Howard University becomes the first Historically Black College of University (HBCU) to partner with the Pentagon for military technology research with a five-year, $90 million contract.
The research center is the Department of Defense’s first university research center sponsored by the Air Force and will focus on tactical autonomy, said Wayne AI Frederick, president of Howard University.
Howard University vice president of research Bruce Jones said the $90 million contract is the largest research contract signed by an HBCU in history.
“Howard has always made history and has always been committed to scientific discovery and innovation,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, III, said in an announcement from the Air Force’s research center on the Howard campus.
According to the National Science Foundation, Howard University produces more African-American students who go on to earn a science and engineering doctorate than any other university. Austin said the students graduating from HBCUs are the “power our country needs.”
Jones said the investment will catch up with students and women of color who were excluded from investment decades ago.
“These were areas where students and women of color just weren’t going, weren’t encouraged to go, weren’t guided to go, so this allows us to address that historic disparity,” Jones said .
The focus on tactical autonomy includes cyber defense support and automation of maneuverability and mobility, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in the announcement.
“We also need to have resilient and potentially automated defenses to protect our people and networks, along with our allies and partners,” said Kendall. “We need to provide support and support in these hostile environments. Tactical autonomy will be a critical tool in this massive effort to protect and defend life and liberty.”
Kendall said this research will help protect peace from threats such as Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Jones also said the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) will help new and current students with tuition, but most importantly push Howard to regain research status. Jones said he is confident this funding will move all HBCUs forward.
“The acquisition of the UARC is a recognition for Howard University and the acquisition of research status will be a recognition,” said Jones. “What’s important given this movement is to explore one status, but also to stay in that space.”
“Today, Howard steps up again and stands proud,” said Austin. “Howard, again, you’re making history.”
Austin said he is committed to putting more money into HBCUs and minority institutions.
“Each advancement opens new avenues for discovery, which is why our university-affiliated research centers are so important,” said Austin. “These institutions have led to incredible feats of science and engineering. Features that have strengthened the US military and frankly built a better world.”
Howard joins 14 other research institutions that are UARCs, including the University of California, Penn State University and Johns Hopkins University.