Howard University to lead military research center funded by Defense Department

Howard University in D.C. has become the first historically Black college or university to lead a University Affiliated Research Center, or UARC.

“Howard’s new research center will protect our most precious asset, and that most precious asset is our men and women in uniform,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III.

The school was selected by the Defense Department, in particular the U.S. Air Force, to research “tactical autonomy” for the military.

While Howard University will lead the UARC, the center will include a consortium of HBCUs, including Bowie State University, as well as Norfolk State and Hampton Universities in Virginia. Other colleges that will participate in the research are Jackson State University in Mississippi, Tuskegee University in Alabama, Delaware State University, Florida Memorial University and Tougaloo College in Mississippi.

“None of the other UARCs are providing this type (tactical autonomy) of research to the Department of Defense at present, and so this center has the potential to close that gap and be at the forefront of progressive science and technology efforts,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said.

Tactical autonomy, according to the military, is the process of coming up with short-term actions the military can take that are part of a more long-term strategic plan.

“Responsibly used autonomous systems make our military faster, smarter and stronger,” Austin said. “They can identify threats to our troops in real time, and they can help our technical crews conduct maintenance more safely,” Austin said.

The center will be funded by a $90 million contract from the Defense Department. According to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, data shows 30% of African American STEM professionals graduated from HBCUs, but the colleges and universities have only received less than 0.5% of research funding from the Department of Defense.

“Clearly the DoD had historically not done enough to connect with such an incredible depth of talent, expertise and potential,” Kendall said.

Howard University will become the 15th University Affiliated Research Center in the country.

“We certainly will ensure that the faith that has been put in us will be returned, and the work that we will do here will be work that you can be proud of,” Frederick told Austin and Kendall.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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