Howard University makes history as the first historically Black college or university to lead a University Affiliated Research Center

On Monday, Howard University announced that it has been awarded a $90 million Pentagon contract for research development, making it the first HBCU to serve as a university-affiliated research center (UARC.)

The university will become the 15th UARC in the country, funded by the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense. 

According to the United States Space Force, the 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. 

The research center is focused on tactical autonomy. 

“Responsibly used autonomous systems make our military faster, smarter and stronger,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III. “They can identify threats to our troops in real time, and they can help our technical crews conduct maintenance more safely.” And they can equip our commanders with the best available information to make life and death decisions.” 

According to the military, tactical autonomy is defined as “autonomous systems acting with delegated and bounded authority of humans in support of tactical, short-term actions associated with a longer-term strategic vision.”

Austin said that the new research center will help to protect the men and women who serve the nation’s armed forces.

According to Howard president Wayne A. I. Frederick, this center is the first of its kind.

“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,” he said.

Howard University was chosen to lead a consortium of universities that will participate in the newest UARC. Those universities include Jackson State University, Tuskegee University, Hampton University, Bowie State University, Norfolk State University, Delaware State University, Florida Memorial University, and Tougaloo College

Austin said that the Defense Department is committed to investing in HBCUs.

“America is at its best when we knock down barriers, when we search for great ideas wherever they reside and when we draw on the full talents of the American people — all of the American people,” Austin said. “So to Howard and the other schools in the consortium, thank you for lifting up the next generation. Thank you for all that you do for our outstanding men and women in uniform. And thank you for making our democracy more secure.”

Howard University will receive $12 million per year for five years to fund research, faculty, and students.