Photo: AP

On Saturday, the New York Times published a remarkable story about the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which operated for five years before shuttering, according to the Defense Department, in 2012. The secret program reportedly had an annual budget of around $22 million, and, in case the official-sounding name didn’t tip you off, its purpose was to investigate unidentified flying objects.

The Times interviewed Defense Department officials and people who worked on the program to render its depiction of the project, which the Defense Department has never acknowledged before. Some parts of the program remain classified.

The DoD’s reason for ending the investigative program, according to Pentagon spokesperson Thomas Crosson in an email to the Times was that “It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding, and it was the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”

Luis Elizondo, the military intelligence official who ran the program, had a different take, telling the Times that though funding was exhausted in 2012, his curiosity wasn’t, and that he collaborated with Navy and CIA officials and continued his work until this past October when he resigned over “excessive secrecy and internal opposition.” In his resignation letter, Elizondo wrote to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, “Why aren’t we spending more time and effort on this issue?” The program may even continue in some form today, as Elizondo claimed to the Times, though he declined to provide details.

It’s worth checking out the full reported piece for its many intrigues, which include a UFO scrap metal storage facility in Las Vagas, stores of video and audio recordings of reported UFO “incidents,” and a Pentagon briefing paper proclaiming that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact.”

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The billionaire entrepreneur who supplied much of the program’s funding (initially at the request of former Senate majority leader Harry Reid?!), Robert Bigelow, told the Times of UFO exploration and study, “Internationally, we are the most backward country in the world on this issue. Our scientists are scared of being ostracized, and our media is scared of the stigma. China and Russia are much more open and work on this with huge organizations within their countries. Smaller countries like Belgium, France, England and South American countries like Chile are more open, too. They are proactive and willing to discuss this topic, rather than being held back by a juvenile taboo.”

He has a point: continuing this program would be among the least juvenile actions this government has undertaken this year.