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The Pentagon admitted it pursued research into unidentified aerial phenomena (UFOs), a term it had never used in public, according to the New York Post.

This is the first time the agency has ever referred to the potential existence of UFOs, a word it had carefully avoided because it suggests alien objects, as the public generally understands them, instead of next-generation aviation threats from aircraft, missiles, and drones.

In 2017, a report published by the New York Times revealed the existence of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a secret government initiative aimed at studying aerial phenomena. Investigations following the article revealed a 33-second Department of Defense (DOD) video that showed an object being chased by two Navy jets near San Diego in 2004.

The program, which received $22 million per year from the Pentagon, was officially shut down in 2012 but continued to operate at least until 2017. DOD spokesman Christopher Sherwood confirmed the government still investigates reported sightings of alien spacecraft.

“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,” said Sherwood.

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