|The Pentagon’s UFO program was exposed on December 16, 2017, but details of substance have been very slow in surfacing. The exposure of the project has been a tremendous boost for the UFO topic, putting it back in mainstream conversations as a serious subject, for the first time in years. However, the lack of transparency has been a concern, not only from the US government, but also from the contracting parties involved, the reporting of the story, and those exploiting it for commercial enterprises.||
By Roger Glassel & Curt Collins
With the disclosure of the “MUFON Advanced Technology Establishment,” details have emerged to show just what the Pentagon project was really about, and the role of the civilian UFO group that was secretly responsible for much of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program’s content and operations. It also reveals a lot about how significant the project truly was. We’ll examine all that, and at the end of the article, present a collection of supporting documents.
In 1996 Robert Bigelow purchased the Skinwalker Ranch in Utah to have the organization study its alleged unearthly events. TV journalist George Knapp worked closely with Bigelow’s organization, and “maintained a working relationship with NIDS since its inception and had earned the trust of principal figures in the organization. [Bigelow] shared, on a confidential basis, incident reports and a comprehensive chronology of [Skinwalker Ranch] incidents… In late 2002, Knapp received permission from NIDS to write an account of the ranch activities…” Several of the NIDS studies of paranormal research were represented by papers on their site in categories: Anomalous Aerial Phenomena, Animal Pathology Research, Astrobiology/SETI, and Consciousness Studies.
Despite the money and talent, NIDS was deactivated in October 2004, with Bigelow saying, “It is unfortunate that there isn’t more activity, as there was in the past, that warrants investigation.” However, he went on to say, “Should substantial activity occur with a need for investigation then NIDS will be reactivated with new personnel.” After the closing of NIDS, there was a coda of sorts, a book published the next year, Hunt for the Skinwalker by Colm A. Kelleher and George Knapp.
The Advanced Aerospace Weapon Systems Applications Program? By now almost everyone has heard of AATIP – the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which is said to have been created at the request of Senator Harry Reid, a friend of Robert Bigelow. There’s some pre-history that has yet to be documented, but Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) was in the works in 2007, and retired Marine Corps Commander, Douglas Kurth (a USS Nimitz UFO witness) was hired in December as the Program Manager ahead of the company’s official formation. On Jan. 28, 2008, Bigelow made it legal by registering BAASS as an LLC in Nevada. The specialty company was created to secure the bid for the research for the Advanced Aerospace Weapon Systems Applications Program (AAWSAP), known better today by the nickname AATIP. Dr. James T. Lacatski directed AAWSAP, which was under the control of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Attached to the AAWSAP contractor bid form were the project’s objectives:
“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.
“REQUIREMENTS: The contractor shall complete advanced aerospace weapon system technical studies in the following areas:
4. power generation
5. spatial/temporal translation
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)”
Robert Bigelow needed to shore up a few things in order to secure the contract. He began hiring a team of scientists and technicians for BAASS, and it’s since become known that several of Bigelow’s NIDS associates came back into play as the project developed. Colm Kelleher became Deputy Administrator and Hal Puthoff was engaged as a subcontractor. John Schuessler of MUFON played an important role as well.
“The Scientific Study of UFOs for the Benefit of Humanity” is the motto of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), a civilian organization launched in 1969, founded on the premise that UFOs are real, “in spite of the government’s declarations that nothing was going on.” In the late 2000s, the organization reportedly had 2,800 members. When the AAWSAP project was gelling in 2007, Robert Bigelow consulted ex-NIDS player John F. Schuessler, who gave him some direction on how to structure the project, and suggested that he employ some of MUFON’s resources. Schuessler was a former aerospace engineer, and a co-founder of MUFON, and its former International Director. At the time, MUFON headquarters were in Bellvue, Colorado, with James Carrion serving as its International Director.
On Sept. 20, 2008, Robert Bigelow contacted John Schuessler, who in turn shared the word with colleagues about a “contract for MUFON and some MUFON teammates. The work is proprietary…” When pressed for more details, Schuessler said, “Sorry to be so tight with the information… The name of the company is [BAASS] …a new research arm of Bigelow Aerospace that focuses on the identification, evaluation, and acquisition of novel and emerging future technologies worldwide as they specifically relate to spacecraft. We will have a telecon tomorrow afternoon with… Robert Bigelow… he tried working with some of the UFO organizations several years ago… It was an embarrassing situation. I proposed this idea to him and he was willing to give it another try. You will note that UFOs are not a part of the above job description.”
Bigelow said he had backers,’ whose identity was kept secret, known only to John Schuessler. BAASS’s backer (now known to be the DIA) was referred to as “the sponsor.” James Carrion has stated that Schuessler “was offered a U.S. government security clearance allegedly related to his consulting work for Mr. Bigelow…” He didn’t know for certain the clearance was actually granted, “but I was one of the people interviewed as part of his background investigation.”
MUFON’s email contact with Bigelow was always through executive assistants, Janice Barragan and Donna Stauch. On Sept. 21, 2008, BAASS emailed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to be signed by Schuessler and other MUFON principals: James Carrion, Robert Powell, Chuck Modlin, Chuck Reever, and Robert Wood. Once the NDAs were signed, a series of conversations between BAASS and MUFON began.
Meanwhile, George Knapp helped Robert Bigelow by interviewing him on the radio program Coast to Coast, Sept. 28, 2008. Bigelow used the show as some sort of substitute for a BAASS press release, laying it all out, just not the fact that the DIA was funding the operation:
“The mission for this company is to pursue exotic, novel technologies. We would like to come across something that levitates for example… We have sponsors. We have partners, in this effort… And these sponsors and partners do not need to be convinced, at all, that this topic is real.” He described the initial stage, that he would be hiring a number of people with “…diverse backgrounds; that are all experts in a variety of fields. We have to organize offices and office facilities. …we’re going to be initiating relationships and contracts with various organizations and people…”
Robert Bigelow wanted MUFON to produce a series of papers, and to do so, they formed a work team called MUFON Advanced Technology Establishment (MATE) to write them. On Oct. 1, 2008, Bigelow’s executive assistant sent a list of the items he’d discussed in their teleconference, the topics for the 12 technical areas. On Oct. 2, 2008, a MUFON Board of Directors member summarized an organizational MATE meeting:
“We discussed the fact that Mr. Bigelow would like the papers to be no longer than 4-5 pages. He prefers that the papers are more generic in nature and are not limited to UFOs. They should relate to Aerospace and Aerospace products. In effect, it is as if BAASS will be using MUFON as a futuristic think tank. This is not in conflict with MUFON’s mission.”
On Oct. 3, 2008, John Schuessler emailed the MATE team, explaining that due to his work with Bigelow that he should not participate. “I spent a lot of time working on the startup plans for BAASS and in particular carving out a niche for MUFON… Therefore, it would not be ethical for me to write any of the papers on behalf of MUFON.” Instead, Dr. Robert M. Wood took the lead.
The MATE contract with BAASS signed Oct. 17, 2008, stated:
“Subcontractor agrees to provide the engineering, labor and materials required to prepare twelve (12) overview papers each focusing on the following twelve (12) technical areas:
4.) power generation
5.) spatial/temporal translation
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).
Each paper shall address possible plans of action… describe technical approaches which discuss how breakthrough technologies applied in the twelve (12) technical areas mentioned above may produce advanced spacecraft concepts and technologies through the year 2050 and beyond.”
Those 12 technical areas were the same as in the DIA’s contract proposal, probably a list created by Dr. James T. Lacatski. However, Bigelow directed them that the papers should be “more generic in nature and are not limited to UFOs.”
The MATE team consisted primarily of Dr. Bob Wood, Charles W. Modlin, Robert Powell, and Chuck Reever, who would conduct the work under the condition of their NDAs. To guide MATE, MUFON board member Bob Wood (a retired aerospace engineer) wrote a piece with a few ideas to get them started on the 12 papers. In Wood’s memo we begin to see the obfuscation ordered by BAASS, where UFO-related topics were discussed, but with conventional aerospace principles and terminology. (Still, there were a few direct references to UFO events including a telepathic alien story and alien abductee implants.) Based on Wood’s direction, a handful of MATE papers were written by the team:
“Lift” discussed unconventional possibilities for generating flight and made numerous references to reported UFO performance.
“Power Generation” contained no reference to UFOs, and was more technical than the other papers. It discussed cold fusion as a power source for aerospace vehicles.
“Human Interface” discussed the possible methods of using technological or psychic means to connect the human brain to control aircraft. It did contain references to UFOs, including abductees and MUFON’s study of alleged extraterrestrial “implants.”
“Propulsion for Interstellar Travel” discussed the possibility of anti-gravity propulsion for interstellar vehicles, and compared it to the reported characteristics of “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
“Control” discussed the possibility of modulating current in a superconductor to control lift/propulsion in an advanced aerospace vehicle.
All the MATE studies were written as suggestions for further studies in their respective areas. For whatever reason, the authors’ names were not given on the papers themselves, each only identifying the team and where the document was written. On Nov. 9, 2008, the MATE papers were delivered to BAASS in Las Vegas, for which MUFON was subsequently paid about $10,000.
With the first transaction satisfactorily completed, both parties began talks about possibilities for other projects, including field investigations and analysis of material related to sightings. A MUFON memo on their teleconference of Nov. 14, 2008, shows that they expected to conduct all the scientific studies themselves, and were discussing building facilities to house a laboratory, which would also serve as a base for investigations. Most of that never came to pass, since Bigelow wanted to conduct any scientific analysis at his own facilities.
Leaked internal emails show discussions between Board members struggling with issues of transparency about the BAASS funding and whether to create a new business entity for the contract so as to not jeopardize MUFON’s tax status as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. It was ultimately decided that since the money would be used for the organization’s basic financial needs, it was legitimate.
The second project Bigelow had for MUFON was unambiguously related to UFOs. BAASS wanted to fund investigations of UFO sightings, and also to have access to MUFON’s databases. MUFON had been developing a “Strike Team Area Research” (STAR) program to deploy members with special training and equipment. The STAR Team was sort of a SWAT team of UFO field investigators, and Bigelow wanted to fund them to be on call 24/7. There were again concerns by the MUFON Board of Directors, this time about the data shared with BAASS, but it was justified by saying that case information provided was (supposedly) no different than what they presented publicly on the CMS site or published in MUFON Journal.
|A) Chuck Modlin, Jan Harzan, Hal Puthoff, Jacques Vallee and John F. Schuessler.
B) Hal Puthoff, Jacques Vallee and John F. Schuessler.
Only three of the participants pictured knew who they were really working for.
In December 2008, Bigelow was nervous about ”the sponsor” continuing funding, and he was putting pressure on MUFON to get the field investigations up and running. This prompted a meeting in Las Vegas on January 23 and 24, 2009, to work out the details. Attending were MUFON players: James Carrion, Jan Harzan, John Schuessler, and Chuck Modlin Among those present for BAASS were: Robert Bigelow, Hal Puthoff, Jacques Vallee, and Colm Kelleher. At the meeting, James Carrion gave a detailed slide presentation of the proposed plan and financials to demonstrate how BAASS funds would be allocated for salaries of field investigators, travel expenses, and so on.
The Las Vegas meeting would have been a perfect time for Robert Bigelow to show and tell the MUFON crew about the facilities and team he was building for BAASS, but according to Carrion, they scarcely left the confines of Bigelow’s office or conference room.
As before, the second BAASS contract went through several versions to define the terms involved, and after weeks of negotiations, on Feb. 18, 2009 it was signed by MUFON and faxed to Bigelow. It was a purchase agreement for the acquisition of services and information from MUFON in three specific areas:
• MUFON Field investigation services (the STAR Team’s work).
• MUFON’s database of UFO sightings (called the Case Management System or CMS).
• All “product” from field investigations, “all information and material derived from those services,” which included everything from witness interview transcripts to physical evidence.
Bigelow’s contract also made it coldly explicit that this was nothing more than an engagement of services between buyer and seller: “This Agreement shall not be interpreted as having any characteristics or force as a partnership agreement of any kind between the parties hereto.”
MUFON was panicked by premature disclosure of the BAASS deal on March 6, 2009, in the Examiner.com article, “MUFON to receive major funding from billionaire backer” by (Tennessee State Director) Eddie Middleton. Responding to the leak, Schuessler said, “Some of the information in the release was covered by a non-disclosure agreement and that has been violated. It makes MUFON look untrustworthy.” The public heard about it before most of their membership.
A formal slide presentation to the MUFON Board explained the relationship and responsibilities and named both organization’s management teams as of April 2009. For MUFON: Richard Lang, James Carrion, Jan Harzan and Chuck Modlin. For BAASS: Colm Kelleher, Douglas Kurth, and James Johnson.
In a slide introducing SIP to MUFON investigators, director James Carrion relayed the cover story he’d been told, “SIP data that is collected will be shared with BAASS with the goal of BAASS achieving breakthroughs in commercial technology.” The MUFON UFO Journal, April 2009, carried their formal announcement to members in a cover story and editorial by Carrion. He stated that MUFON “has been subcontracted to provide rapid response UFO investigation services to (BAASS) and has initiated the STAR Team Impact Project (SIP) to provide these services…”
Per the contract, BAASS funded the SIP team to be deployed for UFO investigations. Unlike the typical volunteer MUFON Field Investigators, with BAASS funding, SIP members would be paid for their work. BAASS also was granted read-only access to the non-public sections of MUFON’s Case Management System (CMS), a computerized database of UFO current and historical reports submitted via the MUFON website.
MUFON’s STAR Impact Program became operational under the leadership of Richard Lang in the first week in April of 2009. This generated the action Bigelow needed; MUFON finally had cases flowing and could send BAASS investigators to gather samples at UFO sighting locations for analysis.
During the same time, Bigelow was creating his own UFO team in Las Vegas. According to some of the earliest press on BAASS, they hired ”50 top-flight scientists to assist MUFON in this endeavor who will function as consultants and do expensive lab analysis…” To educate the Bigelow team on the UFO topic and familiarize them with the methods of their contracting partners, on Feb, 20, 2009, BAASS ordered 40 MUFON Field Investigator manuals at the price of $1,800 for the team. Essentially, MUFON’s SIP served as local cops, while BAASS was like the FBI swooping in on the really important cases. They also analyzed the data and compiled the reports, packaging them for “the sponsor.”
On another front, BAASS contracted Hal Puthoff to subcontract the writing of Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRDs) for AAWSAP. These studies were based on the same original 12 areas of interest MUFON had been asked to develop. 26 were produced in 2009.
The monthly MUFON Journal featured a column by Richard Lang on SIP case investigations, and several interesting cases were jointly worked by the BAASS team. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic requirements kept management busy, weekly teleconferences, progress reports, financial statements, and so on.
|MUFON Symposium with James Carrion and Robert Bigelow|
The MUFON relationship with BAASS had become increasingly troubled, with a series of territorial arguments over procedure and policy. As the relationship played out, it was realized that BAASS was demanding that every dollar spent went into the work produced, and nothing was left for MUFON’s operating expenses. In an unlikely use of his skills, molecular biochemist Dr. Colm Kelleher was BAASS Deputy Administrator, and he became involved in disputes over management fees, receipts, and invoices. It all came to an end when Bigelow’s accountants could not figure out the financial reports sent from MUFON. The drama that resulted is difficult to sort out, but it seems that it was caused by typical bookkeeping gaffes. It also cost MUFON its International Director. James Carrion says, he uncovered damaging information about Bigelow’s Skinwalker Ranch, and relayed it to the Board, “along with my doubts about the true agenda of the BAASS-MUFON relationship, the MUFON Board unethically bypassed me and communicated in secret with BAASS…When I found out about this unethical behavior… I resigned immediately…” Clifford Clift took over as director, and Jan Harzan took over the job of the MUFON-BAASS relationship.
Instead of being renewed, the BAASS-MUFON SIP Project came to an unexpected end in January of 2010. Along with it, the paid position for SIP investigators also came to an end. Richard Lang said, “The Contract Agreement provided for the amount of $56,000 to be paid to MUFON each month… In total, MUFON received only about $324,000 from the BAASS SIP Project, which was a little less than half of the original contract deal that could have paid a total of $672,000 in the first year to MUFON.”
The BAASS deal had forced MUFON to restructure and commit to paid positions and other expenses to support the SIP investigations. When the funding was first cut, and then withdrawn, it crippled them. It was a fiasco, a sudden reversal of fortune, and an embarrassment for MUFON, who was left flat broke. In a way, it’s a bit like following a very bad stock tip from your dad, but it couldn’t have been much worse had it been intentional sabotage.
The DIA continued the BAASS contract for another year for $12M. As a result, Bigelow’s team produced another 12 DIRDs via Hal Puthoff and subcontracted authors. BAASS continued with data gathering and analysis, and also reportedly, the study of metamaterials recovered from UFO incidents. In the end, the Pentagon wasn’t satisfied with what BAASS produced. Spokesperson Susan Gough said, “in late 2009, it was determined the reports were of limited value to DIA… and DoD elected not to continue the program after the work contracted under the FY2010 NDAA was completed.” A big layoff of BAASS staff occurred in June of 2010, which probably indicates a reduction or elimination of field investigations. When the Pentagon money dried up for Bigelow, BAASS did too.
On Jan. 15, 2011 the BAASS-MUFON contract was leaked, then shared by Elaine Douglass. This led to erroneous speculation that Robert Bigelow now owned MUFON, and that his “sponsor” was the US government. It took many years before the truth came out.
In October 2017, three key players from the AAWSAP project joined Tom DeLonge in the launch of his company, To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science: Luis Elizondo, Dr. Colm Kelleher, and Harold Puthoff, in a commercial enterprise to “achieve our mission via an entertainment, science and aerospace consortium…” The project didn’t make a big splash until a major news story was released along with two UFO videos. The Dec. 16, 2017, New York Times article by Helen Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean, “Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program,”: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program,” disclosed Robert Bigelow’s involvement, and discussed the money involved. “The funding went to Mr. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.” The NYT story concealed the involvement of MUFON, but UFO researchers remembered the BAASS partnership with the SIP program and made the connection.
To date, MUFON has not commented on their involvement in the Pentagon’s AATIP program, but they have capitalized on the publicity that resulted. Jan Harzan is the present Executive Director of MUFON, and he has commented on the AATIP story and said in Jan. 2018:
“Now that the spill gates have been opened a little, it is time for the rest to come out in an orderly fashion, and in so doing make it safe for our scientists and engineers to study this phenomenon without fear of ridicule or retribution, but with funding provided by Congress and private industry.”
That interview would have been a good time for Harzan to spill the beans about MUFON’s relationship to AATIP, but then ufology has a few secrets of its own.
In July 2018, MUFON proudly featured Luis Elizondo as the keynote speaker for their annual MUFON Symposium. In promoting the event, Harzan and Elizondo were interviewed together by George Knapp on Coast to Coast, July 15, 2018. Knapp asked for the MUFON director to comment on Government secrecy. Harzan found a silver lining, citing how government insiders like Robert Salas and Elizondo had the ability to get data released, and said, “I think that’s the power that we have here with someone like Lue, and so the other folks who are part of this TTSA team is they worked in government, they worked in the military, they know where these things are, and they can go get them and ask to have them released, and so I think that’s to our benefit, to all of our benefit.”
In the words of Roy Neary, “This means something. This is important.”
The hype from the original reporting on AATIP led us to believe this project was an elite squad operating out of the Pentagon doing hands-on UFO investigations, but it’s slowly come out that at their end, it was a “portfolio,” mainly a part-time job for one guy to collect the material packaged and delivered by Bigelow’s company. The disappointing thing in the AATIP story is that it doesn’t provide us with any good answers about UFOs. Almost the opposite. The disclosure of the MUFON Advanced Technology Establishment research raises questions. If the government knows half of what they are suspected of knowing, why would it be necessary for them to initiate a technological study of UFO characteristics? Since the program paperwork remains elusive, we also can’t say whether Bigelow’s company strayed from the contracted mission by purchasing MUFON’s data and funding field investigations of sighting reports.
It’s hard to find a meaningful message in this, but it’s strange that the US government (via Bigelow) had to hire a UFO club to do research for them. Odder still that MUFON unknowingly contributed to producing UFO files that are now locked up, classified by the government – or hidden away as the property of Bigelow Aerospace.
We’ve reached out to those involved in the 2008 – 2009 BAASS contracts for comment, including MUFON leadership and Bigelow Aerospace. In our follow up article, we’ll present their replies, an interview, and further information on how MUFON was part of AATIP. It’s tentatively titled:
This article was put together drawing from a great many sources. In the link below, we’ve gathered the primary new material into a PDF, which includes the two BAASS-MUFON contracts, leaked emails, other documents, and four of the MUFON Advanced Technology Establishment papers produced for BAASS.
Special thanks to Clas Svahn, Isaac Koi, Keith Basterfield, Ricky Poole, and the late Elaine Douglass for research materials, documents and fact-checking. And to “David Vincent,” without whom none of this would have been possible.
Sources, Resources, and Further Details on BAASS and MUFON’s SIP
Freedom of Information Act Requests have not yet produced any material of substance on AATIP, in part because of the “commercial in confidence” nature of the AAWSAP contract with BAASS. Most of the other sources remain bound by NDAs relating to long-dead projects, but journalists such as George Knapp and Tim McMillan have presented documents from unnamed anonymous sources relating to the Pentagon’s AATIP study. In our report, we’ve depended chiefly on items of demonstrable provenance, but also have referenced a dossier of BAASS-MUFON documents from a confidential, but verified source. Some of the material used in this story references previous leaks of BAASS-MUFON documents.
MUFON’s SIP training materials. Archived page:
MUFON STAR Impact Project (SIP) Information Page, March 5, 2009
Keith Basterfield, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – scientific research,
an invaluable resource on the AATIP saga: BAASS articles
Jack Brewer, “UFO-Pentagon Story Reflects Fundamental Problems,” Dec. 20, 2017
This article contains a post-AATIP reveal statement by James Carrion.
James Carrion, “Strange Bedfellows,” Jan. 31, 2011
Curt Collins, “UFOs, the Media, the Military & Dreams of Discovery,” Dec. 27, 2017
Elaine Douglass, “The Gagged-for-life Star Team Confidentiality Agreement”, May 12, 2011
The Elaine Douglass Files includes a dossier on Bigelow and his UFO-related activity.
Richard Lang, “What caused the Failure of the BAASS – MUFON SIP Program?,” March 6, 2011. “During the period from February 2009 until the end of January 2010, I served as the STAR Team Manager and SIP Project Coordinator.”
Erik Seedhouse, Bigelow Aerospace: Colonizing Space One Module at a Time, 2014