Though the Pentagon has changed the name and scope of the new organization tasked with overseeing the US government’s growing effort to track unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is the real one Responsible for defending American airspace, says it was all business as usual when it comes to his command’s mission.
“I have not changed my posture, duties, or anything, nor have I been asked to do so,” Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command (NORAD) with two hats, told reporters on Thursday at a roundtable discussion the Aspen Security Forum.
Asked by Washington Post Reporter Shane Harris on whether there have been any “homeland security-related” changes due to the increased attention given to unidentified flying objects (UAP) – as the Pentagon is now talking about so-called unidentified flying objects (UFO) – VanHerck said “no”. The answer may seem incoherent given that the Pentagon claims are made to take the issue seriously and mitigate any potential national security risks posed by UAPs. On the other hand, the Air Force has been notoriously reticent when it comes to this controversial topic.
VanHerck goes one step further and says: “First of all, let’s be clear. My job as NORAD commander is to identify every single UAP or…whatever it is,” VanHerck said. “What I want to share with you is that I have found another one that had aliens or was a spaceship that we have identified.”
“If any of our NORAD fighters or personnel assigned to NORTHCOM come across any type of UAP, we would be sure to report it,” he said. “I’m just telling you, we didn’t see that.”
VanHerck was questioned on the matter after the Pentagon this week changed the name of its organization tasked with tracking UAPs from the lumbering Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMSG) to the streamlined All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). had changed.
The move is more than just an update of the nomenclature, it reflects a long-known reality. Airborne objects aren’t the only ones that can’t be identified, but more importantly, they may pose a threat to US military installations and personnel.
In its Wednesday announcement, the Pentagon noted that Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), “changed her original orientation to become Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security” by renaming and expanding the scope of the AOIMSG .
That was because the Fiscal Year 2022 enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision to establish such an office, was entrusted — in coordination with DNI — with responsibilities broader than those initially assigned to the AOIMSG.
In essence, this legislation requires a much greater effort to investigate these phenomena than Hicks originally called for in her memo last November.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said The War Zone Thursday that “the origin of AOIMSG’s formation stemmed from post-support internal DoD processes [the Office of the Director of National Intelligence] with the preparation of its assessment report on UAP.”
Pursuant to a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2021, DNI — in consultation with the Department of Defense (DOD) — submitted a report on UAP to Congress last June. That same day, Hicks sent a memo to DoD leaders on the status of UAP assessments. In that memo, she directed the Office of the Undersecretary for Intelligence and Security (OUSD(I&S)) to “develop a plan to formalize the mission then being conducted by the UAP Task Force.”
Hicks’ November 2021 memo directing the creation of the AOIMSG and AOIMEXEC “was a direct result of that planning effort,” Gough said.
While much of the initial attention in recent years has been focused on airborne objects of unknown origin, what the Pentagon now refers to as UAP, mysterious underwater objects, or anomalies, have been tracked by submarines, as we explained three years ago. The UFO theme, as it exists culturally, has long been intertwined with sightings of so-called USOs – unidentified submerged objects. Claims of sightings of objects capable of traversing air and water persist to this day and are an important part of “ufology”.
AARO’s mission will be to “synchronize” the “efforts” of the Department of Defense (DOD) and other U.S. federal departments and agencies to identify “objects of interest in, on, or near military installations, theaters of operations, training areas, etc .Detect, identify and map the airspace and other areas of interest to use and, where necessary, mitigate any associated threats to the safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, air, underwater and transmedia objects.”
The problem of the US military tracking transmedia objects is not new. It was included in the NDAA 2022, which defines transmedia objects as “objects or devices that are observed to transition between space and the atmosphere or between the atmosphere and bodies of water that are not immediately identifiable.”
The new organization will be led by what the Pentagon now calls the AARO Executive Council or (AAROEXEC).
AARO’s Executive Council (AAROEXEC), headed by Undersecretary for Intelligence and Security (USD(I&S)) Ronald Moultrie, will provide AARO “oversight and guidance” along these primary efforts:
1. Monitoring, Collection and Reporting
2. System Capabilities and Design
3. Intelligence operations and analysis
4. Mitigation and Defeat
6. Science and Technology
According to Hicks’ latest July 15 memo on the matter, AARO will “serve as the authoritative bureau for the Department of Defense’s Unidentified Airborne Phenomena (UAP) and UAP-related activities.”
It will be the DOD’s “focal point for all UAP and UAP-related activities” and, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs and the Assistant Secretary of Defense, may represent it to other federal agencies, Congress, the media, and the public of defense for public affairs.
AARO is led directly by Sean Kirkpatrick, who most recently served as Chief Scientist at DIA’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center.
“He is known to his staff and team as Dr. K and brings more than two decades of experience and significant expertise in scientific and technical intelligence (S&TI), S&TI and space policy, research and development, acquisitions and operations, and specializes in space/counterspace mission areas in his official biography.
The problematic of unidentified phenomena, in whatever medium they exist, has received greater public interest in recent years. In May of this year, Congress held its first UFO hearing in over 50 years. Earlier this month we told you about Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc)’s efforts to offer greater protections to those with information about such things.
His proposed Fiscal Year 2023 amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act was created to “establish a process within government for reporting UAPs and provide whistleblower-like protections,” said Gallagher spokesman Jordan Dunn The War Zone back then.
The bipartisan amendment to the NDAA for fiscal year 2023 passed by ballot last week without debate. Politically reported.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has also recently taken an interest in this topic.
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