News & Politics

Revealed: Recent Pentagon Program to Study UFOs

The United States military has been studying the UFO phenomenon since the late 1940s with Project Blue Book being one of the more prominent efforts. There have almost certainly been periodic, secret programs to discover what the heck was going on in the skies over America and whether the phenomenon represents a threat to the country.

The Pentagon has always taken UFOs seriously, despite public pronouncements to the contrary. Now, a very recent program that wasn’t secret, but held very close to the vest, to study UFOs has been revealed by Politico and the New York Times.

The program began in 2002 when former Nevada Senator Harry Reid earmarked several million dollars to set up a serious scientific and military study of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon.” It was run by an intelligence officer, Luis Elizondo, who recently resigned and whose letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis mentioning the program became public. The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, as it was dubbed, ended in 2012.

One of Reid’s major donors, Bob Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace, was apparently one of the people who convinced Reid to appropriate the money. Bigelow got some of the contracts related to the program.

The study of UFOs has come a long way since the days after World War II when most researchers were seen as kooks and crackpots. Today, the scientific method is followed in investigating credible sightings, and UFO researchers are taken seriously by at least some of the scientific community.

Is national security really at stake? There were enough people worried about it that the program eventually cost $22 million.


One possible theory behind the unexplained incidents, according to a former congressional staffer who described the motivations behind the program, was that a foreign power—perhaps the Chinese or the Russians—had developed next-generation technologies that could threaten the United States.

“Was this China or Russia trying to do something or has some propulsion system we are not familiar with?” said a former staffer who spoke with POLITICO on condition of anonymity.

Like other UFO studies, this one also appears to have simply generated a blizzard of paper without arriving at any conclusions.

The revelation of the program could give a credibility boost to UFO theorists, who have long pointed to public accounts by military pilots and others describing phenomena that defy obvious explanation, and could fuel demands for increased transparency about the scope and findings of the Pentagon effort, which focused some of its inquiries into sci-fi sounding concepts like “wormholes” and “warp drives.” The program also drafted a series of what the office referred to as “queried unverified event under evaluation,” QUEU reports, in which pilots and other personnel who had reported encounters were interviewed about their experiences.

Elizondo revealed to Politico the fact that many of the sightings of UFOs appeared near nuclear facilities:

“We tried to work within the system,” Elizondo told POLITICO in a recent interview. “We were trying to take the voodoo out of voodoo science.”

He described scores of unexplained sightings by Navy pilots and other observers of aircraft with capabilities far beyond what is currently considered aerodynamically possible. The sightings, Elizondo told POLITICO, were often reported in the vicinity of nuclear facilities, either ships at sea or power plants. “We had never seen anything like it.”

But, in his view military leadership did not appear alarmed by the potential threat. “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.”

Capabilities like this:

At a recent press conference for To The Stars in Las Vegas, Mellon described one of the sightings reported by U.S. Navy pilots: “It is white, oblong, some 40 feet long and perhaps 12 feet thick…The pilots are astonished to see the object suddenly reorient itself toward the approaching F/A-18. In a series of discreet tumbling maneuvers that seem to defy the laws of physics. The object takes a position directly behind the approaching F/A-18. The pilots capture gun camera footage and infrared imagery of the object. They are outmatched by a technology they’ve never seen.”

“They did not exhibit overt hostility,” Elizondo, listed as director of global security and special programs for To The Stars, explained in a recent published interview of the series of reported encounters. “But something unexplained is always assumed to be a potential threat until we are certain it isn’t. On the bright side, I believe we are closer than ever before in our understanding of how it operates.”

There is little doubt that many witnesses to UFOs see “something.” They aren’t crazy or hallucinating. But many times, they misunderstand what they see. About 95 percent of UFOs can easily be explained as sightings of the planet Venus, meteors, man-made satellites, jet aircraft, weather balloons, or even clouds. It’s that five percent that fascinates us and fires the imagination.

And it’s that five percent that got the Pentagon’s attention and led to the expenditure of $22 million of taxpayer money.