Note from The Black Vault: The below “media roundtable” took place on December 16, 2022, and was an invite-only event that was not advertised. The Black Vault was invited to attend, which I did via the telephone. Although I was in line to ask a question along with a follow up, I was not called upon. I am working with the Pentagon Office of Public Affairs to get my questions answered, and if they are, I will bring that to you.
Until then, you can find the entire transcript of the nearly one hour roundtable below.
USD(I&S) Ronald Moultrie and Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick Media Roundtable on the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office
STAFF: Good afternoon, I’m Sue Gough. I will be — from Defense Press Operations. I will be your moderator today. We are here to talk about the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, which as most of you know, is the office that replaced the former Navy-led UAPTF. We have with us here today, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie, and Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of AARO. And with that, I will turn it over to Mr. Moultrie.
UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (I&S) RONALD MOULTRIE: Thank you. Good afternoon. I’m Ronald Moultrie, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. It’s a pleasure to be here today to provide an update on the department’s efforts to address unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAP. In May of this year, I appeared before Congress for the first open hearing on UAP in 50 years. In my testimony, I underscored that the Department of Defense takes UAP reports seriously. You may have caught that I just said unidentified anomalous phenomena, whereas in the past the department has used the term unidentified aerial phenomena. This new terminology expands the scope of UAP to include submerged and trans-medium objects. Unidentified phenomena in all domains, whether in the air, ground, sea or space, pose potential threats to personnel security and operations security, and they require our urgent attention.
At the hearing in May, I stressed to congressional leaders that the department is committed to improving data collection, bolstering reporting and personnel training, and fully leveraging the resources of our interagency partners to address the challenges posed by UAP. Since that time, we have been translating those commitments into action. In July, we established the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office or AARO, and we named Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick as director. Dr. Kirkpatrick is a distinguished scientist and a career intelligence officer. He embodies the department’s commitment to the highest standards of scientific rigor and objectivity. I’m fully confident he’s the right person to lead this important work. Dr. Kirkpatrick is building a talented team that combines a wide array of expertise and experience in data collection, research and analysis, operations and technical expertise from across the department, the intelligence community, the interagency, and private industry.
We view Congress as an important partner in this endeavor. Since its establishment, AARO has been providing regular updates to Congress on its efforts to document, analyze and resolve reports of anomalous phenomena. The department has already submitted its first congressionally-mandated quarterly reports on UAP in August in November, and we will continue to provide quarterly updates. I also want to emphasize that the department takes public interest in UAP seriously. As I said to congressional leaders in May, we are fully committed to the principles of openness and accountability to the American people. We are committed to sharing as much detail with the public as we can. With that, I’d like to turn this over to Dr. Kirkpatrick to share some of the progress that we’ve made since AARO’s establishment.
AARO DIRECTOR SEAN KIRKPATRICK: Thanks. Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick. I’m the director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office. As you know, AARO is a new office called for in the FY2022 NDAA and established just this past summer. We have an important and yet challenging mission to lead an interagency effort to document collect, analyze, and when possible, resolve reports of unidentified anomalous phenomena. Let me start by thanking Under Secretary Moultrie for his leadership and support in establishing AARO. As he said, we take UAP reports seriously. Unidentified objects in the skies, sea and space pose potential threats to safety and security, particularly for operational personnel. AARO is leading a focused effort to better characterize, understand and attribute these objects and is employing the highest scientific and analytic standards.
Though AARO is only a few months old, I want to highlight some of the early accomplishments. Since AARO’s establishment, we’ve transferred the data and responsibilities from the previous Navy-led UAP Task Force and disestablished it. During that transition, we’ve taken the opportunity to expand and standardize and integrate UAP reporting and reevaluate the data we’ve collected. Given the large and disparate nature of the data, and the need to apply rigorous methodology. AARO has developed an analytic framework that structures, formalizes and applies analytic best practices to the evaluation of that data.
AARO is prioritizing reports of UAP in or near military installations, operating areas, critical infrastructure and areas of national security importance. Our team is partnering with the services, the intelligence community, the Department of Energy, NASA, the FAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – and others to share information about UAP and tap into the vast resources of the interagency. NASA has been a particularly valuable partner. We are also engaging with a wide range of select partners from across academia, industry and the scientific community, as well as our allies and partners.
As you heard at the opening hearing in May, the stigma associated with UAP reporting has been significantly reduced. While that’s good news, more work needs to be done. Building on that progress, AARO is working with the military departments and the Joint Staff to normalize, integrate and expand UAP reporting beyond the aviators to all service members, including mariners, submariners and our space guardians. AARO is working to take in more UAP reporting and analysis from the interagency, FAA, NOAA Coast Guard and the Department of Energy, to name a few. AARO is integrating and executing a focused collection campaign using both traditional and nontraditional sources and sensors. We are bringing in outside expertise to help design and deploy ‘detect and track’ capabilities. We are executing a rigorous science and technology plan to ensure controlled calibration of sensors, patterns of life, and signature characterization development. Combined, these improvements in reporting collection and analysis will result in more factual data. More data will help build a more complete picture and support the resolution of anomaly – anomalous phenomena.
Our team knows that the public interest in UAP is high. We are developing a plan to provide regular updates and progress reporting to the public on our work. While we’re committed to declassifying and sharing information related to UAP to the greatest extent possible, we must, of course, balance the desire for transparency with the need to protect classified information, sources and methods in the interest of national security.
Remember, AARO is just getting started. It is crucial that we are rigorous and thorough in our collection, analysis and S&T; that we apply the highest analytic and scientific standards; that we execute our mission objectively and without sensationalism; and when we do not rush to conclusions. Finally, I’d like to thank Congress for its very valuable support and partnership. And with that, we will take your questions.
Q: Hi, I’m Tara Copp with the AP. I actually have a couple of questions. So, since the — since you were on the Hill, and since the 2021 report and the 144 incidents, have you received additional incidents? And are — is your office already going through those? Or are you just going through the 144?
MR. MOULTRIE: Yes, thank you for that question. We — we have established mechanisms to ensure that we could begin to receive current reports on — on activities that may be occurring around our bases and installations and within the various domains. And we have had instances come in that we are cataloging, that we are beginning to analyze, and Dr. Kirkpatrick and his team have been — have been working those. Sean, if there’s any other comment that you’d like to make on that, please do.
DR. KIRKPATRICK: So, I don’t want to get ahead of the ODNI report that will have all the numbers in it. We have had lots more reporting, and that will be coming out here shortly.
Q: And on the lots more, can you ballpark …
MR. MOULTRIE: … say significantly,
DR. KIRKPATRICK … say significantly more.
Q: Tens, hundreds — can you give just kind of an idea of how many more? And it — are they since 2021? Or some of these maybe —
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Some of these are older, absolutely. Alright, so several hundreds.
Q: Several hundreds, OK. And one of the things I was really interested in is how, when you change the name, you’re talking about things that are cross-domain. Have you had any reports of — of objects that you’ve actually had reports of going, like, from water to air to space, or is that kind of anticipating what you might see in the future?
MR. MOULTRIE: So, I’ll take that and then pass it over to Dr Kirkpatrick for any comments that he might have. We have not, to the best of my knowledge, had any credible reporting, that we’ve been able to analyze of trans-medium activity or trans-medium objects. We are still going through the data. And so, I would say that it’s early on in the process. So, I don’t want to be definitive to say that there’s nothing that is there. But I would say that we have not seen since the — the May hearing, we have not seen any – any indications that there have been trans-medium activities with UAPs.
Q: And just one last one. You know, a lot of us, we were just at the B-21 rollout, we’re seeing all sorts of new futuristic drones. How much of what you think might be getting reported into your office might be future actual military technology versus what really truly cannot be explained.
MR. MOULTRIE: Dr. Kirkpatrick, can you take that one?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Of course. We are setting up very clear mechanisms with our — our blue programs, both our DoD and IC programs to deconflict any observations that come in with blue activity to ensure that we weed those out, and we can identify those fairly early on.
STAFF: OK. I should have said at the beginning, let’s try and keep it to one and one follow up. And then I’ll go back around to the additional questions.
Q: You mentioned the effort to improve collection of incoming improved sensors so that they can provide more information. With the several hundred of reports that have come into the newly reorganized group, did you have a better percentage of resolved cases as a result of improving those sensors? In other words, has that work paid dividends in resolving this compared to the earlier one out of 144?
MR. MOULTRIE: I’ll comment and then I’ll turn it over to Dr. Kirkpatrick for comments that he might have on it. Just for the group, and for those who may not have the benefit of the May hearing, we talked about sensor calibration and the fact that you need to have sensors calibrated to actually detect things that are possibly different from adversarial systems that our sensors are calibrated to actually go after. And so, we have established work through Dr. Kirkpatrick’s effort to begin to explore that we are still in the very — very early stages of being able to do that, but Dr. Kirkpatrick, over to you commentary.
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Yes, exactly. I would — I would echo that this is very early, OK. We have a collection plan that we are building off of, we have some sensors that we are investing in, but we’re also looking at conventional, you know, what we have off the shelf theater assets and whatnot, as — as well as recalibrating these sensors to ensure we know what knowns look like. And that way we can weed those out. So, it’s still a little early, but it’s moving forward.
Q: As a follow-up. Is there any evidence that you have affirmative evidence that you have collected that shows any one of these anomalies is a space alien?
MR. MOULTRIE: So, we can say it in unison, and we can do it separately?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: No.
MR. MOULTRIE: At this time, the answer’s no, we have nothing. We’re committed — and I have to say this because I — I talked with the Secretary and I talked with the Deputy Secretary about this, about openness and objectivity, and transparency that we have committed to — to the Congress, the American people, to you in the press corps. We have not seen anything that would — but we — we’re certainly very early on — that would lead us to believe that any of the objects that we have seen are of alien origin, if you will. If we are — if we find something like that, we will look at it and analyze it and take the appropriate actions. Any other comments that you’d add to that?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: So, I would just say we are — we are structuring our analysis to be very thorough and rigorous. We will go through it all. And as a physicist, I have to adhere to the scientific method, and I will follow that data and science wherever it goes.
Q: Thank you for your time this afternoon. Wanted to see if we could expand a bit on the subsurface aspects of – of your work and research, I mean, partly reflected in the — the change to even what UAP means. What, I guess, are you searching for, what have you seen so far? And you mentioned sub-mariners and mariners — what sort of things, you know, comes up, I guess, on a regular basis, or occasional basis?
MR. MOULTRIE: Sure, let me take that one. And then I’ll pass it over to Dr. Kirkpatrick. So, in my organization, which is the intelligence and security organization, we are responsible for the comprehensive security of all elements within the Department of Defense. So that is our personnel, which is foremost in our minds, our platforms, our –our systems, our bases, our installations, and our — our activities, whether they occur in any domain. And we operate in all domains today. So, we operate under the surface of the water, we operate on land, we operate in the air, of course, we operate in space. Anything that appears within the proximity of our activities that is anomalous, something that we can’t identify, we have the responsibility to resolve what that is, and to report that back to our commanders, to our operators, to ensure that they are safe. If it’s an adversarial system, we have responsibility to identify, categorize it, and then take whatever appropriate action to ensure that it’s not a threat to our systems or platforms. That’s why we added that that subsurface piece. We do it already, but we just are formalizing that, under the effort that Dr. Kirkpatrick is now leading, to say we will do that in all domains. Because we operate in all domains, we have platforms that you would imagine in all those domains.
Q: As a follow up, would you say the majority of the reports you’re getting are still AARO? Or is it more — more diverse?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: At this time, I would say, yes; most of it’s going to be AARO.
Q: Thank you.
STAFF: I’m going to move to the phones for a minute. David Martin.
Q: Just to clarify on that, several hundred. That’s several hundred since you put out the 144 number in — in May, or several hundred total now. And can you tell us what your batting averages is? Is it still 1 for 144? What is it now?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: So, it’s — it’s since the last report that came out. And I don’t want to get ahead of the next report when it comes out. So, when that comes out, you’ll get a better idea of what our batting average is.
MR. MOULTRIE: But Dr. Kirkpatrick ,just for clarifying — clarification points, sir, would you say that some of those are a combination of older reports that are – that we are now discovering and bringing in and new? Or are they primarily new, sir? How would you characterize it?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: It is — I would characterize it as on the total reporting since, I believe our cut off; going backwards was 1996 through now.
STAFF: OK, sticking with the phones, Phil Stewart.
Q: Hey, thanks. So, so it’s — it’s one — it was — it’s all based from the 144 number, then? So it’s several hundred on top of the 144. Is that correct?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Correct.
Q: OK, and, and what you’d said earlier, that you thought there was a big decrease in the stigma attached to reporting — could you elaborate a little bit on that? Is it just the number of reports that you’re getting leads you to believe that, is there anything else that’s leading you to believe that?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: So, it’s the quality and quantity reporting that we’re getting across all the services; all the services have also instigated their own reporting mechanisms. And what we’re doing right now is working with all the services and the Joint Staff to raise the threshold for reporting, the standards for reporting and the requirements for reporting so that we can unify that across the entire department.
Q: Thank you for doing this, Bryan Bender with Politico. One is kind of a follow up to an earlier question, then I had a second one. You said there’s no evidence of trans-medium vehicles that you’ve seen, but can you give us some sense of whether you’ve seen them under sea, in the air, and either in space or from space? In other words, like the different mediums, can you kind of walk us through?
MR. MOULTRIE: Let me – let me take that question. Yes, Bryan let me take that and then I’ll pass it to Dr. Kirkpatrick. So, just to go back and — and level set, how we approach this. We are concerned about objects that appear — and this has happened for decades, right? — objects that appear on the sea, near our — our bases and installations, if they’re ports, submersibles — it might also — when I say submersible, things that are underwater that may appear within restricted or close to unrestricted spaces, if you will. We’re concerned about things that may be in proximity to our bases, and things that may be in proximity to assets that we have in space. And so, we track those things all the time to ensure that we’re aware of what they are. And we try to characterize those immediately. So, when we talk about what we see, and what we don’t see, there are things that we see. But we can resolve those to adversarial activities, or we resolve those to, sometimes to amateur activities, if you will. We’re trying to ensure that we do a complete characterization of that with any of the things that may fall under the criteria that the — has really hit the forefront over the last year and a half. And this is this anomalous activities and things that Congress has said that they — we’re really concerned about. So, it’s — it’s a combination of things that we have done before, that characterize things in those domains and things that we are doing today. Does that clarify the question for you?
Q: And then my follow up was on the history question. You said, going back to 1996 — the current NDAA that the president is about to sign goes further in sort of giving you a history assignment, quite a bit further. And I’m, you know, going back 75 years, trying to detail maybe what we used to know, what we don’t know anymore, or, you know, other cases that might have come across or reports, etc. How are you thinking about, I know, it’s early, but sort of addressing that, because that seems to be a whole nother task of sort of going through the archives, so to speak.
DR. KIRKPATRICK: So, we’ve — we’ve started to give it some thought, I don’t want to talk too much about it until they actually sign it. But that — that is going to be quite a research project, if you will, into the archives and going backwards in time.
Q: That will include this question that the Congress has arisen, which is that, could there be compartmentalized programs that even you don’t know about? Because they were buried in the system, you know, decades ago, before we were born — is that part of that?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: That is part of the intention, yes.
Q: Hi, Luis Martinez with ABC News. I’m just looking for – before I get to my real questions – I – I want to get a clarification. You’re talking about several hundreds new reports, based on the notion that nothing has been reported since 144. But back in May, Scott Bray at the hearing said that you’d received about 400. Are you — is it literally what you’re talking about one in the same? Or is it significantly higher than the 400 that you received in May?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: No. So, it’s including that 400.
Q: So, it’s not significantly higher than the 400 that we had?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: No.
Q: OK. Let the record show that you’re shaking your head, no, for those of us who are joining us on Zoom. OK. My next question, since, in your answer, Mr. Moultrie to — Dr. Moultrie — to Julian’s question, you — you said that “no” when it comes to space aliens, but what are some of the other things that you’re seeing? Is it foreign surveillance, which I think the DNI reported had said, is it weather balloons, other types of weather anomalies? And if it is foreign surveillance, is it significantly more advanced than anything we’ve seen? Or is it literally stuff off the shelf? Or something that we could do on our own?
MR. MOULTRIE: Yes, so thanks for the question. It’s — it’s not our — our policy or our practice to talk about operational issues or details or to talk about our capabilities to detect foreign capabilities or their activities, if you will. And we do that for a variety of reasons. I think that just in terms of what we are seeing and what has been reported, by many of you, and your — your — your organizations, there are a lot more civilian drones that are being flown today and other things that have been put up in the skies, and some of these things almost collide with planes. And we see that on a regular basis. So, I think it would be safe to say that there will be probably a number of these activities that can be characterized as non-adversarial systems, things like balloons, and things like UAVs that are operated for purposes other than surveillance or intelligence collection – would that be fair, sir?
MR. MOULTRIE: Oh, sorry.
STAFF: Oh, sorry.
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Yes, that would — that would be fair, I would just emphasize there’s not a single answer for all of this, right, there’s gonna be lots of different answers. And part of my job is to sort out all of those hundreds of cases on which ones go to which things.
Q: Just a very quick related question, then I apologize, I have to step out. Oren Liebermann from CNN. Do you have any reason to believe that any of the cases or instances or data you have looked at are indicative of something that was a threat to U.S. national security, or a military facility or U.S. personnel? Any reason to believe that from what you’ve looked at so far?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Yes.
MR. MOULTRIE: And by that, I mean, let me just clarify, because I think that’s one that that can be taken and off to the races with. We’re still trying to resolve some of these cases. Some of them probably could not be characterized as civilian balloons or UASs or UAVs or whatever. So, in the absence of being able to resolve what something is, we assume that it may be hostile. And so, we have to take that seriously. And we have to do exactly what Dr. Kirkpatrick and his team is doing, take every step and measure possible to understand what it is and to treat it as it may be hostile until we can understand exactly what it is.
Q: And to clarify, if something was conducting surveillance that could be considered — if it was a hostile power conducting surveillance, that would be in a threat category, that wouldn’t be in a non-threat category, is that correct?
MR. MOULTRIE: Any unauthorized system in our airspace we deem as a threat to safety. So, that can be one of our systems or one of our relatives — it’s any system that is not authorized or platform not authorized to be in a domain that is restricted, we consider that to be a potential threat to the safety of our personnel or to our platforms.
STAFF: OK, let me go back — let me go over the phones again. Chris Sharp. OK…
Q: Hi there. Thank you very much. Yes, my question was, have you analyzed UAP reports in the space domain that you have not been able to resolve?
MR. MOULTRIE: Let me take that one, because I think our ability right now to resolve things in the space domain, and what we have in the space domain, is something that would fall under sensitive sources and methods and means, so would be — would prefer not to respond to that — that comment or that question, excuse me, in this forum.
STAFF: Jeff Schogol.
Q: Have you detected UAP demonstrating technology which you are unable to explain?
MR. MOULTRIE: Do you want to take that one, Sean?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: There — there are things that appear to demonstrate interesting flight dynamics that we are fully investigating and researching right now.
MR. MOULTRIE: But, Sean, is that partly — is some of that the sensor phenomenology, sir?
DR. KIRKPATRICK: Some of that could be sensor phenomenology. Some of that could be flight dynamics of the platform. Some of that could be just an illusion. There’s lots of different ways that we have to investigate all of those in order to get to that truth.
STAFF: OK, we’ve only got time for one more question. I want to give it to the phone because most of just about everybody…sorry, Moshe. Jeff Schogol, you there?
Q: Hi, thank you. And I ask in all seriousness, you’ve spoken about how you haven’t seen any evidence that any of the phenomena could indicate visitation from another planet. But does the Defense Department have any evidence from previous incidents including crashed craft, or living or deceased beings from another planet or dimension that indicate that the U.S. that – excuse me — that the Earth has been visited by another form of life? And could whoever speaks please identify himself? I can’t see the speakers. Thank you.
MR. MOULTRIE: Let me answer. This is Ron Moultrie, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. Then I’ll pass it to Dr. Kirkpatrick to give his — his words on this. So, let me just characterize your question when you’re talking about, we’ve been visited, is there a possibility of alien life? So, I’m gonna to discount meteorites and things like that, that might have microbes on it and those types of things, and just talk about things that may be intelligent life that may have crashed landed on our planet or that may have the — in somehow visited our planet. In terms of holdings that I have seen and holdings, that that we have gone through — and we are being very thorough about this, and we are going back and trying to understand all the compartmented programs that this department has had, understand all the relationships that we may have had with any other organizations and all the predecessor organizations that were established before we were officially a Department of Defense. We’ve looked at all that; I have not seen anything in those holdings to date that would suggest that there has been an alien visitation, an alien crash, or anything like that. Once again, with what Dr. Kirkpatrick is doing, we are still very early on in the work that we’re doing. But that means we have to go back retrospectively and understand some of the holdings that we have. And Dr. Kirkpatrick and his team is still doing that. But I have not seen anything today that would suggest that we have anything of that nature.
DR. KIRKPATRICK: I have — in the research I’ve been doing, I’ve not heard, seen or heard of anything at this time that would support that.
Q: Can you define your holdings, please? Because some people may interpret that as physical evidence.
MR. MOULTRIE: Sure.
Q: What do you actually mean?
MR. MOULTRIE: Holdings, I’m talking about documentation, things that people may have said, interviews that people may have had, or memos that somebody may have written. And remember, there’s a lot of documents that are written by people, there’s things that people scratch on pieces of paper or whatever. And there’s posters that people put in the hallway, sometimes it’s a, “this is the alien room.” So, you have to go through all of those. And you have to see, OK, what’s behind the door? It’s great work.
Q: I have a very quick, but very related follow up. You mentioned the interagency process, you’re obviously the focal point for this broader government effort. Can you give us a sense of whether you’re getting the cooperation that you think you need, because you do hear stories that other agencies might not say, hey, here’s what we got.
DR. KIRKPATRICK: I — I enjoy a very good relationship across the interagency for having worked there for many, many decades. And they’re — they have all been absolutely super supportive. I have not run into any problems like that.
MR. MOULTRIE: And Dr. Kirkpatrick and I have both visited with the director or administrator of NASA, the intelligence community, directors and others. Everybody wants to find out what’s there for all the reasons that we talked about during this — during this discussion.
STAFF: OK. OK, … Luis — Luis — Luis got a —
STAFF: OK, Luis – Luis – Luis, got to …
Q: It’s Christmas Day.
STAFF: I know, but I got to — I got to cut it off. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to ask your question today, please send them to me and I will get your responses from Dr. Kirkpatrick and Mr. Moultrie. Thank you, guys, very much for being here.