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The US Military Admits It Spent $22 Million Investigating UFOs (boston.com) 166

Long-time Slashdot reader Joosy writes, "Until 2012 the Pentagon had a program, the 'Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program', that tracked unidentified flying objects." An anonymous reader writes: The Pentagon finally acknowledged the existence of the $22 million program today to the New York Times, while also claiming that they closed the program five years ago. "But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties."

Over the years the program "produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift. Officials with the program have also studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and U.S. military aircraft." But ultimately, a Pentagon spokesman said, "It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding, and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change."

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The US Military Admits It Spent $22 Million Investigating UFOs

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  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @06:56PM (#55753051)

    but I wonder how much was spent... covering up what they found.... mouhahaahaaaa!

    • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Saturday December 16, 2017 @07:10PM (#55753119) Journal

      To be fair lets say, just for the sake of argument, that they found that there was alien spacecraft flying over our heads. Now what do you think the public would say when the PTBs announced "There are alien spacecraft that have visited us. they are superior to our technology in every way and if they decide to be hostile we have absolutely no chance...have a nice day."

      You would have the excrement hit the bladed cooling device at the speed of light, riots, religious whackos doing all kinds of crazy shit, the destruction would be epic. Remember the line from MiB? "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

      • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @07:41PM (#55753203)

        I know, that's pretty much what happened when the white man showed up in the Americas. Excrement hit the leaf-fan, natives running every which way, medicine men screaming about the end of the world. Total chaos.

        • Funnily enough (Score:5, Interesting)

          by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @04:36AM (#55754509)
          They would have been right, seeing how the few of them (which survived their epidemic and intercine wars), were wiped out by the subsequent arrival of the white men , and all the war , conquest, and pushing away their population, new disease etc...
          • Whether or not they would have been right is debatable, given that most of their decline happened before The Arrival. We would have to weigh the negative aspects against the positive ones. But, even if I accept that proposition with no qualifications, it just makes the original argument look even more silly; the fact that they WEREN'T flipping out and panicking when they had good reason to do so makes it rather irrational to assume that our populations would flip out if an alien species showed up.

          • The arrival of the white man was the end of the Native American way of life, but we are still here. All of us smart ones integrated, intermarried and are productive members of society. A few holdouts, mostly stubborn idiots, fought the white man and lost and the ones that are still stubborn idiots live on reservations. In each generation, the smart ones move out and integrate into society.

            When someone shows up and demonstrably proves that your way of life and beliefs are backwards and wrong, the wise man

            • I suspect that's very much what would happen if a more advanced alien species took an interest in us. Assuming their goal wasn't genocide, they'd likely assimilate us. And I for one would gladly put on their space pants, learn to speak Keplerian, and join them amongst the starts, even if it meant being treated as a second class citizen for generations to come.

              Maybe they would set aside Australia as a reservation for the humans who don't want to adapt.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In that scenario, here are some of the (likely) outcomes:
        - We now know there's intelligent life beyond earth.
        - That certain technologies are possible. This alone is a huge scientific advance. And from the available evidence etc, we might be able to discern how it worked (or even how it doesn't work, which is almost as useful).
        - The public at large would be a lot more interested in science/engineering and also be more accepting of the huge military budgets currently spent on overthrowing regimes not to our l

      • Riots and religious wackos are constant, if anything this may unify them (not necessarily helpfully, mind you) into a single direction.

        But let's face it, if an alien space ship is visiting earth, we are doomed if they decide to be hostile, whether the government chooses to tell us this or not. The question is whether you like a surprise or not.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        "There are alien spacecraft that have visited us. they are superior to our technology in every way and if they decide to be hostile we would be dead already... so they obviously aren't hostile."

        FTFY

        "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

        Yeah, the movies are real life, that explains everything.

      • The people's right to know should always override any chaos that may ensue because of it.
      • There is nothing about aliens in the words "Unidentified Flying Object."

        Unidentified means you don't know what it is. If you knew it was aliens, it would be an identified object.

        Flying just means it is in sustained motion without touching the group. The most common flying objects I see are birds and insects.

        Object, just means it is a physical thing.

        A thing, in the air, and you don't know what it is. If you don't see them nearly every day, it just means you don't understand the words.

        I suspect the military i

  • I saw a documentary [wikipedia.org] on this many years ago.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      And if you don't have anyone looking into the UFO observations then you may miss something essential - like a foreign power aircraft or a drug smuggler.

      I don't really worry of the DoD has a few people looking into this area, it keeps them busy with pretty harmless stuff. And it can be great training for investigators too - if something leaks it's not revealing anything critical, it just look stupid. And that's something nobody want to be - look stupid.

      • Also, you won't know how successful individual details used to obscure the identity of experimental aircraft were. You won't know what people could really detect from the ground without some people who don't have access to the program looking up with serious intent and making observations. UFO sightings have those characteristics; they're an important resource for the military in numerous ways.

      • I always see news like this as an exercise in missing the point. The Department of DEFENSE was called to take a look at items flying at high speed, within national airspace, without permit, communications, or other markings. Yea. That's like, their job.

        If it were in orbit, you would call NASA.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Have taken over the White House and the Republican Party.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Investigating UFOs advances national security (if they're experimental military aircraft) and science. We should be spending more on such efforts, but we can't afford it. Unfortunately, Republicans are too busy wastefully spending our money and putting our troops in harm's way because of the Republican crusade to exterminate Muslims. The war on Islam (what the Republicans falsely claim is a war on terror) is costing us dearly. We can thank Republicans that we're not safer and that science hasn't advanced.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The cost of a buying, staffing, running and maintaining a single helicopter are probably way more than that.

    • Blackhawks (medium-lift, non-attack) helicopters run about $2200/flight hour of "all in" cost (including purchase price, training, spares, etc.). They seem to get ~8K flight hours across 10 years (https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/uh-60.htm), or about 800/year. So, about $1.76M/year. So this program cost about 12.5 helicopters. Given that this program lasted 5 years, we could have traded it for about a 2.5 helicopter fleet.

  • The federal government is subsidizing cheese. The government spent $21.8 million purchasing surplus cheese and providing incentives for companies to enter the cheese industry."Government cheese really grates on taxpayers," the report states, showing the report's affinity for cheesy jokes.

    In 2014, Ghost Clinics received $35,000,000 in federal reimbursements. Millions of dollars were paid out to 118 “phantom” medical clinics. These were clinics, established by a network of criminal gangs, that never actually existed. They may have been fake clinics, but the government paid out real money and a lot of it.

    Alien abduction claims aside, it's virtually certain aliens who have the technological ability to travel to our galaxy also possess the advanced cloaking ability necessary to avoid detection. Yet, this may not even qualify as a top ten government spending boondoggle.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yet, this may not even qualify as a top ten government spending boondoggle.

      You call it a boondoogle. I call it money well spent.

      Hint: UFO ("unidentified flying object") does not imply "alien," and the sightings could be unidentified spy aircraft from a hostile foreign nation, so you bet your ass the DOD investigated credible claims to see if they had any merit.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Um, no. Just no. This was a payoff to a buddy of Harry. If we really wanted to look for UFOs, there would have been a competitive competition for the contract. There wasn't. End of story.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      For other US organizations that actually use their budget wisely, $22 million would be significant. It is even less significant as it appears to be money over a three year period, 2008-2011.

      Contrast this with the half trillion dollar F-35 program, which has resulted in 100 planes that can only, potentially, be used for training as they will be too expensive to upgrade, and not a single plane that is suitable for any practical warfare application.

      The question of alien life is legitimate. Reasonable res

  • by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @07:19PM (#55753161) Journal
    An Unidentified Flying Object is nothing more than that. Any UFO could easily be an unidentified military (or even civilian these days) weapon. To choose to never investigate any report because of the association between the acronym UFO and "aliens" in the public mind would be foolishly negligent. A middle ground is essential. Hopefully, this just went full black.
    • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @07:49PM (#55753227)

      Most people don't know that the term "UFOB" (from which we get "UFO") was itself originally a USAF radar operator term. It referred to anything on a radar screen which wasn't obviously noise and hadn't yet been identified.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Sure, there are vehicles that exist today that fifty years ago would have had to been written of as sheer fantasy -- stealth aircraft for example. And a plausible argument could be made that a country possessing a secret hypersonic vehicle might want to make overflights of US territory to determine whether the US is capable of responding to such a thing.

      But as easy as it is to gin up reasonable justification for a program like this, the details of this particular program carry a considerable whiff of crac

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "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 money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Reid’s, Robert Bigelow". Just another handout.

  • They were looking for rocks that could be a hazard to life on earth. Nothing to see here. Move along and quit being stupid.
  • So what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @07:45PM (#55753211) Homepage

    The US military budget is $597 billion a year (that's billion, with a 'b').

    $22 million spent looking for UFOs means that over the program's lifetime they spent .003% of one year's budget on the program.

    Now you can argue that that was money wasted, and maybe its was, but if you're going to complain about the US military wasting money, this program is way down the list [forbes.com]. And if it actually found something (and who is to say it hasn't? oooooh), then it would have been very well worth the investment for the military to know that aliens are among us -- knowing whether your country is being surveilled or infiltrated (and by whom) is considered very important to know in defense circles.

    • And if it actually found something (and who is to say it hasn't? oooooh), then it would have been very well worth the investment for the military to know that aliens are among us -- knowing whether your country is being surveilled or infiltrated (and by whom) is considered very important to know in defense circles.

      This is why I've always argued that the military should have a real program in place to try and locate Santa Claus. I mean, sure, the likelihood of every finding him is slim, but think of the benefits if we DID find him! Not only could we stop that goddamn commie from invading our houses every year, but we could put his slave elf labour pool to work building weapons and ammunition.

      For some reason I have been unable to convince my local government representative to put $20 million into this project, but I

    • Re:So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday December 17, 2017 @07:46AM (#55754865)

      Even without taking into consideration the notion of aliens, flying saucers or any similar phenomena, this program makes sense if it helps sort out problems in radar imaging, remote sensing or pilot training/target identification.

      Even if you think this $22 million was wasted "because UFOs don't exist", you have to admit that a military program to explain simultaneous failure of radar systems is money well spent if some natural or other phenomenon can be identified as tricking both sensing networks and pilots.

      Even without that kind of hard-headed practical purpose, why *not* have some kind of office to investigate weird aerial incidents, especially if they are backed by pilot testimony, radar data, FLIR imagery, etc. It's not like it would take a ton of money, especially measured in military scales.

  • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @07:46PM (#55753215) Journal

    Imagine that the USAF investigated a UFO report, and found credible evidence that there was a real flying craft, and that it was of alien origin.

    I'd imagine their budget for following up on UFO sightings would suddenly have three zeros added to it. The supposition that this didn't happen proves they haven't found anything of interest.

    • Imagine that the USAF investigated a UFO report, and found credible evidence that there was a real flying craft, and that it was of alien origin.

      I'd imagine their budget for following up on UFO sightings would suddenly have three zeros added to it. The supposition that this didn't happen proves they haven't found anything of interest.

      Well, it could be buried in a black budget, if there were billions be spent on studying aliens. But I quite agree, if we had any real evidence that alien intelligence were present the result would be a project like the Manhattan Project (i.e. highly classified) and Project Apollo (which was much bigger) rolled into one. Just from a purely national security view the mere of presence of an intelligence/technology capable of travelling between the stars threatens massive disruption. All security programs, poli

    • I like your simple reasoning; unfortunately, there are a few more variables on the equation.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @08:21PM (#55753333)

    They were investigating:

    1) Possible Russian and Chinese spyplanes and experimental aircrafts.
    2) To find out what the public knew about OUR spyplanes and experimental aircrafts.

    • In theory yes. In practice they funnelled $22m of taxpayer funds to one of Harry Reid's wealthy friends for a pet project of his and are trying to pass off a camera artifact or lens flare from an F-18 as justification for it.
      • All this hot air out of your ass is a dead giveaway that you didn't even read the article.
        • I did read it. I learned from it that the radar on that warship was registering a large number of false alarms that the radar on the F-18 was not, possibly caused by the operator on the ship not knowing what he was doing and the pilots knowing what they were doing, and nowhere did the Navy pilot actually say he saw the thing with his eyes. All we're presented with is a video that for the life of me looks like lens flare, but could be any one of a half-dozen other things that aren't possible to rule in or ou
    • Also the plural of 'aircraft' is 'aircraft.' Troll better next time.
  • by morethanapapercert ( 749527 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @08:23PM (#55753343)
    You see something in the sky, you report to the Air Force or FBI. They have a duty to investigate it if it seems at all like a credible sighting. They are responsible for the safety of the public after all, and need to at the very least, confirm that the sighting is no threat. Further, the Air Force and the Armed Forces in general, have to know that they don't always have complete intelligence about the actions and capabilities of hostile and potentially hostile countries and groups. For most "lights in the sky" that are spotted, the VAST majority are terrestrial aircraft or terrestrial phenomenon. The term UFO properly means just that the witness couldn't recognize it.

    I remember a video that was going around the UFO community that had them all in a flap. It was a hourglass shaped object, seen hovering and darting around in a vertical posture in dusk conditions around Buenos Aires or something like that. The UFO nuts were saying that there was no such aircraft and it moved too fast to be of human manufacturer. I recognized it though. It was a CL-227 Sentinel UAV. The UFO nuts didn't notice the co-axial rotors around it's waist and misjudged how far away it was, leading them to over-estimate how fast it was moving. As far as I was concerned, the only interesting bit was that I didn't know that any South American nations even had any of them. My training identified them as being Canadian and only in use by NATO members. This is exactly the sort of thing I'd expect the US Air Force to investigate. People see funny lights or objects in the sky, the Air Force needs to find out if it's a mistaken report, a legitimate but unrecognised aircraft, or just possibly another group sending drones into US airspace for intelligence gathering.

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      "You see something in the sky, you report to the Air Force or FBI. They have a duty to investigate it if it seems at all like a credible sighting"

      Really? Which office of the USAF is responsible and assigned to do so? Answer: None. Oh, and as for the FBI, it's not in their swim lane either: https://www.fbi.gov/about/miss... [fbi.gov]

  • No joke. After WWII Eisenhower couldn't figure out how to keep our economy from falling back into the inevitable recession that resulted from the massive wealth inequality of the 20s and 30s. His solution was the Military Industrial Complex. The theory being that the rich would pay for it (and therefore some money would make it out of their hands and into the general populace) to protect themselves. He talked about feeling guilty about it in his memoirs.

    Jokes on him. The Uber rich are global now. They're
    • Actually Eisenhower warned against the M.I.C.
      In that same speech he warned about the rise of a 'scientific-technological elite.'

      Some would argue that was at least as valid a warning.

  • We have lulled the earthlings into a sense of complacency. Signal the mother ship that it is time to commence phase 2.

    • We have lulled the earthlings into a sense of complacency. Signal the mother ship that it is time to commence phase 2.

      What, drive them into fighting amongst themselves with politics and social media? Mission accomplished. Begin phase 3.

  • I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.
  • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @08:45PM (#55753433)

    I do not believe that there are any space aliens appearing on our skies. I am skeptical even that any genuinely unexplainable events are being regularly and reliably detected (the usual UFO scenario).

    But absolutely I believe the military should maintain an on-going program to record and investigate unusual detections and reports of strange observations by trained personnel. Like listening for extra-terrestrial life with radio telescopes, if you don't look you will never see anything, and in any case this is important even if LGMs (little green men) are not even in the picture.

    It could be secret programs of other countries (or even our own) or other sorts of organizations. Could be natural events not yet identified (sprites are good example of strange things that proved quite real). You need to look to see the rare black swan.

  • by Lobachevsky ( 465666 ) on Saturday December 16, 2017 @09:34PM (#55753537)

    UFO in the military means something different than in pop-culture. In pop-culture, it means aliens and flying saucers, and ray-guns, and Martians. In the military, it means an unidentified flying object, including flights by non-cleared personnel like hobbyists or foreign surveillance drones. Every one of our "drones" in Afghanistan would be a UFO to the Afghan military if we didn't seek clearance from them first.

    My guess is the name "UFO" wreaked of bad smell over the years and the military just changed the name and defunded the old one. They likely *still* want to investigate any sightings or blips on the radar to record when and where China or Russia are running spy drones over American soil or international waters, and hence whatever personnel are conducting those investigations are still funded, just under a better name than UFOs.

  • More likely they put $20 million into a slush fund and just said it was for investigating UFOs because it was funny and might serve a social conditioning purpose. Certainly everyone seems a bit distracted by this story.

  • http://www.washingtonexaminer.... [washingtonexaminer.com]

    Somehow this never gets mentioned in the story here.

  • The article in post fails to mention the New York Times story [nytimes.com] which has DOD video from an F-18 sensor recording of a UAV they are tracking.

    The BBC article [bbc.com] posts a link to the CIA declassifying 13 million documents under the CIA's CREST archive [cia.gov].

    Enjoy!!

  • The truest thing I've ever heard is that the one big secret of Area 51 is how they spend their money.

    Toys for boys.

    Nothing beats a blank cheque like a black CC.

  • Only a fool thinks they know everything about the universe. Given it's size and diversity, it is highly likely that aliens exist. If they are capable of interstellar travel, it is highly likely that they are vastly superior technologically to us.

    So one of two things is going on. The US is/was spending resources investigating possible UFOs which is just rational and prudent. They either have not found anything concrete, or there is a full on MIB situation, in which case, they sure as hell won't tell the

    • That was a lot of words to use to say nothing of any consequence.

    • They either have not found anything concrete, or there is a full on MIB situation, in which case, they sure as hell won't tell the world as there would be a massive shitstorm of craziness as people freaked out.

      Why would we want to adjust our notion of being at the center of the universe with it revolving around us, when there is still yet holy land left to squable over? After all, such a realization would necessitate at least some changes, and there are plenty that seem awfully interested in maintaining the status quo.

      That said, I'd like to hope we're at least of greater interest than just for an alien betting pool on when and how we blow ourselves up.

      • "That said, I'd like to hope we're at least of greater interest than just for an alien betting pool on when and how we blow ourselves up."

        Never underestimate the alien value of a medieval vacation destination. They are probably already here. I suspect "Florida man"...

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      "Given it's size and diversity, it is highly likely that aliens exist."

      Given that there's been a grand total of zero evidence to back this up, the odds are much slimmer. And you don't need to "know everything about the universe" to project that. Feel free to toss out the Drake equation...it's truly meaningless since much of it is only based upon conjecture, speculation and unmeasured parameters.

      https://www.realclearscience.c... [realclearscience.com]

      • "Given it's size and diversity, it is highly likely that aliens exist."

        Given that there's been a grand total of zero evidence to back this up, the odds are much slimmer. And you don't need to "know everything about the universe" to project that. Feel free to toss out the Drake equation...it's truly meaningless since much of it is only based upon conjecture, speculation and unmeasured parameters.

        https://www.realclearscience.c... [realclearscience.com]

        That is like a bacterium saying that it is unlikely that birds exist because it has never seen one in the 1cc of dirt 3 feet down where it has spent it's entire existence. Lack of knowledge about the universe does not preclude the existence of something, and is in fact only evidence of our own lack of experience in the universe.

  • The amount spent is a rounding error in comparison to other Pentagon spending, while the questions is asks are valid and important and deserve an impartial and fair investigation where the results lead the conclusions rather than looking for answers that fit predetermined desires.

    Why is this shit important?

    One one hand, we may have unknown machines operating in our airspaces and potentially posing a threat to civilian travel as well as our military and various no-fly-zone targets of interest all over the gr

  • until the 11the season of the X-Files is over..
  • So, Harry Reid funds a pork barrel project for a buddy, and it gets headlines indicating that the DoD wants to look for UFOs? No, no it doesn't. It was simply doing what Congress required it to do. Congress creates the budget, not the Pentagon. Most likely, the only reason it was classified was to keep it from leaking out and embarrassing everyone.

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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