Howard University was awarded a five-year, $90 million contract from the Pentagon, becoming the first HBCU to partner with the Department of Defense for military technology research, reports ABC News.
Howard will lead a collective of universities that includes Jackson State, Delaware State, Bowie State, Norfolk State, Hampton, Florida Memorial and Tougaloo College in the research program.
Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, President of Howard University said the opportunity for faculty and students was "enormous" and “work on cutting edge research in a technology space is ever evolving.”
“It’s going to put us in a unique space to develop techniques and capabilities and skillsets that we otherwise wouldn’t,” Frederick said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin praised Howard for their commitment to science and technology.
“Howard has always made history, and it's always been dedicated to scientific discovery and innovation,” Austin said at the announcement of the partnership.
"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, Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall added. "If those with the intent to preserve peace don’t solve these technical challenges first, those with malign intent will acquire a significant advantage."
Austin also mentioned that a small percentage of the Pentagon's budget goes toward HBCU programs and he’s proud that Howard’s award is an example of change in the department.
"As Secretary Kendall noted, only a tiny fraction of the department’s research funding goes to HBCUs," Austin explained. "You know, that just doesn’t add up. As secretary of defense, I’m determined to change that.”
According to the National Science Foundation, “Howard produces more African-American undergraduates who later earn science and engineering doctoral degrees than any other university.” Austin believes that HBCUs are generating some of the best minds in the field and he wants the Pentagon to partner on more initiatives with HBCUs in the future.
“American scientists and engineers and researchers have always helped to keep our country safe,” Austin explained. “They’ve developed medical treatments that protect our troops in combat. They produce prosthetics that give hope to so many veterans and their families. And they tackled 21st-century challenges like global pandemics and the climate crisis.”