Documents that have been recently declassified or acquired reveal that the Defense Department has spent at least $22 million on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which is intended to track and research unidentified flying objects. The Defense Department has never acknowledged the existence of the program before, but now says it shut down in 2012.
However, people who work or have worked for the program say that only the government funding was eliminated in 2012. They say there are still office in the Pentagon dedicated to this type of research and still people in positions of power looking for answers.
Harry Reid, the democratic senator from Nevada and former Senate majority leader, had a large part in starting the program back in 2007. He saw to it that most of the budget went to eccentric billionaire Robert Bigelow and Bigelow Aerospace. He said the program was "one of the good things" he did while in office.
Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who says he's been running the program for years, just resigned in October. He said he was quitting in protest of internal opposition to the program as well as the dwindling attention that was paid to their findings. Elizondo told reporters that he did have a successor, though he couldn't name them. He's gone on to work on privately funded UFO research projects.
Hoever, the Pentagon insists that the program ended entirely in 2012.
"It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding, and it was in the best interest of the [Department of Defense] to make a change," Thomas Cross, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters.
Whether it's still active or not, the findings that have been declassified so far are remarkable. The program has countless videos of UFO encounters by military personnel, as well as interview about firsthand accounts, physiological studies of those who've come into contact with strange crafts, and possibly even samples of strange technology.
A former contractor for the program named Harold E. Puthoff told reporters: "We're sort of in the position of what would happen if you gave Leonardo da Vinci a garage-door opener." Puthoff worked as an engineer for the C.I.A. before entering the program. He has conducted research on extrasensory perception. "First of all, he'd try to figure out what is this plastic stuff. He wouldn't know anything about the electromagnetic signals involved or its function."
In 2009, Senator Reid argued for heightened security to protect the findings of the project. "Much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings," Mr. Reid wrote in a letter to a deputy defense secretary at the time. He wanted the program designated a "restricted special access program."
The director of the program at the time prepared a Pentagon briefing summary, which said "what was considered science fiction is now science fact." The director believed that the program had discovered technologies which the United States was incapable of defending itself against. Mr. Reid's request for the special designation was denied.