Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program
|Type||United States governmental study|
|Legal status||Secret program, formally disbanded|
|Purpose||Study of unidentified flying objects|
|$22 million over 5 years|
The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) was a secret investigatory effort funded by the United States Government to study unidentified flying objects, but it was not classified. The program was first made public on December 16, 2017. The program began in 2007, with funding of $22 million over the five years until the available appropriations were ended in 2012. The program began in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Although the official AATIP program has ended, a related group of interested professionals have extended the effort, founding a nonprofit organization called '"To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science".'
Initiated by then U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) to study unexplained aerial phenomena at the urging of Reid's friend, Nevada businessman and governmental contractor Robert Bigelow, and with support from the late Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the program began in the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2007 and ended after five years, with a budget of $22 million spread out over five years.
Interviewed in the aftermath of the program's disclosure, Reid expressed pride in his accomplishment, and was quoted as saying "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."
The program was headed by Luis Elizondo, who resigned from the Pentagon in October 2017 to protest government secrecy and opposition to the investigation, stating in a resignation letter to US Defense Secretary James Mattis that the program was not being taken seriously.
Politico published a statement by a former staff member that, "After a while[,] the consensus was [that] we really couldn't find anything of substance," ..."They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find. It all pretty much dissolved from that reason alone—and the interest level was losing steam. We only did it for a couple of years."
Benjamin Radford wrote in Skeptical Inquirer that among what little information has been released by the program are "several short videos of military jets encountering something they couldn't identify...." He went on to say that "some researchers, including Robert Sheaffer and Mick West, have suggested that distant jets might be the culprit...." 
The program manager, Luis Elizondo, said on December 19, 2017, that he believed there was "very compelling evidence we may not be alone."
The program came to public attention on December 16, 2017, in news stories in Politico and The New York Times. The story in the Times included doubts about alien visitation expressed by James Oberg, a space writer and UFO debunker, and Sara Seager, a scientific specialist on the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. Oberg said "There are plenty of prosaic events and human perceptual traits that can account for these stories", although he welcomed further research. The Times also reported that "Robert Bigelow, a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid, received most of the money allocated for the Pentagon program."
Although the program was not named specifically, program leader Elizondo was quoted in The Huffington Post in late October 2017. Several days earlier, Elizondo announced his involvement in founding an aerospace, science, paranormal and entertainment company called, 'To the Stars, Inc.' or To the Stars Academy for Arts and Science.
The Washington Post reported on December 16, 2017 that Elizondo was responsible for the public release of footage taken by United States fighter jets that appears to show aerial objects maneuvering in inexplicable ways in the USS Princeton aerial object incident. The newspaper also stated that it had conducted several interviews with Elizondo and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon, who is associated with Elizondo in a private venture named, 'To the Stars Academy for Arts and Sciences.' The Post reporting on May 30, 2018 also included an interview with Sheaffer, "a former Silicon Valley engineer," who said that "To the Stars has simply put forward 'a couple more blurry videos that are similar to the blurry videos we’ve had before this.'" They also noted that the "latest" video could be "a big, slow-moving bird that looked fast only because of the angle and movement of the observing jet," according to some "debunkers."
- Siese, April (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon has confirmed its $22M program to investigate UFOs". Quartz. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Cooper, Helene; Blumenthal, Ralph; Kean, Leslie (December 16, 2017). "Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
- Bender, Bryan (December 16, 2017). "The Pentagon’s Secret Search for UFOs". Politico. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Benson, Eric (March 21, 2018). "Harry Reid on What the Government Knows About UFOs". New York Mag. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
- Greenwood, Max (December 16, 2017). "Pentagon acknowledges program to investigate UFO encounters: report". The Hill. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Overbye, Dennis (December 29, 2017). "U.F.O.s: Is This All There Is?". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Mellon, Christopher (March 9, 2018). "The military keeps encountering UFOs. Why doesn't the Pentagon care? - We have no idea what's behind these weird incidents because we're not investigating". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
- Crawford, Jamie (December 17, 2017). "NY Times: Pentagon study of UFOs revealed". CNN.
...Robert Bigelow, the billionaire founder of an aerospace company. Bigelow has spoken about his belief in UFOs visiting the United States as well as the existence of aliens.
- Warrick, Joby (December 16, 2017). "Head of Pentagon's secret 'UFO' office sought to make evidence public". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Hart, Benjamin (December 16, 2017). "Reports: The Pentagon Spent Millions on UFO Research". New York magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Reuters Editorial (December 16, 2017). "Does Pentagon still have a UFO program? The answer is a bit mysterious". Reuters. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Radford, Benjamin (2018). "Newly Revealed Secret DoD 'UFO' Project Less Than Meets the Eye". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (2): 6–7.
- Watkins, Eli; Todd, Brian. "Former Pentagon UFO official: 'We may not be alone'". CNN. Cable News Network. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Kean, Leslie (October 23, 2017). "Fmr. Manager of DOD Aerospace Threat Program: "UFOs are Real"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Kean, Leslie (October 10, 2017). "Inside Knowledge About Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Could Lead To World-Changing Technology". Huffington Post. Oath Inc. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Zak, Dan (30 May 2018). "UFOs are suddenly a serious news story. You can thank the guy from Blink-182 for that". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 June 2018.