The New York Times and Politico reported on December 16 that the Defense Department launched a program in 2007 to study reports of UFOs, videos of encounters between military pilots and unknown objects, and interviews with people who said they had “experienced physical effects” from encounters with the unidentified flying objects. The initial funding for the program came mostly at the request of former U.S. Senator Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who was long known for his interest in space phenomena. The program ended in 2012.
According to the media reports, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) was launched following a conversation that Reid had with his longtime friend, Robert Bigelow, the billionaire founder of Bigelow Aerospace, a space technology company and government contractor. Bigelow has spoken about his belief in UFOs visiting the United States as well as the existence of extraterrestrial aliens.
The program’s existence was not classified but operated with the knowledge of an extremely limited number of officials. Reid was supported in his efforts to fund the program by the late Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two World War II veterans who were both concerned about the potential national security implications of unidentified flying objects, the sources cited by Politico said.