Sean Kirkpatrick said he'd leave his post next month in an interview with Politico. "I’m ready to move on. I have accomplished everything I said I was going to do," he told the outlet.
He said before he left he had a few other tasks he hoped to complete before stepping down, chief among them being a historical review of all unidentified anomalous phenomena reports.
UAP is often used as a less stigmatised synonym for UFO, though an object can be considered a UAP without it being extraterrestrial in origin. The Chinese spy balloon that dominated headlines in January would have been considered a UAP before its identification.
Mr Kirkpatrick, who leads the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, will be replaced by Tim Phillips — currently Mr Kirkpatrick's deputy — until a permanent replacement is chosen.
The announcement comes just a week after Mr Kirkpatrick announced that AARO was opening a reporting system to current and former US federal workers and contractors who witnessed US government-related activities involving UAP.
The reporting system was created just months after former US intelligence official David Grusch testified before Congress that the Pentagon had recovered crashed vehicles of unknown origin that contained "non-human biologics." Mr Kirkpatrick said he has repeatedly asked Mr Grusch to provide further evidence of those claims and that he has never been given a response.
“Mr Grusch, since AARO has stood up and since I’ve been director, has not come to see us and provided any information,” he said during an off-camera media event, according to The Debrief. “And we have extended an invitation at least four or five times now for him to come in over the last eight months or so and [have] been declined.”
Mr Grusch claims he was never contacted by Mr Kirkpatrick.
“I have zero emails or calls from them," Mr Grusch said, adding that the claim was "a lie."
The Pentagon has denied having any knowledge of craft recovery, reverse-engineering programs, or any discovery involving "non-human biologics."
Mr Kirkpatrick's departure is welcome news to some adamant UFO true believers who view him as a gatekeeper preventing "disclosure," or the admission by the US government that aliens exist and have visited Earth.
A Change.org petition with nearly 2,000 signatures was launched in October calling for Mr Kirkpatrick's resignation. The petition buys fully into Mr Grusch's unverified story that the Pentagon has recovered and reverse-engineered UAP, and calls Mr Kirkpatrick and AARO "the gatekeepers of the UFO/UAP secrets."
"Dr Kirkpatrick has repeatedly lied to the American people about a lack of evidence concerning UFOs/UAPs. There is no doubt that he will continue to do so!" the petition claims.
While UFO enthusiasts — and some lawmakers — look for aliens, Mr Kirkpatrick pointed out that the reality of UAP may be more grounded, and may present a more immediate threat to the US.
“If we don’t prove it’s aliens, then what we’re finding is evidence of other people doing stuff in our backyard,” he told Politico. “And that’s not good.”