WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand chaired a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena.
Watch her opening statement here, and read her remarks as prepared for delivery below:
The hearing will come to order. I would first like to thank our witness, Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, for testifying here and in today’s earlier closed session, and for his long and distinguished career — both in the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense. Dr. Kirkpatrick is the Director of the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office or “AARO.” Congress established this office in law to get to the bottom of the very serious problem of unidentified anomalous Phenomena or “UAP”. Dr. Kirkpatrick has a difficult mission. While we have made progress, there remains a stigma attached to these phenomena. There is vast and complex citizen engagement, and there are very challenging scientific and technical hurdles. So, we appreciate the willingness of Dr. Kirkpatrick to lean in on this issue and the work that he has accomplished thus far. And we look forward to both his opening statement and his presentation of examples of the work AARO has done.
In late 2017 media reports surfaced about activities set in motion by the late, long-serving Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid more than a decade ago. We learned that there was strong evidence of advanced technology reflected in the features and performance characteristics of many objects observed by our highly trained service members operating top of the line military systems. We learned that for the last 8 years at least, military pilots frequently encountered unknown objects in controlled airspace off both the east and west coasts and across the continental United States in test and training areas and ranges. We don’t know where they come from, who made them, or how they operate. As former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist observed, had any of these objects had the label “Made in China” there would be an uproar in the government and media. There would be no stone unturned and no effort spared to find out what we were dealing with. We can look to the recent incursion of the identified PRC High Altitude Balloon as an example.
But because of the “UFO” stigma, the response has been irresponsibly anemic and slow. Congress established AARO. We made clear that we expected vigorous action. We added very substantial initial funding for the Office. But despite our 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. It took a letter to Secretary Austin from Senator Rubio and me and 14 other Senators to get the office temporary relief for the current fiscal year.
In this hearing, I intend to probe a series of specific issues. In the recent incidents where multiple objects were shot down over North America, it seemed that Pentagon leadership did not turn to the AARO Office to play a leading role in advising the combatant commander. We need to know whether this will continue. We need to know whether the leadership in DoD will bring AARO into the decision-making process in a visible way. And we need to know what role AARO will play in inter-agency coordination after the NSC working group disbands.
In the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense and Intelligence Authorization Acts, Congress established a direct reporting chain from the AARO Director to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The role of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security is limited to providing administrative support. We need to know how this direction is being implemented.
UAP are frequently observed flying at extremely high or very low speeds and come in various sizes and shapes. During the recent shoot-downs over North America, DOD disclosed that filters on radar systems were adjusted to allow for detection and tracking of a diverse set of objects for the first time. While opening the aperture can overload the real-time analytic process, we cannot keep turning a blind eye to surveillance data that is critical to detecting and tracking UAP. We need to know whether Dr. Kirkpatrick can achieve the necessary control over sensor “filters” and the storage and access to raw surveillance data to find UAP anomalies.
Finally, one of the tasks Congress set for AARO is serving as an open door for witnesses of UAP events or participants in government activities related to UAPs to come forward securely and disclose what they know without fear of retribution for any possible violations of previously signed non-disclosure agreements. Congress mandated that AARO set up a publicly discoverable and accessible process for safe disclosure. While we know that AARO has already conducted a significant number of interviews, many referred by Congress, we need to set up a public process and we need to know where that effort stands.