Pentagon acknowledges program to investigate UFO encounters: report

The Pentagon has acknowledged for the first time the existence of a program charged with investigating unidentified flying objects.

According to a New York Times report, the $22 million Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program began in 2007 and was funded primarily at the request of former Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.), who has long had an interest in the topic.

The Pentagon told the Times that the program ended in 2012. Its supporters say it is still in existence, but that the Defense Department has stopped funding it.

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Most of the money went to a Nevada-based research firm and government contractor, Bigelow Aerospace, run by Robert Bigelow, a billionaire businessman and a friend of Reid. 

The program was headed up by Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence officer, who resigned earlier this year. In his resignation letter to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE, Elizondo questioned why the Pentagon was not "spending more time and effort on this issue," the Times reported.

Elizondo told the Times that he kept working on the project out of his Pentagon office until his resignation, along with officials from the Navy and the CIA, despite the lack of funding.

The program, which began as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency, produced documents detailing sightings of mysterious aircraft and collected videos and audio recordings of alleged encounters with UFOs, according to the Times. The program publicly released a video apparently showing an encounter between a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and an unknown object. 

Reid told the Times that he did not have any regrets about getting the program started, saying that he was proud of the effort. 

"I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” he said. “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.”