WASHINGTON — In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Sophisticated Aerospace Threat Identification Plan was virtually impossible to discover.
Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.
For years, the plan investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Division officials, interviews with system participants and records obtained by The New York Occasions. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep inside the building’s maze.
The Defense Department has never ever just before acknowledged the existence of the plan, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, although the Pentagon ended funding for the work at that time, the system remains in existence. For the past 5 years, they say, officials with the system have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, whilst also carrying out their other Defense Division duties.
The shadowy system — parts of it stay classified — started in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the funds went to an aerospace study firm run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime pal of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is at the moment working with NASA to generate expandable craft for humans to use in space.
On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in Could, Mr. Bigelow mentioned he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth.
Working with Mr. Bigelow’s Las Vegas-primarily based business, the plan made documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible indicators of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent signifies of lift.
Officials with the program have also studied videos of encounters amongst unknown objects and American military aircraft — including one particular released in August of a whitish oval object, about the size of a industrial plane, chased by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004.
Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, stated he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this factor going,” Mr. Reid mentioned in a current interview in Nevada. “I consider it’s one of the excellent factors I did in my congressional service. I’ve accomplished anything that no one has done prior to.”
Two other former senators and leading members of a defense spending subcommittee — Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat — also supported the system. Mr. Stevens died in 2010, and Mr. Inouye in 2012.
Whilst not addressing the merits of the system, Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at M.I.T., cautioned that not understanding the origin of an object does not mean that it is from yet another planet or galaxy. “When folks claim to observe truly uncommon phenomena, sometimes it’s worth investigating seriously,” she mentioned. But, she added, “what people often don’t get about science is that we usually have phenomena that stay unexplained.”
James E. Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle engineer and the author of 10 books on spaceflight who typically debunks U.F.O. sightings, was also doubtful. “There are a lot of prosaic events and human perceptual traits that can account for these stories,” Mr. Oberg said. “Lots of men and women are active in the air and do not want others to know about it. They are satisfied to lurk unrecognized in the noise, or even to stir it up as camouflage.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Oberg mentioned he welcomed research. “There could properly be a pearl there,” he stated.
In response to concerns from The Instances, Pentagon officials this month acknowledged the existence of the system, which began as component of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Officials insisted that the work had ended following five years, in 2012.
“It was determined that there have been other, greater priority concerns that merited funding, and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change,” a Pentagon spokesman, Thomas Crosson, mentioned in an e mail, referring to the Division of Defense.
But Mr. Elizondo stated the only factor that had ended was the effort’s government funding, which dried up in 2012. From then on, Mr. Elizondo mentioned in an interview, he worked with officials from the Navy and the C.I.A. He continued to function out of his Pentagon office till this previous October, when he resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition.
“Why aren’t we spending far more time and effort on this concern?” Mr. Elizondo wrote in a resignation letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Mr. Elizondo stated that the effort continued and that he had a successor, whom he declined to name.
U.F.O.s have been repeatedly investigated more than the decades in the United States, like by the American military. In 1947, the Air Force began a series of studies that investigated far more than 12,000 claimed U.F.O. sightings just before it was officially ended in 1969. The project, which incorporated a study code-named Project Blue Book, started in 1952, concluded that most sightings involved stars, clouds, standard aircraft or spy planes, despite the fact that 701 remained unexplained.
Robert C. Seamans Jr., the secretary of the Air Force at the time, said in a memorandum announcing the finish of Project Blue Book that it “no longer can be justified either on the ground of national safety or in the interest of science.”
Mr. Reid said his interest in U.F.O.s came from Mr. Bigelow. In 2007, Mr. Reid said in the interview, Mr. Bigelow told him that an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency had approached him wanting to pay a visit to Mr. Bigelow’s ranch in Utah, where he conducted study.
Mr. Reid stated he met with agency officials shortly following his meeting with Mr. Bigelow and discovered that they wanted to start a analysis plan on U.F.O.s. Mr. Reid then summoned Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye to a secure area in the Capitol.
“I had talked to John Glenn a quantity of years before,” Mr. Reid stated, referring to the astronaut and former senator from Ohio, who died in 2016. Mr. Glenn, Mr. Reid said, had told him he believed that the federal government must be seeking seriously into U.F.O.s, and should be speaking to military service members, especially pilots, who had reported seeing aircraft they could not identify or explain.
The sightings were not usually reported up the military’s chain of command, Mr. Reid said, simply because service members were afraid they would be laughed at or stigmatized.
The meeting with Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye, Mr. Reid stated, “was one particular of the easiest meetings I ever had.”
He added, “Ted Stevens said, ‘I’ve been waiting to do this given that I was in the Air Force.’” (The Alaska senator had been a pilot in the Army’s air force, flying transport missions more than China throughout Globe War II.)
Throughout the meeting, Mr. Reid said, Mr. Stevens recounted getting tailed by a strange aircraft with no identified origin, which he mentioned had followed his plane for miles.
None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid stated. “This was so-called black cash,” he stated. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that is how we wanted it.” Mr. Reid was referring to the Pentagon budget for classified programs.
Contracts obtained by The Occasions show a congressional appropriation of just beneath $22 million starting in late 2008 by way of 2011. The cash was used for management of the system, analysis and assessments of the threat posed by the objects.
The funding went to Mr. Bigelow’s organization, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited investigation for the system.
Under Mr. Bigelow’s path, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other supplies that Mr. Elizondo and plan contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena. Researchers also studied folks who mentioned they had seasoned physical effects from encounters with the objects and examined them for any physiological alterations. In addition, researchers spoke to military service members who had reported sightings of strange aircraft.
“We’re sort of in the position of what would occur if you gave Leonardo da Vinci a garage-door opener,” stated Harold E. Puthoff, an engineer who has performed research on extrasensory perception for the C.I.A. and later worked as a contractor for the program. “First of all, he’d attempt to figure out what is this plastic stuff. He wouldn’t know anything about the electromagnetic signals involved or its function.”
The program collected video and audio recordings of reported U.F.O. incidents, including footage from a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet showing an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves. The Navy pilots can be heard attempting to recognize what they are seeing. “There’s a entire fleet of them,” one exclaims. Defense officials declined to release the place and date of the incident.
“Internationally, we are the most backward nation in the world on this concern,” Mr. Bigelow stated in an interview. “Our scientists are scared of being ostracized, and our media is scared of the stigma. China and Russia are a lot much more open and operate on this with enormous organizations within their countries. Smaller sized nations like Belgium, France, England and South American countries like Chile are far more open, as well. They are proactive and willing to go over this topic, rather than becoming held back by a juvenile taboo.”
By 2009, Mr. Reid decided that the plan had produced such extraordinary discoveries that he argued for heightened safety to protect it. “Much progress has been produced with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-associated findings,” Mr. Reid stated in a letter to William Lynn III, a deputy defense secretary at the time, requesting that it be designated a “restricted particular access program” limited to a few listed officials.
A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the system prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was regarded science fiction is now science truth,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. Mr. Reid’s request for the special designation was denied.
Mr. Elizondo, in his resignation letter of Oct. four, mentioned there was a need for much more critical attention to “the a lot of accounts from the Navy and other services of uncommon aerial systems interfering with military weapon platforms and displaying beyond-next-generation capabilities.” He expressed his aggravation with the limitations placed on the plan, telling Mr. Mattis that “there remains a essential need to have to ascertain capability and intent of these phenomena for the benefit of the armed forces and the nation.”
Mr. Elizondo has now joined Mr. Puthoff and an additional former Defense Department official, Christopher K. Mellon, who was a deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, in a new industrial venture referred to as To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. They are speaking publicly about their efforts as their venture aims to raise income for study into U.F.O.s.
In the interview, Mr. Elizondo stated he and his government colleagues had determined that the phenomena they had studied did not appear to originate from any nation. “That truth is not anything any government or institution need to classify in order to maintain secret from the folks,” he said.
For his element, Mr. Reid said he did not know exactly where the objects had come from. “If any individual says they have the answers now, they’re fooling themselves,” he stated. “We do not know.”
But, he said, “we have to commence someplace.”
Published at Sat, 16 Dec 2017 17:32:47 +0000