In a statement provided exclusively to The Post, a Department of Defense spokesman said a secret government initiative called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.”
And while the DOD says it shut down the AATIP in 2012, spokesman Christopher Sherwood acknowledged that the department still investigates claimed sightings of alien spacecraft.
“The Department of Defense is always concerned about maintaining positive identification of all aircraft in our operating environment, as well as identifying any foreign capability that may be a threat to the homeland,” Sherwood said.
“The department will continue to investigate, through normal procedures, reports of unidentified aircraft encountered by US military aviators in order to ensure defense of the homeland and protection against strategic surprise by our nation’s adversaries.”
Nick Pope, who secretly investigated UFOs for the British government during the 1990s, called the DOD’s comments a “bombshell revelation.”
Pope, a former UK defense official-turned-author, said, “Previous official statements were ambiguous and left the door open to the possibility that AATIP was simply concerned with next-generation aviation threats from aircraft, missiles and drones — as sceptics claimed.
“This new admission makes it clear that they really did study what the public would call ‘UFOs,’ ” he said.
“It also shows the British influence, because UAP was the term we used in the Ministry of Defence to get away from the pop culture baggage that came with the term ‘UFO.’ ”
John Greenewald Jr. — whose website The Black Vault archives declassified government documents on UFO reports, “Bigfoot” sightings and other subjects — also called the Pentagon’s use of the term “unidentified aerial phenomena” unprecedented in its frankness.
“I’m shocked they said it that way, and the reason is, is they’ve seemingly worked very hard not to say that,” he said.
“So I think that’s a pretty powerful statement because now we have actual evidence — official evidence — that said, ‘Yes, AATIP did deal with UAP cases, phenomena, videos, photos, whatever.'”
Greenewald said he hopes that the Pentagon will release more information about the AATIP, either by voluntary disclosure or through requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
“But at least we’re one step closer to the truth,” he said.
The existence of the AATIP was revealed in 2017, along with a 33-second DOD video that shows an airborne object being chased by two Navy jets off the coast of San Diego in 2004.
At the time, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took credit for arranging $22 million in annual funding for the AATIP, telling the New York Times that it was “one of the good things I did in my congressional service.”
Reid’s home state of Nevada hosts the top-secret military installation known as “Area 51,” long rumored to be the storehouse for an alien craft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
Reid, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.