The Pentagon has given Howard University a $90 million contract for research and development. According to Howard University, the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force are the parties to the deal.
The agreement makes the university the first HBCU to operate a research center that is connected to a university (UARC). The American Secretaries of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Frank Kendall informed the public about this.
“Howard’s new research centre will focus on tactical autonomy,” Austin said Monday. “That’s central to U.S. security in our changing world. Responsibly used autonomous systems make our military faster, stronger, and smarter.”
The move, according to Howard University, will help more Black students succeed in STEM fields and take Howard closer to an R-1 research position. The university said that a third of STEM Ph.D. students and about 30% of STEM professionals graduate from HBCUs.
However, they only receive 0.5% of institution research funds.
According to executive director and principal investigator Dr. Danda Rawat, “Howard’s UARC will focus on advanced battle management systems (ABMS) and tactical autonomy which the Air Force defines 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 in war.”
Rawat said the plan is to develop efficient, affordable, trustworthy systems with autonomy and AI capabilities. This, he noted, will provide operational advantages to warfighters.
The contract awarded to Howard University is the largest research contract signed by an HBCU in history. Howard University said in a statement that eight more HBCUs will serve as consortium institutions under Howard’s leadership.
They include Jackson State University, Hampton University, Tuskegee University, Bowie State University, Delaware State University, Florida Memorial University, Norfolk State University, and Tougaloo College.