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DoD to Support Historically Black Colleges, Universities

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 25, 2005 – The Defense Department signed a commitment with Alabama State University and several other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in a brief Feb. 24 ceremony during the DoD and HBCU African- American History Month observance and symposium here.

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Charles S. Abell, right, looks on as Joe A. Lee, president of Alabama State University, signs the Defense Department commitment during a brief ceremony during the DoD and Historically Black Colleges and Universities African-American History Month observance and symposium at the university. Abell is the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The first signers were Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Joe Lee, president of Alabama State University. "It pledges us to support the executive order that the president has established on support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities," Abell said after the signing. "It reflects the Department of Defense's commitment to work with the HBCUs to provide opportunities for the young folks and opportunities for sharing of research, sciences and technology work and the availability of DoD resources to assist HBCUs."

Abell said DoD hopes that all of the more than 100 HBCUs across the country eventually will sign the commitment. "There are a lot of blank lines on this, and for those presidents who couldn't get here today, we're going to get the form to them and let them sign on this very form," he said. "The fact that they couldn't be here today has no reflection on whether or not they have the ability to sign.

"We hope to have an energized team approach to this, where we're helping them and they're helping us," Abell said.

DoD and HBCUs help each other by focusing on small and disadvantaged businesses, contracts and grants, science and technology, research and development, ROTC, internships and civilian employment opportunities, as well as access to surplus and excess equipment.

"Historically Black Colleges and Universities provide an ever-increasing talent pool for our nation," John M. Molino, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity, said later during the National African-American History Month luncheon. "In the armed forces, the contribution of HBCUs to the military departments is legion. The overwhelming majority of more than 250 black officers to attain the rank of general or admiral graduated from an HBCU. Many are legendary figures because of their accomplishments."

Molino pointed out the late Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., a graduate of Howard University and the first black general officer in the regular Army, who began 50 years of military service as a first lieutenant in 1898. Navy Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely, a graduate of Virginia Union University, was the first black admiral in the Navy and the first black officer to command a Navy warship. Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James Jr., a graduate of Tuskegee Institute and one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, became the first black four-star general in the Air Force.

Most of the 105 HBCUs are in the southeastern states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. They include 40 public four-year, 11 private two-year, 49 private four-year and five private two-year institutions. Most are more than 100 years old, with Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1837, being the oldest of these institutions.

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Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles S. Abell
Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity John M. Molino

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