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The Pentagon Spent $22 Million in Under-the-Radar Program to Study UFOs

The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia outside Washington, D.C. is seen in this aerial photograph, April 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia outside Washington, D.C. is seen in this aerial photograph, April 23, 2015.
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

For around five years, the Pentagon had a program to specifically look into reports of UFO sightings known as the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. The bizarre project was the brainchild of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who was the Senate majority leader when the program started, according to reports in the New York Times and Politico.
Although the program was never classified, very few people actually knew about it when it was ongoing. Even though the funding for the project (which the Times says began in 2007 while Politico says 2009) dried up in 2012, the program continued under the radar with officials continuing to investigate reports.

The head of the program, Luis Elizondo, left the Pentagon in October, writing in his resignation letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that he was frustrated by the secrecy and internal opposition that the program received. “Why aren’t we spending more time and effort on this issue?” he wrote. Elizondo is now working in a for-profit company called To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science, co-founded by Tom DeLonge, the former guitarist and vocalist for band Blink-182.

Reid began the program with the help of two colleagues it seems in part because billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend and donor Robert Bigelow persuaded him. Bigelow’s company subsequently received much of the money that was earmarked for the program through contracts. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Reid told the Times. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”

So what did the project find? It’s impossible to say with certainty since some aspects remain classified, but it seems like it didn’t achieve much. “After a while the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” a former staffer told Politico. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find. It all pretty much dissolved from that reason alone—and the interest level was losing steam. We only did it a couple years.”

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