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Pentagon establishes office to track UFOs in space

A screenshot from a video depicting a blurry, unidentified object tracked by a U.S. Navy F/A-18.
A screenshot from a video depicting an unidentified object reportedly tracked by a U.S. Navy F/A-18 in military airspace. (Image credit: U.S. Navy)

The Department of Defense has created an office to track unidentified objects in space and air, under water, or even those that appear to travel between these domains.

UFOs, or as they are now known, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) have been receiving newfound levels of government scrutiny not seen in decades. Multiple hearings and classified briefings have taken place in the halls of the U.S. Congress in recent months, and many lawmakers have expressed concern that America's airspace may not be as safe as we think due to the many sightings of unidentified objects military aviators and other armed forces personnel have reported.

With that in mind, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the creation of this new office in a statement (opens in new tab) published Wednesday (July 20). The office is known as the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, or AARO, and was established within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. The new office will be led by Sean Kirkpatrick (opens in new tab), who previously served as the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency's Missile and Space Intelligence Center. 

Related: How big a deal is NASA's new UFO study?

In the statement, the DOD wrote that this new office will coordinate efforts throughout the DOD and federal government to "detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security." 

In a separate statement (opens in new tab), Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks wrote that this office is now "the DoD focal point for all UAP and UAP-related activities and may represent the Department for such activities." 

The office has six primary lines of effort: surveillance, collection and reporting; system capabilities and design; intelligence operations and analysis; mitigation and defeat; governance; and science and technology.

The objects of interest the office will attempt to detect and identify will include "anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects." Transmedium in this sense refers to objects or craft that can travel between domains, such as being able to transition from airborne flight to spaceflight, or from underwater travel to flight (opens in new tab)

The creation of this new organization is only the latest policy the U.S. government has made in recent months aimed at gaining a better understanding of UFOs. In June, NASA commissioned a panel designed to investigate UAP, with the secondary objective of removing some of the stigma or taboo associated with the topic. 

"One of the things that we tangentially hope to be part of this study, simply by talking about it in the open, is to help to remove some of the stigma associated with it," Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said during a news conference held at the time. "That will yield, obviously, increased access to data, more reports, more sightings, et cetera. So that's another thing that we're trying to accomplish with it."

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Brett Tingley
Brett Tingley

Brett is a science and technology journalist who is curious about emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett's work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery, and more. Brett obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English from Clemson University and a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett is a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, an avid LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping throughout the Appalachian Mountains with his wife and two children.