The US Department of Defense has released video showing reports of a UFO flying off the coast of San Diego in 2004
US Department of Defense via The New York Times
The US Department of Defense has released video showing reports of a UFO flying off the coast of San Diego in 2004
Now playing
01:04
Moment UFO spotted by US Navy jet
Now playing
03:44
Do the 1990s hold the key to sustainable websites?
Now playing
01:10
Watch SpaceX land its Mars rocket prototype for the first time
Now playing
05:52
The climate crisis is taking these farmers' most valuable resource
U.S. President Donald Trump works on his phone during a roundtable at the State Dining Room of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump held a roundtable discussion with Governors and small business owners on the reopening of American's small business. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump works on his phone during a roundtable at the State Dining Room of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump held a roundtable discussion with Governors and small business owners on the reopening of American's small business. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:37
Facebook Oversight Board: Indefinite suspension of Trump's account is 'not appropriate'
Now playing
03:41
How technology at NASA helps guide Biden on climate
Now playing
01:42
A vaccine without needles? It's on the way
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06:  Host Conan O'Brien speaks onstage during the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Host Conan O'Brien speaks onstage during the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:48
Conan announces his last show after 30 years in late night
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Now playing
03:14
Will Trump be allowed back on Facebook? This board will decide
CNN
Now playing
05:16
WTF is a SPAC?
Now playing
01:51
A shortage of tanker truck drivers could cause stations to run out of gas
CEO at Verizon Media K. Guru Gowrappan appears at the 2019 Verizon Media NewFront on April 30, 2019 in New York City.
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Verizon Media
CEO at Verizon Media K. Guru Gowrappan appears at the 2019 Verizon Media NewFront on April 30, 2019 in New York City.
Now playing
02:47
Verizon sells off Yahoo and AOL
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, attends the 2019 annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, May 3, 2019. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, attends the 2019 annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, May 3, 2019. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:40
Warren Buffett warns on US inflation
Now playing
01:00
Astronauts splash down after record-setting mission
ATLANTA - APRIL 30:  A Boeing 757 with a new Delta Airlines logo sits on the tarmac following the company's emergence from bankruptcy at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport April 30,2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 757 sports new branding that will appear on more than 900 planes, at airports and on advertising.  (Photo by Barry Williams/Getty Images) 757
Barry Williams/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
ATLANTA - APRIL 30: A Boeing 757 with a new Delta Airlines logo sits on the tarmac following the company's emergence from bankruptcy at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport April 30,2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 757 sports new branding that will appear on more than 900 planes, at airports and on advertising. (Photo by Barry Williams/Getty Images) 757
Now playing
02:28
Why Delta airlines is resuming selling middle seats
Now playing
02:50
Grocery chain says 'hero pay' forcing them to close stores

Story highlights

Elizondo said he stepped down from the Department of Defense in October

He said some aircraft they looked into were "seemingly defying the laws of aerodynamics"

(CNN) —  

A former Pentagon official who led a recently revealed government program to research potential UFOs said Monday evening that he believes there is evidence of alien life reaching Earth.

“My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone,” Luis Elizondo said in an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

A pair of news reports in The New York Times and Politico over the weekend said the effort, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, was begun largely at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who helped shore up funding for it after speaking to a friend and political donor who owns an aerospace company and has said he believes in the existence of aliens.

Elizondo told The New York Times he resigned from the Department of Defense in October in protest over what he called excessive secrecy surrounding the program and internal opposition to it after funding for the effort ended in 2012.

Elizondo said Monday that he could not speak on behalf of the government, but he strongly implied there was evidence that stopped him from ruling out the possibility that alien aircraft visited Earth.

“These aircraft – we’ll call them aircraft – are displaying characteristics that are not currently within the US inventory nor in any foreign inventory that we are aware of,” Elizondo said of objects they researched.

He said the program sought to identify what had been seen, either through tools or eyewitness reports, and then “ascertain and determine if that information is a potential threat to national security.”

“We found a lot,” Elizondo said.

The former Pentagon official said they identified “anomalous” aircraft that were “seemingly defying the laws of aerodynamics.”

“Things that don’t have any obvious flight services, any obvious forms of propulsion, and maneuvering in ways that include extreme maneuverability beyond, I would submit, the healthy G-forces of a human or anything biological,” Elizondo said.

The Times’ report on the government UFO study included a pair of videos of pilots remarking on something mysterious they were seeing. One of the pilots, retired Cmdr. David Fravor, told CNN that he had witnessed an object that looked like a “40-foot-long Tic Tac” maneuvering rapidly and changing its direction during a flight in 2004.

Ryan Alexander of Taxpayers for Common Sense expressed dismay about the program and cast it as a waste of money in a piece that aired on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on Monday.

“It’s definitely crazy to spend $22 million to research UFOs,” Alexander said. “Pilots are always going to see things that they can’t identify, and we should probably look into them. But to identify them as UFOs, to target UFOs to research – that is not the priority we have as a national security matter right now.”

For his part, Fravor said the money spent on the program was a drop in the bucket relative to the military’s over half-a-trillion-dollar annual budget.

Politico reported that after Elizondo stepped down from the Department of Defense, he went to work for To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, a company co-founded by former Blink-182 musician Tom DeLonge that says it looks into issues surrounding government secrecy and unidentified objects.

In a statement Monday, Reid continued to defend the program.

“I’m proud of this program and its ground-breaking studies speak for themselves,” the statement read. “It is silly and counterproductive to politicize the serious scientific questions raised by the work of this program, which was funded on a bipartisan basis.”