Howard University awarded $90 million contract to lead research center on military technology; focus on diversity.
Howard University has been awarded a five-year, $90 million contract to lead a research center focused on technology for military systems. This is the first such center at a historically Black college or university and reflects efforts by military leaders to promote and draw upon expertise that better reflects the country they are protecting. The center will be funded by the Defense Department and the Air Force and focus on tactical autonomy technology for military systems.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall were present at the announcement at Howard University’s Founders Library. Austin noted that about a third of the country’s Black science, technology, engineering and math professionals graduate from HBCUs and that research funding has been heavily skewed toward predominantly White institutions in the past. Kendall noted that only a tiny fraction of the department’s research funding goes to HBCUs.
The new center, which will begin work on February 1, will be led by Bruce Jones, Vice President for Research at Howard University. The center will be part of a consortium of universities that includes Jackson State, Delaware State, Bowie State, Norfolk State, Hampton, Florida Memorial, and Tougaloo College. The focus of the center will be on improving the collaboration among platforms and sites, from land to sea to air to space to cyberspace, as well as from human to machine and vice versa.
The contract is a recognition of the work Howard has done to promote science, technology, engineering and math, Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said. It will also benefit students, both those who can work in the labs on research and those as young as middle school on Howard’s campus who will gain early exposure to the fields.
The Pentagon’s decision to award Howard University this contract is an encouraging step towards diversifying the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It is an important recognition of the value of HBCUs and their contributions to the development of the country’s national security. This is an exciting opportunity for Howard University and its consortium of universities to make a difference in the future of military systems.