The Pentagon spent millions of dollars investigating reports of unidentified flying objects, according to reports from The New York Times and Politico.
The $22 million Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program began in 2007 after its funding was pushed by Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who retired this year, according to The Times. Reid has long had an interest in the phenomenon of UFOs.
Much of the money spent on the endeavor went to an aerospace firm owned by billionaire Robert Bigelow, a longtime friend of Reid, according to The Times. Bigelow told CBS's 60 Minutes in May that he was absolutely convinced that aliens exist and that UFOs have landed on Earth.
The Times noted that the Defense Department had never before acknowledged the existence of the program, but officials now say it was shut down in 2012.
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Politico said the program is getting attention this year because of the October retirement of Luis Elizondo, a career intelligence official who ran the program and reportedly told Defense Secretary James Mattis in his resignation letter that the Department needed to take the program's research more seriously.
"We were trying to take the voodoo out of voodoo science," Elizondo told Politico.
Elizondo told of sightings by Navy pilots of aircraft that were able to make maneuvers that should not be aerodynamically possible, but complained that military leaders were not taking the threat seriously.
"If a Russian 'Bear' bomber comes in near California, it is all over the news," he said. "These are coming in the skies over our facilities. Nothing but crickets."
Despite funding for the program ending in 2012, Defense officials have continued to research UFOs during the past five years, according to anonymous officials quoted by The Times.
Reid told the Times he was proud of his role in creating the program.
"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."
This article is written by By Bryan Lowry from The Kansas City Star and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.