In 2017, we found out that the US government had indeed been investigating unidentified flying objects (UFOs), or unexplained aerial phenomenon (UAPs), on the down-low. It turned out that between 2008 and 2011, Congress channeled $22 million from the $600 billion annual defense budget into a project called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program – and now we know a little bit more about how some of that $22 million was spent.
The Defense Intelligence Agency dropped a list of 38 research titles associated with the project on the back of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Steven Aftergood on August 15, 2018. Aftergood just so happens to be the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.
The five-page document doesn't delve into too much detail so much of what those research titles involved remains a mystery. Some information has been withheld – the chief of the Records Management and Information Services cites Exemption 6 of the FOIA, which applies to material whose release is considered to be an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy.
So, what cryptic inquiries into space travel and aliens was the program funding?
A lot of the titles relate to the practicalities of space travel (think: space-friendly materials, propulsion systems, and power storage). Some concern "high energy laser weapons", which sound plain terrifying. Other investigations sound like stuff straight from the pages of a science fiction novel. That includes one study called "Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions" (warp drive being the fictitious faster-than-light travel system used in the Star Trek universe) and another researching "Invisibility Cloaking" (yes, a lot like the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter).
What else do we know about this covert government mission? Not much is the answer.
The news broke when the man who headed the program, Luis Elizondo, sought to make it public after his resignation. We know that it was backed by Democrat Senator and ex-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and that much of the $22 million went to a Vegas-based space technology company called Bigelow Aerospace, owned by hotel mogul Robert Bigelow. Bigelow Aerospace was responsible for renovating buildings to store material apparently recovered from UFOs.
The program also oversaw the examination of civilians and military personnel who said they had seen or interacted with UFOs for any sign of physiological change.
The official position states the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program came to an end in 2011, when it was decided that it wasn't delivering the results to justify funding. However, according to some sources (Elizondo included), it could still be running. While funding was stopped, staff, he said, are continuing their old work alongside their other departmental duties.