored a draft paper dated March 7th, 2023, that posited UFOs could be alien probes from a mothership sent to study Earth.
According to Kirkpatrick, that document was posted online without permission.
But, he said, he doesn’t regret working on the paper, because “the best thing that could come out of this job is to prove that there are aliens.”
“If we don’t prove it’s aliens, then what we’re finding is evidence of other people doing stuff in our backyard,” he said. “And that’s not good.”
Kirkpatrick will be succeeded by his deputy, Tim Philips, who will lead the office in an acting role until the Pentagon hires a permanent replacement.
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