When military intelligence officer Luis Elizondo stepped down from his post heading the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP)—the program created to investigate unidentified flying objects—in October, he cited lack of government support. “We tried to work within the system. We were trying to take the voodoo out of voodoo science,” Elizondo told Politico in a recent interview.
Until his departure the program, though unclassified, had nevertheless been a Pentagon secret in that its existence had never been publicly acknowledged. That is, until Saturday (Dec. 16), when Politico and the New York Times published reports tracing AATIP’s history from 2007 to today. The Pentagon confirmed AATIP’s existence, though it’s yet to comment on whether the program is still running despite lacking government funding.
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 many of the program’s early contracts. Bigelow, who now works at NASA, was the one who convinced Reid to move forward with establishing a UFO investigation program, according to the New York Times. He approached Reid earlier in 2007 about a Defense Intelligence Agency official’s interest in visiting his Skinwalker Ranch property in Utah—considered a point of interest for believers in paranormal and UFO activities.
Shortly after his meeting with Bigelow, Reid met with officials, who were also interested in establishing a UFO investigation program. AATIP had funds earmarked until 2012, though sources told the New York Times it has continued to operate and investigate potential sightings. Pentagon spokesperson Thomas Crosson told the Times the reason AATIP’s funding ran out was because “there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Reid said he doesn’t regret a thing about helping to start AATIP. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going. I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before,” Reid said.
Elizondo was clearly a fan of AATIP too, and hasn’t given up on UFO research. Following his resignation, he joined the for-profit To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences. Created by Blink-182 guitarist and singer Tom DeLong, the company is dedicated to studying unexplained aerial phenomena. Elizondo has begun speaking publicly about its mission in a bid for funding.