Another congressional hearing on UFOs was held last Wednesday.
The hearing is just the second of its kind in 50 years, with the last most recent hearing having been held in May of 2022.
Prior to these hearings held in consecutive years, no open congressional hearings on the UFO phenomenon had been held since the days of Project Blue Book—a government study on UFOs that ran from 1952 to 1969.
Last year’s congressional hearing gave lawmakers the opportunity to question the Pentagon regarding the issue of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)—the current government nomenclature for UFOs—and for government officials to explain their current position and outline plans to investigate the issue further.
This most recent hearing, held by the Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities chaired by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), was much the same.
Gillibrand has come out as a strong proponent of funding for UFO research, who just last month questioned senior Pentagon officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, about the budget request for the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO)—the Pentagon’s UFO investigation program—during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Her questions in last month’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing focused on why AARO had been underfunded for the second year in a row; something which remained a strong focus for Gillibrand during the subcommittee hearing.
“We made it clear that we expect vigorous action. We added very vigorous initial funding for the office, but despite our best efforts, the president’s budget for fiscal years [2023 and 2024] requested only enough funding to defray the operating expenses of AARO. It included almost no funds to sustain the critical research and development necessary to support a serious investigation,” she said in the most recent hearing.
The senator expressed concern over the UFO enigma and how much of mainstream society’s dismissal of the phenomenon is affecting its research.
“We don’t know where they come from, who made them, or how they operate,” Gillibrand said of unidentified flying objects reported by military personnel. “[…] Because of the UFO stigma, the response has been irresponsibly anemic and slow.”
The hearing centered around questioning the director of AARO, Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick advocated for a deliberate, peer-reviewed approach to the investigation of UFOs.
“In 1979, Carl Sagan said, ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’ I would go one step further, and I would say, extraordinary claims require not only extraordinary evidence, but extraordinary science,” he said.
Two videos of anomalous objects were shown in the hearing.
One of the videos, featuring an object captured by an MQ-9 forward-looking infrared video sensor in South Asia, shows something with an apparent atmospheric wake or cavitation trailing it as it moves across the sensor’s field of view from left to right. AARO’s assessment is that the object is likely a commercial aircraft.
The other video, also taken by an MQ-9, but this time in the Middle East, shows a silver, orb-like object cross the sensor’s field of view. That object remains unidentified.
But Kirkpatrick explained that it would be “virtually impossible” to identify such an object based off of just one video.
“Now, what we can do and what we are doing, is keeping that … to see what are the similarities, what are the trends across all these, do we see these in a particular distribution, do they all behave the same or not. As we get more data, we will be able to go back and look at these in a fuller context,” he said.
Kirkpatrick also 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.”
However, 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.”
Concern over aerial incursions by foreign adversaries has been heightened since several unidentified flying objects were shot down over North America in February of this year.
The lack of substantial information available to the public has fostered a variety of conspiracy theories surrounding the events, something to which Kirkpatrick’s recent testimony has contributed.
Some see his denial of any “objects that defy the known laws of physics” as a contradiction of the recent 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, which stated that some unidentified aerial phenomena included in the report “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities and require further analysis.”
Unusual flight characteristics and performance capabilities have been at the forefront of the UFO discussion within government circles since the subject’s public resurgence several years ago, and one of the most popular conspiracy theories within the UFO community is that these objects represent a reality far stranger than something prosaic like a spy balloon.
While politicians and the military seem loathe to suggest any UFOs might represent something other than human technology, there are those who would argue that the unusual flight characteristics in which the government seems most interested are currently unattainable by any known terrestrial science and that instances of them very well could represent an otherworldly presence.
Barring conclusive evidence in support of either position suddenly becoming publicly available, very few minds seem likely to change any time soon, and the lack of information provided by authorities will in all likelihood continue to foster an environment conducive to the creation of conspiracy theories.