Howard University becomes first HBCU to partner with the Pentagon

Howard University gains a five-year contract, $90 million in military research.

January 24, 2023, 7:22 PM

Howard University becomes the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to partner with the Pentagon for military technology research featuring a five-year, $90 million contract.

The research center is the first Department of Defense university research center sponsored by the Air Force and will focus on tactical autonomy, according to president of Howard University Wayne A.I. Frederick.

PHOTO: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III during an event to announce that Howard University has been awarded $90 million in funding for a University Affiliated Research Center Consortium at Howard University, Jan. 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is joined on stage by United States Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III and Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick during an event to announce that Howard University has been awarded $90 million in funding for a University Affiliated Research Center Consortium at Founders Library at Howard University, Jan. 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The vice president of research at Howard University, Bruce Jones, said that the $90 million contract is the largest research contract signed by a HBCU in history.

“Howard has always made history, and it's always been dedicated to scientific discovery and innovation,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, III, in an announcement of the Air Force research center at Howard’s campus.

Howard University produces more African-American undergraduates who later earn science and engineering doctoral degrees than any other university, according to the National Science Foundation. Austin said that the students who graduate from HBCUs are the “power that our country needs.”

Jones said that the investment will catch up students of color and women who were left out of investments made decades ago.

“These were areas that students of color and women just did not go into, were not encouraged to go into, were not mentored to go into, so this enables us to address that historical disparity,” said Jones.

The tactical autonomy focus includes support of cyber defense and automation of maneuverability and mobility, said Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, in the announcement.

PHOTO: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III during an event to announce that Howard University has been awarded $90 million in funding for a University Affiliated Research Center Consortium at Howard University, Jan. 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is joined on stage by United States Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III and Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick during an event to announce that Howard University has been awarded $90 million in funding for a University Affiliated Research Center Consortium at Founders Library at Howard University, Jan. 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“We also must 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 sustainment in these hostile environments. Tactical autonomy will be a critical tool in this massive effort to protect and defend life and liberty.”

Kendall said that this research will help protect peace from threats such as Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Jones also said that the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) will help new and current students with tuition, but most importantly push Howard to regain research one status. Jones said he is confident that this funding will advance all HBCUs.

“The acquisition of the UARC is a crowning achievement for Howard University and the acquisition of research one status will be a crowning achievement,” said Jones. “What’s key given this movement, is getting to research one status, but also how to stay in that space.”

“Today Howard steps up yet again and stands proud,” said Austin. “Howard, once again, you're making history.”

Austin said that he is determined to put more funding into HBCUs and minority serving institutions.

“Each advance opens up new avenues of discovery, and that's why our university affiliated research centers are so important,” said Austin. “These institutions have driven incredible feats of science and engineering. Features that have strengthened the U.S. military and quite 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.

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