Former senate majority leader and retired Nevada lawmaker Harry Reid was AATIP's catalyst, earmarking over $20 million of the defense department's budget to fund it. Billionaire Robert Bigelow's aerospace company secured numerous program's early contracts.
The program was not technically classified but was only known about by a few officials.
For five years, from 2007 to 2012, the Pentagon ran a $22 million program that investigated reports of UFOs.
Defense Department officials are quoted as saying that the program was funded until 2012, and Elizondo told the Times that he continued to work with the Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency after that time.
The New York Times said the program had a $22 million annual budget and "most of the money" went to Bigelow's research company, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.
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Its initial funding came largely at the request of former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat long known for his enthusiasm for space phenomena, the newspaper said.
The Pentagon acknowledged on Saturday that its long-secret UFO investigation program ended in 2012, when US defense officials shifted attention and funding to other priorities.
The United States has investigated UFOs in the past. Bigelow was also a longtime supporter of Harry Reid.
"I'm not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going". He worked out of his office in the Pentagon until October when resigned to protest what he called "excessive secrecy and internal opposition". AATIP had funds earmarked until 2012, though sources told the New York Times it has continued to operate and investigate potential sightings.
"Why aren't we spending more time and effort on this issue?"