Listen to this article here

Howard University has become the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to partner with the Pentagon. Howard received a five-year, $90 million contract for military research and design. 

The HBCU is also the first Department of Defense sponsorship provided by the Air Force. The cooperative research center will center on tactical autonomy.

The tactical autonomy research partnership will specifically focus on cyber defense. Additionally, tactical maneuverability and mobility will be a central ideal for Howard University. 

Such research will help the United States in its military programs that provide safety from threats. According to Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, “Tactical autonomy will be a critical tool in this massive effort to protect and defend life and liberty.”

Howard University is first HBCU to partner with Pentagon
Founders Library, Howard University, Washington DC, August 16, 2017 | Photo by Derek E. Morton (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The contract between Howard University and the Pentagon marks the largest research contract signed by a HBCU. Howard University is proud of its large percentage of students who earn scientific doctoral degrees.

Howard also supports minority students within the university. According to vice president of research, Bruce Jones, the partnership will also help African-American women. 

These types of research opportunities for Black students were virtually unheard of just decades ago. “These were areas that students of color and women just did not go into, were not encouraged to go into, were not mentored to go into, so this enables us to address that historical disparity,” said Jones.

HBCU Howard partners with Pentagon

Now, the HBCU joins the ranks of 14 other universities who have research partnerships with military sciences. Those cooperative learning organizations include Georgia Institute of Technology, University of South California and the University of Maryland.

According to Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick, the partnership will further other scientific aims for Howard University. “It’s going to put us in a unique space to develop techniques and capabilities and skillsets that we otherwise wouldn’t,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon stated that this partnership with the HBCU is just the beginning of investments in Black educational institutions. According to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first Black secretary of defense, “the department of defense is committed to investing even more in HBCUs and minority-serving institutions.”

He continued, “Responsibly used autonomous systems make our military faster, smarter, and stronger. Howard’s new research center will protect our most precious asset—and that most precious asset is our men and women in uniform.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...