Close Encounters of the Unimportant Kind

By Willie Johnson | USA

Mysterious, otherworldly beings have always captivated the imaginations of Americans, but what happens when those Americans grow up to be government officials? Decades ago, cold war paranoia gave rise to outlandish claims of unidentified objects and alien sightings that eventually faded into obscurity as attention shifted to other issues such as the Vietnam War— but did these investigations ever really end?

In the 1950s, hysteria over UFOs reached a peak, causing many federal programs to be created with the purpose of getting to the bottom of the hype. Organizations that aimed to validate alleged alien sightings, however, were usually unsuccessful and never came up with conclusive evidence. Most Americans believed such official efforts were a thing of the past until earlier this month when the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was publicly revealed, a classified Pentagon program founded in 2007 that continued to investigate similar unexplained phenomena until the resignation of its leader, Luis Elizondo, this October.

The program was, in reality, more problematic than meets the eye. First created by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, it received $22 million annually for the five years it obtained funding from 2007 to 2012. Although this money came from the Defense Department budget, most of it went to Bigelow Aerospace, a company headed by billionaire Robert Bigelowconveniently a friend of Senator Reid. Although much research was compiled on sightings and recordings of unexplained craft, the final results were, as with similar programs before it, inconclusive.

Although the Department of Defence officially terminated the program in 2012, it continued operating without funding, secretly aided by CIA and Navy officials and under the direction of the aforementioned Mr. Elizondo. The final end to the program came as a result of pressure from within the Pentagon. While this could be seen as a loss by those enthralled with the idea of extraterrestrial life, the reality of the situation is much less romantic; compared to other issues the nation is currently facing, the work that the program was doing was not a priority, and its funds were benefiting an entrepreneur more than the American people.

UFO sightings will most likely never disappear, but unless those unidentified objects are North Korean, we’ll most likely have nothing to worry about.