The United States Department of Defense recently announced that it is establishing its fifteenth university-affiliated research center at Howard University in Washington, D.C. It’s the first university-affiliated research center associated with one of America’s historically Black colleges and universities and the first sponsored by the Air Force.
“To sharpen America’s technological edge and to strengthen America’s outstanding military, the department is committed to investing even more in HBCUs and minority-serving institutions,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III . “Today, we’re taking that commitment to a new level.” The new research center will be led by Howard University and will focus on tactical autonomy, which is an area of research which is central to U.S. security.
The Air Force defines tactical autonomy 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. The objective of the tactical autonomy program is to develop and demonstrate autonomous technologies that will enable various mission sets, with minimal supervision from human operators in environments that are complex and unpredictable.
“Autonomous systems make our military faster, smarter and more combat-credible,” said Secretary Austin. “They equip commanders with the best possible information to support life-and-death decisions. And I have no doubt that the advancements that will come out of Howard’s new research center will do even more to protect our most precious asset – our men and women in uniform.”
Howard University will receive $18 million per year for five years to fund the center and its research. Jackson State University and Tougaloo College in Mississippi; Tuskegee University in Alabama, Hampton University and Norfolk State University in Virginia, Bowie State University in Maryland, Delaware State University, and Florida Memorial University will participate in the research.
“Today as we work to build enduring advantages for our brave men and women in uniform, we must seek the latest innovations in science and engineering,” Secretary Austin told students and faculty at Howard University. “That means building more bridges to America’s outstanding STEM community. You see, we need your ideas; we need your creativity and we need to draw on the skills of all of our people.”