The government’s ongoing campaign to investigate and destigmatize unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) sightings entered its latest stage this week. A new, easy-to-use online reporting tool is available to file incidents occurring as far back as 1945—but only for those already affiliated with the US government. For now.
Announced on October 31 by the Department of Defense, the system will be overseen by the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), and is specifically equipped to securely handle sightings involving national security information and military intelligence. The form is only intended for “current and former military members, federal employees and contractors” with “direct knowledge” of alleged US programs related to UAPs.
The submission portal includes specific instructions for filing, and specifically prohibits including classified information in an initial report. That said, the AARO is cleared to handle sensitive material, which can be conveyed in potential follow-up interviews.
“The information you submit in the form will be protected,” AARO director Sean Kirkpatrick said via this week’s DoD announcement, adding that any information provided in subsequent follow-up interviews will also be safeguarded according to its proper classification. Any reports must also be firsthand accounts.
Established in July 2022, AARO formed following the dissolution of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. Per its official description, it is charged with “minimiz[ing] technical and intelligence surprise by synchronizing scientific, intelligence, and operational detection identification, attribution, and mitigation of unidentified anomalous phenomena in the vicinity of national security areas.” AARO released its second annual UAP report earlier this year, which dramatically increased the number of documented sightings from 144 to 510 incidents—including 247 from the previous year alone.
AARO’s latest announcement also importantly notes that, although part of its congressional mandate required collecting information regarding “any potential UAP-related programs overseen by the U.S. government in the past,” it has yet to do so.
“We do have a requirement by law to bring those [witnesses] who think that it does exist, and they may have information that pertains to that,” Kirkpatrick said, while also making clear they “do not have any of that evidence right now.”
As AARO currently concerns itself predominantly with classified reports, NASA is continuing its own parallel investigations into declassified and public UAP sightings. In September 2023, the 16-member panel released a new independent study report, which recommended harnessing public trust of the agency alongside artificial intelligence programs to help sift through decades’ worth of UAP incidents.
But if you’re a plainclothes civilian still needing to get that one weird sighting off your chest, take heart: AARO is also planning to launch a similar public portal sometime in the near future.
“We want to hear from you,” said Kirkpatrick.