US Air Force selects Howard University for science research partnership

  • Published
  • American Forces Press Service

The Department of the Air Force has selected Howard University as the first historically black college or university to lead a university affiliated research center.

The center will be focused on tactical autonomy technology for military systems and Howard University will receive $12 million per year for five years to fund research, faculty and students. 

"Autonomous systems make our military faster, smarter and more combat-credible," said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. "They equip commanders with the best possible information to support life-and-death decisions. And I have no doubt that the advancements that will come out of Howard's new research center will do even more to protect our most precious asset-our men and women in uniform." 

The Department of Defense currently has 14 university affiliated research centers. Such centers are responsible for providing dedicated facilities and sharing space with Defense Department officials and industrial participants to conduct basic, applied and technology demonstration research. 

"We need a team of decision-makers, researchers, scientists, engineers, and leaders who are committed to security and liberty and are excited to work on some of the world's most important problems," said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. "If those with the intent to preserve peace don’t solve these technical challenges first, those with malign intent will acquire a significant advantage."

Kendall added, "This is a momentous historical occasion for the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense and Howard University."

The university's primary mission will be to establish or maintain the essential engineering, research, or development capability in the field of tactical autonomy in support of critical Department of the Air Force and Department of Defense missions. Howard will lead a consortium of historically black colleges and universities that include Jackson State University, Mississippi, Tuskegee University, Alabama, Hampton University, Virginia, Bowie State University, Maryland, Norfolk State University, Virginia, Delaware State University, Florida Memorial University, and Tougaloo College, Mississippi.

Specific desired outcomes will be higher matriculation rates of graduates with autonomy and related education and skills and research products enabled by additional capacity built in the schools.

"We are excited to learn from the great minds at Howard University and see what they'll bring to the Department of the Air Force," said Chief Scientist of the Air Force Dr. Victoria Coleman. "Their motto is 'Excellence in Truth and Service' and I know we will see that excellence in their scientific research and development work."

The Department of the Air Force, along with the Air Force Research Laboratory, is partnering with Howard University in order to:

  • Establish and maintain essential research and development capabilities for the Department of the Air Force to deliver operationally relevant autonomy.
  • Advance the field of autonomy by focusing on the secretary of the Air Force's Operational Imperatives.
  • Generate robust research and development efforts with historically black colleges and universities that is expected to build institutional research capacity to a research classification of "very-high-research activity" in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
  • Grow and diversify the available pool of scientists and engineers to support the Defense Department and establish a source of organic technical excellence. 
  • Seed a unique science, research, and development ecosystem of small and large businesses, academia and the Department of Defense.