In a statement this week, the Pentagon officially confirmed that not only did it track reports of UFOs, or as they call them “unidentified aerial phenomena,” for several years — it’s still doing it, at least to some degree.

“In a statement provided exclusively to The Post, a Department of Defense spokesman said a secret government initiative called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program ‘did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,'” The New York Post reported Wednesday.

Though the AATIP was officially shut down in 2012, Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood acknowledged that the DOD does still investigate “reports of unidentified aircraft encountered by US military aviators.”

“The Department of Defense is always concerned about maintaining positive identification of all aircraft in our operating environment, as well as identifying any foreign capability that may be a threat to the homeland,” Sherwood told the Post. “The department will continue to investigate, through normal procedures, reports of unidentified aircraft encountered by US military aviators in order to ensure defense of the homeland and protection against strategic surprise by our nation’s adversaries.”

For a reaction, the Post turned to Nick Pope, a journalist and author who once ran the British government’s secret UFO investigation team, who called the Pentagon’s admission a “bombshell revelation.” Previous statements by the department, said Pope, were deliberately “ambiguous” about the nature of the investigations, leaving open the possibility that they simply monitored potential “next-generation aviation threats from aircraft, missiles and drones,” rather than “what the public would call ‘UFOs.'”

The term used by Sherwood, “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP), Pope pointed out, is the same term the British Ministry of Defence used as an attempt to “get away from the pop culture baggage that came with the term ‘UFO.’'”

While a Pentagon spokesman going on the record to acknowledge the department’s investigations into “UAP” may be something of a “bombshell,” information about the AATIP and the department’s continued investigations into sightings was revealed to the public over a year ago. In December 2017, The New York Times broke the story of “The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program.”

“In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find. Which was how the Pentagon wanted it,” the Times reported. “For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.”

The Times noted that the department had “never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012,” but said “backers” and “officials with the program” revealed that it “remains in existence,” continuing to “investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.”

The program began in 2007, the Times reported, and its biggest advocate was former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who is a “space phenomena” enthusiast and whose “longtime friend,” billionaire entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, benefited from the millions of taxpayer dollars directed toward his aerospace research company.

Related: Defense Department’s Secret Program Investigating UFOs Revealed

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