Howard University received a $90 million, five-year contract from the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force to establish a research center on campus focused on tactical autonomy technology for military systems, university leaders and defense officials announced Monday.
Howard will be the first historically Black institution to lead a university-affiliated research center, or UARC. There are currently 14 of these centers in the country.
Researchers will begin work at a temporary site at Howard on Feb. 1 while renovations are made to the center’s future permanent site, The Washington Post reported.
U.S. secretary of defense Lloyd Austin told a crowd at the university that Howard “has always been dedicated to scientific discovery and innovation.”
Yet “only a tiny fraction of the department’s research funding goes to HBCUs,” he added. “You know, that just doesn’t add up. As secretary of defense, I’m determined to change that.”
The announcement comes at a time when some HBCUs, including Howard, have been striving to achieve R-1 status, the coveted Carnegie Foundation classification reserved for doctoral universities that demonstrate a certain level of research prowess. The designation is partially based on research expenditures.
Howard University president Wayne A. I. Frederick told The Washington Post that Howard has had “a big focus on expanding the research enterprise for the university” to train diverse researchers and undertake research that benefits diverse communities.