AATIP/AAWSAP - A tale of two programs

It's been a while since we first learned about the existence of the so called Pentagon UFO program. Initial reporting made it sound almost too good to be true with promises of high quality official government UFO evidence. Now that the dust has began to settle, it's unclear whether there is anything of any significance under it.

This post is an attempt to piece together information from various and sometimes contradictory sources in order to evaluate what that program actually was and did. The combination of information from early articles with recent revelations seems to result in a reasonably consistent picture already.

Initial revelation

The existence of the program was initially revealed in connection to the TTSA launch event on October 11, 2017 and a pair of Huffington Post articles by Leslie Kean before and after the event.

At the time, nobody revealed the name of the program but it was described as "sensitive aerospace threat identification program".
However by far the most interesting effort I was involved with was the topic of advanced aerial threats. For nearly the last decade, I ran a sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies. It was in this position I learned that the phenomena is indeed real.
-- Luis Elizondo, TTSA press conference, October 11, 2017.
I was in charge of the advanced aerospace threat that deals with highly sophisticated unidentified phenomenon. In the last 10 years, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of our place here in this universe. There are physics that we don’t quite yet understand, doesn’t mean that they’re not real, just simply means that we don’t have the capacity to understand those physics.
-- Luis Elizondo, TTSA press conference, October 11, 2017.
These insiders have long-standing connections to government agencies which may have programs investigating unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP/UFOs).
...
Luis Elizondo ... is also the former Director of Programs to investigate Unidentified Aerial Threats for the Office of the Secretary of Defense
...
I asked him if these unidentified objects were considered to be threats. “They did not exhibit overt hostility,” he said. “But something unexplained is always assumed to be a potential threat until we are certain it isn’t.
...
He stated that he ran “a sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies.”
-- "Fmr. Manager of DOD Aerospace Threat Program: “UFOs are Real”" by Leslie Kean, Huffington Post, October 11, 2017.
An unidentified aerial phenomena could of course be a foreign power, aliens, or something else, but for example saying the "phenomena is indeed real" certainly sounds like there's an implied common explanation, which the reporter above explicitly called UFOs. But nevertheless, while Project Sign, Project Grudge and Project Blue Book were explicitly about UFOs and extraterrestrials, Elizondo himself seemed to have avoided describing his program with such terms at the time.

New York Times articles

The program really hit the headlines with an article on the New York Times on December 16, 2017. While the above earlier media accounts emphasized the program was about unidentified aerial threats, the NYT article only mentions threats with one reference to "assessments of the threat posed by the objects" and as part of the program name, which was revealed for the first time (even though most likely incorrectly).

The program was now described as being all about UFOs. It made some comparisons to Project Blue Book and reminded how Bigelow, whose company ended up receiving most of the money, was absolutely convinced aliens exist and UFOs have visited Earth. It also made various references to UFO sightings and indicated UFOs were the reason the program was initiated in the first place.

The article also contained a number of somewhat conflicting statements, such as Elizondo protesting excessive secrecy while Reid wanted to make the program even more restricted even inside the department. It also described how Reid and a couple of fellow senators arranged the "black money" funding in secrecy, yet tries to give the impression it was "the Pentagon" wanting to have it that way.
In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.

Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.

For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.
...
He continued to work out of his Pentagon office until this past October, when he resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition.
...
By 2009, Mr. Reid decided that the program had made such extraordinary discoveries that he argued for heightened security to protect it. “Much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings,” Mr. Reid said in a letter to William Lynn III, a deputy defense secretary at the time, requesting that it be designated a “restricted special access program” limited to a few listed officials.
...
Mr. Reid said his interest in U.F.O.s came from Mr. Bigelow. In 2007, Mr. Reid said in the interview, Mr. Bigelow told him that an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency had approached him wanting to visit Mr. Bigelow’s ranch in Utah, where he conducted research.

Mr. Reid said he met with agency officials shortly after his meeting with Mr. Bigelow and learned that they wanted to start a research program on U.F.O.s. Mr. Reid then summoned Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye to a secure room in the Capitol.
...
None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid said. “This was so-called black money,” he said. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.” Mr. Reid was referring to the Pentagon budget for classified programs.
-- Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program, The New York Times, December 16, 2017.
The program reportedly made the following bold claims already in 2009 (when Elizondo wasn't yet the director):
A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. Mr. Reid’s request for the special designation was denied.
New York Times, December 16, 2017.
NYT also published another article a couple of days later, detailing the story behind their first article. It explains how it all began with a tip and a confidential four hour meeting on October 4, 2017 between Leslie Kean, Luis Elizondo and "several present and former intelligence officials and a defense contractor", who were revealed by Leslie Kean as Elizondo's TTSA buddies Jim Semivan, Harold Puthoff and Christopher Mellon. Elizondo had reportedly resigned just a day before (and reportedly wrote his resignation letter on the same day as that meeting), which was said to be have been the reason for the meeting.

That meeting happened a week before the TTSA announcement event and those Huffington Post articles by Kean, who then proposed to Ralph Blumenthal, another author of the NYT article and Kean's friend, that it would make a good story on NYT. The NYT authors interviewed Reid, Bigelow, Pentagon spokesperson (Thomas Crosson), and an unnamed "prominent skeptic for perspective". Joe Nickell revealed on Skeptical Inquirer that he was at least one unnamed expert behind this statement:
Experts caution that earthly explanations often exist for such incidents, and that not knowing the explanation does not mean that the event has interstellar origins.
-- 2 Navy Airmen and an Object That ‘Accelerated Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen’, New York Times, December 16, 2017.
Nickell also stated that if he had known Leslie Kean was involved, he "would have warned the New York Times to tread carefully." He described Kean as "credulous flying-saucer promoter and writer."

Politico article

Politico published by their own words "nearly simultaneous reports" with NYT on December 16, 2017. While some have interpreted the nearly simultaneous reports by those two and the Washington Post as some sort of coordinated disclosure in the media, it should be remembered that those are competing publications that all learned about the existence of such program from the TTSA announcement a couple of months earlier and seemed to have done their own investigations and interviews with varying sources after that. It may simply be that the rest needed to push out their articles soon after NYT beat them in the race.

The Politico article explicitly mentions they "learned of the Pentagon program earlier this fall, shortly after Mellon and his colleagues rolled out their new private effort". While the Politico article also describes the program as "a multimillion-dollar program to investigate what are popularly known as unidentified flying objects—UFOs" and "a 21st-century effort to replicate some of the decades of inconclusive research undertaken by the Pentagon in 1950s and 1960s to try to explain thousands of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects", the tone is noticeably different from NYT and there's more emphasis on the threat aspect and other possible explanations for such sightings.

Politico quotes several of their own (unnamed) sources, painting a picture of staffers concerned not just about the claimed capabilities of such UFOs and their possible origins in China or Russia but also about whether the research made any sense.
One possible theory behind the unexplained incidents, according to a former congressional staffer who described the motivations behind the program, was that a foreign power—perhaps the Chinese or the Russians—had developed next-generation technologies that could threaten the United States.

“Was this China or Russia trying to do something or has some propulsion system we are not familiar with?” said a former staffer who spoke with POLITICO on condition of anonymity.

The more recent effort, which was established inside the Defense Intelligence Agency, compiled “reams of paperwork,” but little else, the former staffer said.
But some who were aware of the effort in its earliest days were uncomfortable with the aims of the program, unnerved by the implication that the incidents involved aircraft that were not made by humans.

“I thought it was a little bizarre at the time,” recalled a former senior intelligence official who knew about Reid’s role first-hand. He asked those in the know: “Tell me what this is, and what we are doing and what is going on and that we aren’t doing something that is nonsense here.”
“I was concerned the money was being funneled through it to somebody else who was an associate of Harry Reid’s,” added the former official, who asked not to be identified. “The whole circle was kind of a bizarre piece.”
There was also interest among some analysts at the DIA who were concerned that the Russians or Chinese might have developed some more advanced systems.
“I still remember coming back from that meeting and thinking of the implications of what Reid said,” the former senior official said. “I remember being concerned about this. I wanted to make sure it was supervised and we were using the appropriation to do actual research on real threats to the United States.

He said he was assured that the research being done was valid. “It was not a rogue individual out of control.”

The former staffer said that eventually, however, even Reid agreed it was not worth continuing.

“After a while the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” he recalled. “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 a couple years.”

“There was really nothing there that we could justify using taxpayer money,” he added. “We let it die a slow death. It was well-spent money in the beginning.”
Politico also mentions that Reid and Bigelow, who were interviewed by NYT, "did not respond to multiple requests for comment."

The Politico and NYT articles have this exact same quotation of the ending of the program in 2012:
It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.
However, the source is "Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White" for Politico an "Pentagon spokesman, Thomas Crosson" for NYT, revealing both were using the same prepared response.

Politico also mentioned already back then how some of the effort went to the investigation of concepts like wormholes and warp drives, now familiar from the connections to the AAWSA program:
The revelation of the program could give a credibility boost to UFO theorists, who have long pointed to public accounts by military pilots and others describing phenomena that defy obvious explanation, and could fuel demands for increased transparency about the scope and findings of the Pentagon effort, which focused some of its inquiries into sci-fi sounding concepts like "wormholes" and "warp drives." The program also drafted a series of what the office referred to as "queried unverified event under evaluation," QUEU reports, in which pilots and other personnel who had reported encounters were interviewed about their experiences.

Washington Post article

Washington Post had a similar article at about the same time, which described the program as "a low-key Defense Department operation to collect and analyze reported UFO sightings" "formed for the purpose of collecting and analyzing a wide range of "anomalous aerospace threats" ranging from advanced aircraft fielded by traditional U.S. adversaries to commercial drones to possible alien encounters." It also described it as "a rare instance of ongoing government investigations into a UFO phenomenon that was the subject of multiple official inquiries in the 1950s and 1960s."

The article describes that the program:
generated at least one report, a 490-page volume that describes alleged UFO sightings in the United States and numerous foreign countries over multiple decades.
It also makes direct connections for trying to find proof of extraterrestrials and quotes Elizondo's resignation letter with warnings of potential serious threats:
Neither the Pentagon nor any of the program's managers have claimed conclusive proof of extraterrestrial visitors, but Elizondo, citing accounts and data collected by his office over a decade, argues that the videos and other evidence failed to generate the kind of high-level attention he believes is warranted. As part of his decision to leave the Pentagon, he not only sought the release of videos but also penned a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis complaining that a potential security threat was being ignored.

"Despite overwhelming evidence at both the classified and unclassified levels, certain individuals in the [Defense] Department remain staunchly opposed to further research on what could be a tactical threat to our pilots, sailors and soldiers, and perhaps even an existential threat to our national security," Elizondo said in the letter, a copy of which was provided to The Post.
A follow-up article concentrating on the Nimitz Incident made further connections to earlier UFO research:
The news of its existence marks one of the most significant disclosures about government research into flying objects — and the so-far-unproven possibility of extraterrestrial aircraft — since Project Blue Book, a lengthy Air Force study of thousands of UFOs that was shut down in 1969.
It's noteworthy that the original WP article mentions that:
A retired Navy pilot contacted by The Post who was involved in a 2004 encounter depicted in one of the videos confirmed that the images accurately reflected his recollection of the events. The pilot would only speak on the condition of anonymity.
That pilot was probably David Fravor, who was featured by his own name in that follow-up article a couple of days later, as well as in a NYT article already on the same day, indicating he had made the decision to speak about it publicly during the time the WP article was being prepared. Although he had already shared his story in a FighterSweep article a few years before.

What's in a name?

Those early articles clearly described the program being primarily about UFOs and most of the media visibility concentrated on the UFO videos published in connection to it and the eyewitness accounts given by David Fravor. UFO enthusiasts were excited, to say the least, FOIA queues were filled, and expectations were high for additional UFO evidence.

One of the early concerns was the exact name of the program, a potentially significant detail for FOIA requests. The NYT called it Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program and most of the others, including Pentagon spokespeople, Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. It seems highly likely NYT made an error, but it hasn't been corrected and Leslie Kean was adamant at least a couple of weeks after the article that:
The Times had it right! The others are wrong
-- Leslie Kean, January 2, 2018
Since several media organization claimed to have seen various documents and interviewed Elizondo as the former director of that program, one would expect that name would have been easy to verify. Since it apparently wasn't, it seems to indicate it wasn't featured on those documents. But surely the person who actually lead the effort would know it?

Luis Elizondo has certainly called it Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program on a number of occasions, including his interviews for the 2018 International UFO Congress and UFORadio International. Oddly enough, on the latter instance, Elizondo was seemingly trying to clarify confusion by stating:
Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was established to do just that ... I think there has been some confusion recently, some folks had said advanced airborne, it was never airborne, it was advanced aerospace
Google doesn't find any results for "Advanced Airborne Threat Identification Program", so it's unclear whether anyone has ever called it that. So that hardly clarified anything.

Then recently a possible explanation surfaced:
In March, 2018, I was contacted by someone who claimed to be in a senior defence program leadership role. He stated that the UFO program on everyone’s lips was not officially called the “Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program” (AATIP). This was, apparently, a loose, almost ad hoc term for one part of a somewhat larger defence program. The true name of the overall program, or at least the official starting title, was the “Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program” (AAWSAP), or something extremely similar.
-- The "Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program" by Paul Dean
Then Keith Basterfield and others found the wormhole, warp drive etc. documents that were briefly already mentioned in that Politico article. Eric Davis confirmed to Isaac Koi that those were part of a series of 38 DIRD papers, made in connection to the AATIP program. Basterfield also found solicitation documents for the actual program. All of those contain the name "Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Application Program" and inform us it was connected to the The Acquisition Support Division (DWO-3) of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

So mystery solved, exact wording of AATIP differed because it was unofficial anyway, and the real program was AAWSAP? There are a couple of issues though.

Officially AATIP?

Roger Glassel asked clarification for those names from Pentagon spokesperson Audricia Harris, who responded that AAWSA was "Same program. Just an alternative name for AATIP" and on FOIA requests "I would stick with AATIP. It is the official name."

That seems contradictory, since AAWSAP definitely looks like an official name as well, being in all those documents, and it also contradicts Paul Dean's source.

Then there's the question of those financial documents reportedly seen by both NYT and WP.
Contracts obtained by The Times show a congressional appropriation of just under $22 million beginning in late 2008 through 2011. The money was used for management of the program, research and assessments of the threat posed by the objects.
-- Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program, The New York Times, December 16, 2017.
Spending for the program totaled at least $22 million, according to former Pentagon officials and documents seen by The Washington Post, but the funding officially ended in 2012. 
-- Head of Pentagon’s secret ‘UFO’ office sought to make evidence public, Washington Post, December 16, 2017.
How did they verify those financial records were about the correct program? Did they contain the name AATIP?

Could the name of the program have changed at some point? Since the solicitation document and DIRD papers called it AAWSAP between 2008-2011, it should have happened after AAWSAP officially ended and continued in some form as Elizondo has claimed. Was that some sort of continuation AATIP?

I-Team article

George Knapp published an article about the program on May 4, 2018, which contained some key details. Since Knapp is friends with several of the key people of the program, he can be assumed to have some insider information of it all.

That article explains how AATIP was in fact just a low profile small scale more or less informal successor of AAWSAP:
Reid and colleagues secured  funding for an ongoing study, but it wasn't called AATIP. The original acronym was AAWSAP or Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program.
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But at the Pentagon, there was pushback. Some worried the study would become an embarrassment if the word got out. Others opposed it on religious grounds. Bigelow funded it himself for a year but AAWSAP came to an end after 2011. Elizondo, who had interacted with the study from the Pentagon, was assigned to continue the work, but he chose a smaller focus, limited to military encounters with unknown aircraft. his effort, dubbed AATIP, survived by keeping a low profile. Elizondo relied on an informal network of colleagues to investigate cases that came in.

"There were other folks related to our effort," Elizondo said. "It is a confederated approach so you had folks in the Navy, in DIA, in pockets here and there. We worked collectively."
So the claim by Harris of AATIP being the same program as AAWSAP doesn't seem to be accurate, although it's not completely wrong either if it was a sort of a continuation.

UFO weapon systems?

While the early confusion about aerospace vs. aviation was just a matter of figuring out the correct name, AATIP vs. AAWSAP is a much more significant difference:
  • Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program
  • Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Application Program
One seems to be about identifying threats, the other about weapon system applications. So even if one is a "smaller focus" successor of the other, what's the real connection between those seemingly different subject matters?

Thanks to the solicitation documents, we have an official description of what the AAWSAP was supposed to be:
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES FOR THE ADVANCED AEROSPACE WEAPON SYSTEM APPLICATIONS PROGRAM
18 July 2008

1.    BACKGROUND: The Acquisition Support Division (DWO-3) of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has the responsibility to provide guidance and oversight to the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition process along with leveraging the DoD Intelligence Community to coordinate, produce and maintain projections of the future threat environment in which U.S. air, naval, ground, space, missile defense and information systems operate.  In order to accurately assess the foreign threat to U.S. weapon systems, a complete as possible understanding of potential breakthrough technology applications employed in future aerospace weapon systems must be obtained.
2.    OBJECTIVE: One aspect of the future threat environment involves advanced aerospace weapon system applications.  The objective of this program is to understand the physics and engineering of these applications as they apply to the foreign threat out to the far term, i.e., from now through the year 2050. Primary focus is on breakthrough technologies and applications that create discontinuities in currently evolving technology trends. The focus is not on extrapolations of current aerospace technology. The proposal shall describe a technical approach which discusses how the breakthrough technologies and applications listed below would be studied and include proposed key personnel that have experience in those areas.
3.    REQUIREMENTS:
a) The contractor shall complete advanced aerospace weapon system technical studies in the following areas:   
  1. lift    
  2. propulsion     
  3. control
  4. power generation
  5. spatial/temporal translation
  6. materials
  7. configuration, structure
  8. signature reduction (optical, infrared, radiofrequency, acoustic)
  9. human interface
  10. human effects
  11. armament (RF and DEW)
  12. other peripheral areas in support of (1-11)
b) It is expected that numerous experts with extensive experience (minimum of 10 years) in breakthrough aerospace research and development will be required to meet the demands of the above program. The offeror should clearly identify their approach to obtaining the services of and their utilization of these scientific and technical experts. Management personnel must include a lead integrator to oversee the work of the various analytical teams, and to integrate their findings into final coherent products. At least one member of each analytical team must have a PhD, although that member can be on several teams. A technical plan for conducting the advanced aerospace weapon system studies described above must be included in the offeror’s proposal.
(c) Offeror must be able to produce integrated finished assessments in each of the above advanced aerospace weapon system technical areas. Finished reports and presentations, while highly analytical and technical, must be in a format suitable for dissemination at the highest levels of the federal government. In addition to the main technical section of each assessment, an executive summary utilizing clearly understandable (non-technical) language must also be contained in each report.
(d) To assess relevant experience, offerors shall submit at least three (3) references, including a POC name and phone number, with a brief description of the business relationship with the Government or other corporations. In addition, offerors should provide examples, conducted within the past 7 years, of having performed, as a prime contractor, the analysis, design, construction, and flight testing of high performance aircraft and/or satellites. Success in this program is dependent upon this capability and experience.
--- AAWSAP solicitation
Looks clear enough. They are asking the offerors to assess future (from now through the year 2050) threats and technologies and report those in a way their leadership could understand. That aligns well with the original mission of the Defense Warning Office (DWO):
In one of the most significant developments, the Defense Warning Office (DWO) was created in October 2002 at the direction of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The DWO was established to focus on mid- to long-term future threats. It provides DoD leadership with intelligence that can mitigate surprise, shape strategic outcomes, secure defense strategy objectives, and guide the development of future defense capabilities.
-- DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, 50th Anniversary An Illustrated History
As well as other work they have done before and after that program:
Committee on Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Forecasts and Reviews

START DATE MAY 27, 2004 END DATE MAY 30, 2005 LATEST UPDATE JUNE 1, 2018 STATUS IN - ACTIVE

This activity was requested by the Defense Warning Office of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The NRC will establish a committee to discuss technologies of specific interest to the agency being developed by the United States, its allies, and potential adversaries and provide analyses as to their status of development, their potential applications, and the threat they might pose to U.S. military forces.
Committee on Science and Technology for Defense Warning

START DATE OCTOBER 2, 2012 END DATE SEPTEMBER 30, 2014 LATEST UPDATE JUNE 1, 2018 STATUS IN - ACTIVE

An ad hoc committee will identify and evaluate existing and emerging technologies in areas such as explosive materials, sensors, control systems, robotics, satellite systems, information technology that may represent threats to U.S. national security interests. This assessment will be of particular importance to the Defense Warning Office (DWO) of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The committee will convene up to six workshops for selected technologies from among those identified and produce reports for each workshop prepared by a rapporteur. The committee will also fashion a methodology to set priorities for further attention among the identified technologies and produce a consensus report documenting the methodology and prioritized technology threats.
They may be asking for a crystal ball, but otherwise there's nothing paranormal in that.

Even better than that!

So how did that turn into a UFO investigation? If I was asked to do something like the above, I wouldn't respond by bringing forth UFO reports. That's like ... this:


Except in this case they seem to have also provided what was actually asked for in the form of those DIRD reports. So they probably filled their contractual obligations, but did they actually use the money for producing those, or on something completely different?

It can be certainly argued that anything unidentified is a potential threat and hence within the scope of that program. But based on the "three of the most unusual videos in the Pentagon's secret vaults" Luis Elizondo arranged to be released, we hardly need to worry alien invasions, like those in movies:


In any case, even if such sightings would be seen as legitimate part of the original program, they could hardly be a focal point based on the above solicitation document, and the program as a whole shouldn't be a UFO program as it has been represented in the media. So what could explain such discrepancy? It seems to be a case of one or more of the following:
  1. UFOs were not as significant part of the program as various people and those articles have indicated.
  2. The program ended up using money and time to something else than what was originally requested.
  3. The original solicitation was more like a smokescreen for the real purpose of UFO research.

The backstory

Since Bigelow reportedly got most of the money and is keenly interested in UFOs, it wouldn't be a big surprise if he had steered the program towards that. However, we also know such interest wasn't limited to Bigelow but extended to Elizondo and others at DoD/DIA. And then there's that whole backstory as told by Harry Reid himself.
Probably the No. 1 TV journalist in Nevada was a guy by the name of George Knapp. He and I were friends. He had known me for years. He said to me one day, “Hey, I know this guy Bigelow, he’s interested in a subject, I don’t know if you have any interest in it all, but you should get to know him. He’s got a lot of money. He’s kind of an interesting guy. I’ll introduce you. You’ll go to one of those little deals and spend a few hours with him.”

I did that. It was really fascinating quite frankly because there were people trying to figure out what all this aerial phenomenon was. Bigelow knew I was interested.
...
I’m in Washington in the Senate and Bob Bigelow called me — I kept in touch with him over the years. He called me and he said, “I got the strangest letter here. Could I have a courier bring it to you?” I said, “Sure.” He didn’t want to send it to me over the lines for obvious reasons.

I read the letter. The letter was from a federal national-security agency. Okay? The letter said, “I am a senior, longtime member of this security agency, and I have a Ph.D.” — I can’t remember in what, in physics for sure, maybe math also. “And,” the letter said, “I’m interested. I’m interested in talking to you, Mr. Bigelow. I have an interest in what you’ve been working on. I want to go to your ranch in Utah.”
...
I called Bigelow back and said, “Hey, I’ll meet with the guy.” I called the guy. He said, “I don’t want to meet at my office, I don’t want to meet at your office. Where can we meet?” I said, “Come to my home.” The two of us met and I was terribly impressed with him. Very low-key scientist. He told me of his interest. I called Bigelow and I said, “This guy, I’ve checked him out and he seems like a pretty nice guy and his credentials are as he says.”

He went, met Bigelow, and after I don’t know how much time went by, he came to me and said, “Something should be done about this. Somebody should study it.” I was convinced he was right. I said, “Well, if you were me, what would you say to people in power in the United States Senate who have huge control over the spending of defense money?” And here’s what he said: “What I will do is prepare something for you that anyone can look at it that wants to, it’s strictly science.” He put it in scientific language — what the study should consist of.

I, at the time, was the leader of the Senate, and I called two of my friends who for many, many years were like brothers. One a Democrat, one a Republican. They controlled for quite a number of years the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. It was Stevens and Inouye.
...
What we decided to do — it would be black money, we wouldn’t have a big debate on the Senate floor over it. They would put in their defense appropriation bill, 11 million bucks. The purpose of it was to study aerial phenomena. The money was given, a directive was given to the Pentagon, to put this out to bid, which they did.

People may be inquisitive: “How did Bigelow win that bid? Why?” Because he had spent his own money first. For two years, the federal government helped him. Thousands of pages were gathered, just like I told you, of things that had happened. There was no central location where all this stuff was gathered — that’s what he did. He built his building for it. For two years, when we got financial help — but there was a change in leadership and it didn’t work. So the federal government dropped out of the project.
So Knapp introduced his friend Reid to Bigelow, who later donated at least $10,000 to Reid’s reelection campaigns, and ended up winning the bid for the program that Reid initiated. Knapp in turn has been reporting about the program and recently obtained and published a report that was prepared by that program while participating in a debriefing arranged by Reid, which sort of completes the circle between those friends:
Elizondo is not authorized to release such information, but the I-Team obtained some of it anyway. Earlier this year, we made a whirlwind trip to Washington for a debriefing arranged by former Senator Harry Reid. While in D.C., the I-Team obtained copies of unclassified documents related to the UFO encounters, including the Tic Tac.
-- I-Team Exclusive: Confidential report analyzes Tic Tac UFO incidents
Reid consulted a couple of his senator friends and arranged 11 million of black money for the purpose of "study aerial phenomena", which the Pentagon put "out to bid". Which seems to refer to that AAWSA solicitation, even if the backstory doesn't really fit to what it describes. Searches from the Federal Business Opportunities website do not seem to find any other AATIP like programs that would have been publicly put out to bid, further indicating the program was indeed AAWSA, not yet AATIP.

The guy who started it all

So according to Reid, the trigger for the program came from someone from "a federal national-security agency" who wanted to go to Bigelow's Skinwalker Ranch. NYT reports he was "an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency" (DIA) and it happened in 2007. Politico reports that Reid's views were also shaped by a book about the Skinwalker Ranch, co-authored by Knapp.

Reid met the guy, who then met Bigelow, and Reid again, and apparently prepared some sort of proposal "in scientific language" for what needs to be done and funded. In the version told by NYT, it sounds like Reid and Bigelow together would have met several officials who wanted to study UFOs:
Mr. Reid said he met with agency officials shortly after his meeting with Mr. Bigelow and learned that they wanted to start a research program on U.F.O.s.
Knapp reports those events as follows:
"I received communication from a man who worked for one of the defense agencies, a PHD in physics and math. He said 'I know everything about rockets but I don't know what these things are,'" said Sen. Harry Reid.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid started a dialogue with a senior scientist working for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Alarmed that no one was paying attention to dramatic intrusions by unknown aircraft, Reid and colleagues secured funding for an ongoing study, but it wasn't called AATIP. The original acronym was AAWSAP or Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program.
So that guy was a PhD from DIA, who knew "everything about rockets", and was interested to visit Skinwalker Ranch. Who could that be?

Elizondo's predecessor James T. Lacatski

Elizondo was interviewed by George Knapp on Coast to Coast AM and there he stated he joined the program in 2008 and was interviewed by the current program manager at the time, who was "a PhD and literally a rocket scientist out of the Defense Intelligence Agency". Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The Warp Drive DIRD paper informs us explicitly who that previous program manager was:
This product is one in a series of advanced technology reports produced in FY 2009 under the Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Warning Office's Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications (AAWSA) Program. Comments or questions pertaining to this document should be addressed to James T. Lacatski, D.Eng., AAWSA Program Manager, Defense Intelligence Agency, ATTN : CLAR/DW0-3, Bldg 6000, Washington, DC 20340-5100. 
As we can see there, he was a Doctor of Engineering, which is equal but not quite the same as a PhD. Both are called doctors. Eric Davis has also answered to Isaac Koi that:
In relation to a question about an individual named in those papers (Jim Lacatski), Dr Eric Davis stated in the same email that Dr Lacatski was the "program manager at the DWO-4 for the AATIP contract with Bigelow Aerospace Advanced  Space Studies. AAWSA is the specific program task force or division within DW0-4 that Jim specifically worked in.
The solicitation document states that:
The Contracting Officer for this contract will be Jennifer Sylvestre
The COR and Government Project Leader will be Dr. James T. Lacatski.
Contracting Officer Representative (COR) – The government official appointed by the contracting officer and who is responsible for operations of the execution of the contract.  The COR handles all aspects dealing with the interpretation and deliverables of the contract.
Contracting Officer – Procurement official who holds a contracting warrant and is authorized to obligate the government under the terms of a contract and make changes to the contract. 
So Lacatski was to project leader already from the begin to at least the April 6, 2010, when those DIRD papers referred to him as the program manager.

All that seems to make it very probable the "guy from DIA" who got the ball rolling with Bigelow and Reid in the first place was Lacatski, and if he was so interested about it all, it makes sense that he was also leading the program.

But how does that solicitation fit to a UFO program, how did Bigelow win it, and what exactly was Elizondo's role?

From exotic technology to UFOs

Elizondo stated on Coast to Coast he was originally asked to:
support a portfolio that was of, I guess, considered a little unconventional. We're talking about extremely advanced technology and as he's having this conversation with me, some of the parameters he's discussing, it becomes apparent to me that we really, I wasn't aware that we had any technology like that in our inventory and it became pretty clear after a third meeting that we didn't.
That description sort of fits to what AAWSAP was supposed to do, evaluate far-term technological progress that nobody has. It almost sounds like the whole association to UFOs could have been a misunderstanding of sorts. But surely it can't be just that? Elizondo also stated:
it was more of a slow and gradual realization for me it was just day in day out realizing that the exotic technologies we were looking at were really something worth exploring. It was fascinating and in some cases maybe even a little bit scary.
Again, that also sounds like those exotic warp drives and whatnot they were supposed to evaluate, but at some point they just were connected to IR blobs of birds and planes on video, which at this point seem to have been a case of wishful thinking, seeing evidence of such technologies where there's none.

It is definitely interesting how Elizondo indicates he had multiple interviews and a gradual realization before he concluded what they were dealing with and how the phenomenon is real and so on. It sounds like there were some issues in communicating what the program was all about. And the problem shouldn't really be secrecy, as the program itself was publicly described and open to bid.

Maybe the problem was just that, they needed to describe it in terms of what the program was officially supposed to be, and gradually reveal to new people how they had actually turned it into something different?

Timeline according to Reid and Harris

According to Pentagon's Harris:
AATIP was funded in the July 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Bill (a Sen Harry Reid add).  Its mandate, as outlined in a 2009 letter from Reid to DSD, was to assess "far-term foreign advanced aerospace threats  the United States," including anomalous events (such as sightings of aerodynamic vehicles engaged in extreme maneuvers, with unique phenomenology, reported by U.S. Navy pilots or other credible sources). 

AATIP was terminated in 2012 due to lack of real progress and concerns about the viability of the program.
That appropriations bill totaled $250 billion and signed into law on June 30, 2008. The AAWSAP solicitation was posted soon after on August 18, 2008 with an offer due date on September 5, 2008. It specified the program was supposed to begin with the chosen offeror on September 30, 2008 with one "base year" and four option years, last of which would be ended on September 29, 2013. Based on the above information, the program probably terminated on September 29, 2012, so that they elected not to fund that last optional year.

But Reid also stated that the "federal government helped" Bigelow for two years, and Politico quoted a former staffer also saying they "only did it a couple years" and "let it die a slow death". Those seem to indicate they would have used only one optional year after the base year, or that the program was significantly scaled down after those two years so that the funding finally ended in 2012.

Knapp, as quoted before, reported that Bigelow funded the program by himself for a year. His report also displayed a piece of the contract, showing an initial sum of $10 million. That probably means the government funded AAWSAP for 2 years, $10 million each, and then Bigelow funded the third year. After that the program morphed into downsized AATIP.

The money for that program may have been "black" at least in the sense that it wasn't necessarily visible as a separate item on the bill, but the program itself wasn't secret, since that solicitation was public already when it began, as evidenced by an archived version of the solicitation from October 2008.

Timeline according to Elizondo

 Luis Elizondo described the program and it's timeline as follows:
Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was established to do just that, identify any threats. I think there's been some confusion recently. Some folks have said advanced airborne. It was never airborne. It was advanced aerospace. So these are potentially objects that are both in our atmosphere and maybe not in our atmosphere that are maneuvering in such a way that they don't fit a common profile of what we know to be typical type of aircraft, whether they be drones, whether they be missiles, whether they be airplanes. These are objects that are defying the traditional profile of something we would normally consider to be an aircraft of some sort. And so, as a result, the Department of Defense takes seriously anything that it cannot identify positively. We have to presume it can be a threat until it is proven it is not a threat. And so that was the purpose of the program, was to identify these anomalies, these phenomena, that did not fit easily into a category or a profile that we know of.
The program started in 2007 ... so the program was established as a bipartisan effort. It was then sent to one of the defense agencies within the Department of Defense. There was an open bid. Anybody could bid for the contract and it turned out that Bigelow Aerospace won the contract. Keep in mind this wasn't selected by Reid. This was an independent internal process by the Defense Intelligence Agency for this contract. It was DIA who chose who has a contract, not Senator Reid. So I think that's an important detail that gets lost. And then in 2008 I was asked to come onboard by the former program manager to provide counterintelligence support within this portfolio. I didn't have any idea what this program was about. I had several meetings with people until I realized more or less what this was about and then in 2010 when the last program manager was going into a new assignment I was asked to take over the program and I subsequently accepted it. And from 2010 to roughly three and a half months ago I ran the AATIP program. Now the funding, the initial tranche of funding ended in 2012 then in 2013 there was additional funding that came through the departments. Unfortunately the wording in the language for the funds was a little bit nebulous, a little bit general, so another office within the department wound up taking that money and using it for their purposes, but it was indeed intended for us. And then we continued to run the program obviously with a lot less support until about three and a half months ago. And I cannot tell you now if the program is up and running because I am no longer an employee  of the US government and I'm not allowed to speak on behalf of the government. But what I can tell you is up until the day I left the program was alive and well. It was fairly robust. We had some incredible men and women who were part of this effort and I had support from my senior, very senior levels of leadership that the program was in fact to be turned over to one of my successors and that was effectively done.
2007 can't be right, especially since Elizondo describes it was established as described by Reid, which happened in 2008. Elizondo indicates he would have come onboard on the next year after the program had already started. Since the program began in September 2008, it seems he either actually joined it when it started or very soon after, or that year is also off by one and he joined it in 2009. Elizondo states he became the program manager in 2010, and if the program was actually funded in a significant way for only two years, as Reid indicated, that could mean the change happened after the first optional year (in September 2010). Which would mean he had managed it for the year Bigelow funded it and then a downsized effort.

Unless that year is also off by one and he only managed AATIP. It would be a bit strange if he had managed AAWSAP when it was running but had never mentioned the name, even though it was actually public information. At least it seems he became the manager after April 6, 2010, as one of the available DIRD papers has that date and still specifies his predecessor as the program manager.

It's also noteworthy that Elizondo described the program as being about identifying threats and anomalous aerial phenomena, and doesn't mention anything about the other aspects of the AAWSAP.

BAASS and AAWSAP

According to recent Newsweek article, BAASS was "created specifically for the Pentagon contract".  Knapp similarly stated:
Space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow's interest in exotic subjects was as obvious as his company logo. He'd spent years -- and millions of dollars -- on his own scientific study of UFOs and related topics. For the DIA contract, he created BAASS, a seperate entity housed within his aerospace plant. He hired a team of 46 scientists and investigators, along with dozens of other support personnel.
Keith Basterfield investigated the official company records for BAASS, which show that the file date for BAASS is January 29, 2008, so many months before AAWSAP was even put out to bid.

If BAASS was indeed founded for the purposes of the AAWSAP/AATIP after Reid, Bigelow and the future AAWSAP director had their discussions, well before the funding was secured and the program was put out to bid, it would indicate the deal was in practice already done way before the public bidding process.

Early job ads described BAASS like this:
Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), a sister company to Bigelow Aerospace, is a newly formed research organization that focuses on the identification, evaluation, and acquisition of novel and emerging future technologies worldwide as they specifically relate to spacecraft.
Some of that definitely sounds like a good fit for AATIP/AAWSAP, but it's not an exact fit and also sound like it could have had other purposes for Bigelow Aerospace.

BAASS seems to continue its official existence as an active business entity, although it's a different matter whether it's that only on paper.

FAA and BAASS

John Greenewald noticed that FAA manuals listed BAASS as a place of contact for commercial pilot UFO reports in February 11, 2010 and February 9, 2012 versions. Before that (2002-2008) they had Bigelow Aerospace/NIDS and later (2014-) there were no Bigelow references.

Greenewald obtained also emails that show how someone from BAAS requested from the FAA that the reference from NIDS to BAASS would be changed and informed that:
is a new organization that is devoted to exploration of extremely advanced aerospace technology, including the so called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) or Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) topics.
we would like to transfer that responsibility to BAASS since it comprises considerably greater resources than the previous NIDS organization.
NIDS has essentially morphed into BAASS.
That request was made on January 28, 2009, so some months after AAWSAP began. However, the more significant change seems to be that after 2012 Bigelow wasn't listed at all. If the program had continued like Elizondo indicated, and BAASS would have been still part of it somehow, why wouldn't they want to accept such reports anymore? That shouldn't cost much and would provide essential data if the program was supposedly about UFOs. And even if BAASS wouldn't be part of that contract anymore, did they just decide they were not interested enough of such reports on their own right?

Gizmodo already reported on December 23, 2009 that FAA issued an order on December 10 to report UFO sightings to BAASS. They also noted that:
There has to be something going on when they are hiring astrophysics, biochemists, microbiologists, nanotechnologists, physicists, and propulsion and stealth technology experts.
Such BAASS jobs were being advertised at least between September 13, 2008 and January 31, 2010.

MUFON and BAASS

BAASS and MUFON had a one year contract known as Star Impact Project (SIP) between February 2009 and February 2010, which required BAASS to pay MUFON $56,000 per month in exchange for MUFON providing them information from their Case Management System and witness reports and perform field investigations. MUFON and BAASS reportely had weekly discussion on Fridays about case reports and other issues. MUFON reportedly eventually received about $324,000 after BAASS had reduced the montly amount to $25,000 after June 2009 since MUFON hadn't actually used all the money for their project during the first 4 months. BAASS tried to further reduce the amount to $15,000 in October 2009, after which the deal broke down and they received nothing and MUFON had a lot of financial troubles. BAASS auditors also found discrepancies in MUFON financial records for the project.

So that collaboration, during which they investigated 65 or 69 (depending on the source) SIP cases, also happened during the first year of the AAWSAP.

Timeline of the known documents

There are six known DIRD papers by Davis, two of which are publicly available, and one available on from Hal Puthoff. One is dated to 2011, others in 2010. At least some of the 2010 papers are marked as being for fiscal year 2009, so those were probably funded by the program between 2009 and 2010, so probably during that base year and the first option year of the AAWSAP contract, those funded by the government.

The Nimitz Incident executive report was reportedly compiled in 2009 (although the document itself is undated) and authorized by somebody other than Luis Elizondo according to Davis, so most likely his predecessor.

Those three videos that have been published by the TTSA were "cleared for release in August" 2017, according to Leslie Kean. One of them was from the 2004 Nimitz Incident and the other two most likely from COMPTUEX 2015, so well before and after the active phase of the AAWSA program. Since the videos do not actually show what the TTSA has claimed, and the Go Fast video in particular is most likely just a bird and doesn't match their descriptions at all, it seems they haven't been really analyzed at all at any point, not by the TTSA and neither by the AATIP/AAWSA, or whatever was left of it, since if they were, Elizondo should have known better. So those certainly don't indicate there would have been any real analysis work going on after 2012.

Timeline from LinkedIn data

Keith Basterfield has searched LinkedIn records of various people employed by BAASS. Their dates of employment seem to be begin at earliest from September 2008 when AASWAP supposedly began, and apart from a few exceptions, end at latest on September 2011, most between May-August 2010, which would coincide to the end of the second and first option years. Those again seem to be consistent for a project that had most activity for a couple of years and was scaled down during the third already.

The exceptions are Douglas Kurth and Colm Kelleher. Kurth stayed there until June 2013 and was the pilot of the first plane that saw the disturbance in water during the Nimitz Incident, and was subsequently hired to BAASS as a program lead.

Kelleher was the Deputy Administrator between 2008 and 2012 according to LinkedIn, but as Basterfield noticed, his TTSA introduction states he worked for something AATIP like between 2008 and 2011:
From 2008-2011, he served as Deputy Administrator of a US government funded threat assessment program focused on advanced aerospace technology.

Combined timeline

Collecting all the above, the overall timeline seems to be something like this:
2007 "Guy from DIA", most likely James T. Lacatski, writes a letter to Bigelow, expressing a wish to visit Skinwalker Ranch. He has discussions with Reid and Bigelow and writes a proposal on what the government should do "in scientific language". Reid implies the central topic was UFOs.
December 2007 BAASS Program Lead Douglas Kurth joins BAASS (according to LinkedIn)
January 29, 2008 BAASS officially filed as a new company.
June 2008 Reid arranges the funding for the project as "black money" on the July 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which was signed into law on June 30, 2008.
August 18, 2008 AAWSAP solicitation was posted publicly.
September 5, 2008 Response due date for AAWSAP offerors.
September 13, 2008 BAAS is already listing jobs for research areas that seem to fit to AATIP/AAWSA.
September 30, 2008-September 29, 2009 AAWSAP contract base year
January 28, 2009 BAASS sends request to FAA for changing UFO reporting reference from NIDS to its successor BAASS.
February 2009 - October 2009? BAASS and MUFON SIP collaboration
Sometime 2009 Pentagon briefing summary by the program director already reportedly claims "the United States is incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered". Reid tries to unsuccessfully heighten program security due to "extraordinary discoveries" and as "much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings".
Sometime 2009 Nimitz Incident executive report reportedly compiled.
September 30, 2009-September 29, 2010 AAWSAP contract option year I
March 29, 2010 - April 6, 2010 Dates of the 3 publicly available DIRD documents (marked for fiscal year 2009).
2010? (after April 6) Elizondo becomes AATIP/AAWSAP program manager
May-August 2010 Most BAASS employment records found on LinkedIn ended
September 30, 2010-September 29, 2011 AAWSAP contract option year II, instead funded by Bigelow, unclear how it was connected to the original contract anymore
September 2011 BAASS Equipment Manager/Lead Investigator employment ends (according to LinkedIn)
September 30, 2011-September 29, 2012 AAWSAP contract option year III (option not used)
Sometime 2012 AAWSAP "terminated due to lack of real progress and concerns about the viability of the program".
AATIP begins as low profile small scale successor program to study military encounters with unknown aircraft with Elizondo as the leader, relying on an informal network of colleagues.
September 30, 2012-September 29, 2013 AAWSAP contract option year IV (option not used)
June 2013 BAASS Program Lead Douglas Kurth leaves BAASS (according to LinkedIn)
October 4, 2017 Luis Elizondo leaves DoD, claims AATIP still running.

And the award goes to...

As was quoted before, Elizondo tried to emphasize Reid didn't choose Bigelow:
This was an independent internal process by the Defense Intelligence Agency for this contract. It was DIA who chose who has a contract, not Senator Reid.
Knapp similarly reported:
In Aug. 2008, DIA posted a solicitation for bids. Weeks later, the contract was awarded to Bigelow Aerospace, the initial amount was $10 million. It required Bigelow to provide a facility that qualified for top secret work. Harry Reid did not influence the selection process.

"There was no direct contract vehicle for Senator Reid to take care of a buddy over here in a stake for a contract. That's complete nonsense," Elizondo said.
But if it was Lacatski from DIA who contacted Bigelow, and instructed Reid on what needs to be funded and had discussions with those two, and was also the program lead and probably participated in evaluating the proposals as well, is it really an "independent internal process"? And if he was interested in Skinwalker Ranch, he surely wished the chosen offeror would have, well, a Skinwalker Ranch.

While the bidding process for the program might have been open to anyone in theory, that doesn't mean it was that in practice. It is well known that public organizations forced to choose contractors with open competitions have their means to fix the result by choosing requirements and weighting factors that favor their favorite contractor. Is there evidence of something like that in this case? Possibly. At least this should already limit possible offerors quite a lot, especially as it was limited to small businesses:
Subfactor (2) Offerors should provide examples, conducted within the past 7 years, of having performed, as the prime contractor, analysis, design, construction, and flight testing of high performance aircraft and/or satellites. This subfactor is a disqualifying requirement – if the offeror, as the prime contractor, has not conducted the design through flight testing of a high performance aircraft and/or satellite, please do not submit a proposal as it will not be considered for award. Success in this program is dependent upon this capability and experience.
Was such experience really as essential to the program? And did the program eventually even employ people who had participated to Bigelow's satellite projects? It was probably also a bit challenging for others to arrange required personnel in a couple of weeks without prior information for the somewhat vague requirements of breakthrough research:
Since this effort will encompass a broad range of highly technical disciplines, personnel with extensive experience (minimum of 10 years) in breakthrough aerospace research and development will be required to meet the demands of this program. The offeror should clearly identify their approach to obtaining the services of and their utilization of these scientific and technical experts. The offeror shall provide detailed resumes for proposed personnel in order to be considered for award.
It would be interesting to know whether there even were other offerors besides Bigelow. The solicitation documents do not give any indication of wider interest. They do not for example document any questions anyone would have asked.

It's also surprising if the contract was done with BAASS, which itself hardly had such satellite experience. Would the contract process really have allowed using the merits of its "sister company"? Also if BAASS hired a lot of people only after they got the contract, as their job ads seem to indicate, what sort of resources could they have claimed to have in their offer documents? Was that the reason the solicitation document was asking for "approach to obtaining", instead of expecting the offeror to actually have those already?
The offeror should clearly identify their approach to obtaining the services of and their utilization of these scientific and technical experts.

Obfuscated shopping list

We can also ponder what would have happened if that solicitation was a fair competition and someone else would have won. Knapp noted how the "agreement" didn't mention UFOs or anything like that:
The agreement with DIA did not mention UFOs at all. It used more generic terms such as future threats and breakthrough technologies, and specified 12 focal points including, lift, propulsion, materials, versions of stealth as well as human interface and human effects, meaning Bigelow's team would study people who reported unusual experiences beyond seeing UFOs.
-- I-Team: Documents prove secret UFO study based in Nevada, Las Vegas NOW
But this supposedly wasn't just a matter of an agreement between parties who understood each other and could have used obfuscated code language to talk to each other. It's about official solicitation documents that were supposed to describe to all possible offerors what they were supposed to provide.

If someone else would have won, someone who wouldn't have a poltergeist amusement park and a bunch of pseudo-scientists to go with it, would they have actually had a program matching the description? Would they have paid some tens of millions for a set of papers?

Elizondo stated how they were supposed to get additional funding after 2012, but someone else took it because of unclear wording:
Now the funding, the initial tranche of funding ended in 2012 then in 2013 there was additional funding that came through the departments. Unfortunately the wording in the language for the funds was a little bit nebulous, a little bit general, so another office within the department wound up taking that money and using it for their purposes, but it was indeed intended for us.
-- Exclusive 60 Minutes with Luis Elizondo - Former Director of the AATIP (UFORadio International #11)
So AATIP did continue, continued in earnest after 2012, and additional funding was provided to our organization. Unfortunately the congressional verbiage was a little bit vague and so the funding was diverted to another office but the funding was intended for us. It was supposed to go from 2013 to 2014 and then at that point fiscal constraints became increasingly tight within the department and we were forced to do more with less or in some cases more with nothing.
-- Luis Elizondo Interview for the 2018 International UFO Congress
So could it have been worse than the official description of AAWSAP versus what they did with the money, or was it actually diverted because there was someone actually doing what the AAWSAP/AATIP was described to do?

About those modified buildings...

Remember how NYT informed us that:
Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.
The real reason might have been a bit less exciting than some mystery alloys. The solicitation was corrected a couple of times, first by changing the solicitation number (probably just fixing an error) and then there was this piece:
THE CONTRACTOR WILL BE REQUIRED TO HAVE A TOP SECRET FACILITY CLEARANCE GRANTED BY THE DEFENSE SECURITY SERVICE (DSS) PRIOR CONTRACT IMPLEMENTATION.
Which was corrected as follows:
THE CONTRACTOR WILL NOT BE REQUIRED TO HAVE A TOP SECRET FACILITY CLEARANCE GRANTED BY THE DEFENSE SECURITY SERVICE (DSS) PRIOR TO CONTRACT IMPLEMENTATION. HOWEVER, IT MUST BE OBTAINED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE DURING THE INITIAL YEAR OF THE CONTRACT.
Bigelow probably modified those buildings just to fulfill such requirement for storing anything (such as documents) classified as secret. Knapp also reported that the contract:
required Bigelow to provide a facility that qualified for top secret work.

Not your grandma's Blue Book

While the media has tried to picture AAWSAS/AATIP as some soft of Project Blue Book 2.0, it seems to have been more like NIDS 2.0.

For starters, at least officially, AAWSAP didn't seem to be a government UFO study, but a breakthrough technology study, even though that seems to have been more like a smokescreen based on the statements given by those involved, seemingly for concealing questionable use of money.

It was ordered from a contractor, BAASS, who did most of the work and used most of the money. BAASS itself informed FAA that NIDS (National Institute for Discovery Science) had essentially morphed into BAASS. NIDS (or NIDSci) in turn is known for its studies in ufology, fringe science and paranormal topics. NIDS was reportedly disbanded in October 2004, but seems to have done a comeback as BAASS 4 years later (which is now most likely disbanded again).

Perhaps the most telling statement of them all is this by Reid:
People may be inquisitive: “How did Bigelow win that bid? Why?” Because he had spent his own money first. For two years, the federal government helped him. Thousands of pages were gathered, just like I told you, of things that had happened. There was no central location where all this stuff was gathered — that’s what he did. He built his building for it. For two years, when we got financial help — but there was a change in leadership and it didn’t work. So the federal government dropped out of the project.
So while the official AAWSAP should have been about services the government bought from Bigelow, unofficially it seems to have been Bigelow's project and the government just financially helping him for a few years to do what he had already done before. And I don't believe he meant weapon application studies.

AATIP in turn seems to have been more like a hobby project done during working hours by an informal network of friends who shared a similar passion. If it wasn't a wholly unofficial program, it nevertheless was one with very limited resources and the need to keep low profile to survive.

But maybe your grandma's poltergeists

The seemingly important role of Skinwalker Ranch might be the strangest aspect of the already strange story. Adults chasing poltergeists (or whatever they are supposed to be) suits a 80s horror movie or a 21st century parody of one, but if that actually happened with tax dollars, it's beyond ridiculous. But recent reports and some of the insider comments indicate that really happened.
A ranch in Utah, known for decades as the site of bizarre encounters, became a living lab for the study.
...
But at the Pentagon, there was pushback. Some worried the study would become an embarrassment if the word got out. Others opposed it on religious grounds.
-- I-Team: Documents prove secret UFO study based in Nevada, Las Vegas NOW
The investigations by BAASS provided new lines of evidence showing that the UFO phenomenon was a lot more than nuts and bolts machines that interacted with military aircraft. The phenomenon also involved a whole panoply of diverse activity that included bizarre creatures, poltergeist activity, invisible entities, orbs of light, animal and human injuries and much more.
-- Statement from a Senior Manager of BAASS
It's hardly a surprise if something like that would cause religious objections, as religious believers would most likely equate Skinwalker believers' poltergeists to demons or such. Likewise it's hardly surprising if others were fearing embarrassment.

More importantly, even if UFOs as unidentified aircraft could be connected to legitimate concerns of aerial threats, how could anyone rationalize connecting that Skinwalker stuff to a program like that?

Breakthrough tech in 2050, or 3050

So what about those DIRD papers, do they actually have practical use in evaluating threats and possibilities between now and 2050, what the AAWSAP program was supposed to do, or are they only good for a smokescreen?

BusinessInsider asked comments from theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. Here's what he had to say:
"It's bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn't," Carroll said. "This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we're going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that's going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever."
"There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there's dark energy — all of these things are true," he said. "But there's zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes or the next 1,000 years are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that."
"It's possible in the sense that I can't actually rule it out, but I don't think it's actually possible," Carroll said of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. "I think if we knew physics better, we'd just say, 'No, you can't do that.'"
Maybe there were other DIRD documents that are not quite so out there, but the ones we have seen so far seem to have been more about funding the personal interests of Puthoff, Davis and others than something that would be relevant to the objectives of the program.

Davis was also doing very similar sounding research for Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) just a few years earlier:
2004 - 2006: Military Aerospace Vehicles: Breakthrough Capabilities & Features in 2050
E. W. Davis, Principle Investigator
– Antigravity via General Relativistic Gravitomagnetic Forces & Negative Quantum Vacuum Energy
– Wormhole-Stargates
– Stargates Induced by Polarizable Quantum Vacuum Fluctuations
– Modifying Gravity/Inertia via EM Fields
2004 - 2006: Military Aerospace Vehicles: Breakthrough Capabilities & Features in 2050
E. W. Davis
Final Report AFRL-PR-ED-TR2004-0081 (unpublished)
What's the point in doing it again?

Money for nothing and dual use for free

According to Elizondo, the program still continued when he left. How could any program continue without funding? Someone has to pay at least for the working hours, right? Elizondo seems to believe he found a way to get work done for more or less free.
We were forced to do more with less or in some cases more with nothing. So we very quickly continued our efforts and we started to dual use a lot of what we were doing, so as an example, one may be interested in putting out a requirement looking for let’s say advanced ICBM technology. So you would go out and you would ask folks, I want you to be able to give me a paper that helps me understand anything coming into Earth’s orbit with these particular profiles. So hypersonic velocities, loads over ability et cetera, and what might be useful for let’s say identifying North Korean ICBM missiles coming into continental United States could also be useful in identifying other objects, things that are coming in with that same flight pattern but not necessarily a ballistic missile.

So we got very clever at dual using and the reporting continued to come in through our office, and quite frankly the program never went away so we became very clever as everybody else in the department of having to manage our resources I think in an increasingly constrictive way that still allowed us to obtain the data we were trying to obtain, but in the same respect not require additional resources to come in for new projects. I guess in short, in lay terms, we got very clever at managing our money and our time and our resources. We learned to confederate a lot more so rather than us shouldering the burden of everything, we learned to leverage our partners in the intelligence community and within the services to help us do a lot of the functions that we were trying to do in house.
-- Luis Elizondo Interview for the 2018 International UFO Congress
I have a sneaking suspicion such an approach might cause some distractions on evaluating something as boring and mundane as ballistic missile threats from North Korea, but maybe we will eventually see one as a blurry blob in some FLIR video. Then we can certainly agree such a dual use made sense.

Why did Elizondo cross the road?

If the program continued and they continued to receive significant sightings, as Elizondo has claimed, why exactly did he leave? Well, we already have answers to that:
He continued to work out of his Pentagon office until this past October, when he resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition.
-- Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program, The New York Times, December 16, 2017.
My decision to leave the US government was before I ever knew anything about to the stars of academy of arts and sciences. My initial plan was to frankly fade off into the sunset, take a job working something that I could enjoy, one that was completely unrelated to the US government, and if you will like I said fade off into the sunset. It was actually the to the stars of academy of arts and science that found me. Through some colleagues of mine in the intelligence community, once they found out that I was leaving had suggested that maybe I should talk to some of the folks at to the stars who were interested in talking to me.
-- Luis Elizondo Interview for the 2018 International UFO Congress
Let me first say why I left the department. There are a few times in life, you in order to make an organization better you actually have to leave it. In this particular case I did not ask for this job that I was given, I was asked to take it, so I took it as many other jobs I have had in the past. I was given a mission, that mission was to run AATIP and figure out what these things were and how they work, and unfortunately in order to accomplish the very mission I was given by the DoD, I actually had to leave the department to do it. It was in fact my loyalty to the secretary why I left that, not because of disloyalty. My loyalty to the American people, the DoD, and to the secretary unwavering, but I also understood that in order for the department and the American people to take this to the next level I would have to take the step of leaving the one department that I love so much and going to the private side to finish the mission. I think TTSA is an organization that can help us achieve that.
...
I would be doing much better right now if I was working for the government between all my benefits and my retirement. This was not an economically sound decision for me to join TTSA.
-- Exclusive 60 Minutes with Luis Elizondo - Former Director of the AATIP (UFORadio International #11)
So he decided to fade into the sunset to finish the mission on the private side to protest excessive secrecy... or something?

In any case, he is on the private side now with his TTSA buddies. They have successfully dual used those blurry IR blobs he arranged to collect yet another million of easy money, although that money is basically already gone, as it tends to happen within this topic. He successfully fought the excessive secrecy he was protesting by for example having the Go Fast clip cleared for release in August 2017, and handing it out for others to see in March 2018, having sat on it for only some six months.

He most likely also doesn't need to protest internal opposition anymore among fellow believers, and can concentrate fighting the external opposition, by for example sticking with the mathematically impossible claims regarding that Go Fast video. He is now free to make arguments how those videos were captured by "the most advanced sensors", as if that matters if nobody really looked what the sensors displayed. I wonder if they use their ballistic missile sensors in the same way.

The 22 million dollar question

In any case, the program is now history (for all practical purposes at least), the tax dollars have been used, and some of the people whose money was spent have filled the FOIA queues. So what sort of results can we reasonably expect to see?

We know there's at least that set of DIRD papers as the primary output. But those who are interested in those sorts of things can most likely find more useful information from Wikipedia, for example.

Then there are presumably various contractual and managerial documents. Those should be found easily by AAWSAP at least, since we know they contain that name.

Is that basically it in terms of the "official program"? Does anyone have any interest in that?

Then there's reportedly at least this:
generated at least one report, a 490-page volume that describes alleged UFO sightings in the United States and numerous foreign countries over multiple decades.
And some classified version of the Nimitz executive report. There might be some similar incidents and reports as well. It's anybody's guess which program name those contain, if any.

Then there's probably some cache of videos, Davis at least indicated he had seen a larger set. But if those three we have already seen really were "three of the most unusual", well, the rest probably wouldn't be worth much either.

If BAASS used some of that money with deals with MUFON or playing peekaboo with their supposed poltergeists and things like that, they could have just stored their own internal documents to their newly modified buildings. If those weren't really part of the "official program", would they have ended up to any government owned storage in any format?

Apart from Elizondo, who has made all sorts of claims about those videos as well, other reported government personnel accounts seem to indicate the project didn't really produce much of any value. We should probably adjust our expectations accordingly.

After all, if NIDS 1.0 ended up being abandoned without any results worth mentioning, why would a reboot with the same ingredients be any different? You can read one account about the track record of the original NIDS here.

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