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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Announcement of Howard University's University-Affiliated Research Center (As Delivered)

I’ve got to try this and see if it works. 


[Crowd responds: “You know!”]

All right. I could probably stop right there.

[Laughter and applause]

Well, good afternoon, everyone.

And Bria, thanks for that kind introduction. And thanks for making a commitment to serve your country. 

I am absolutely delighted to be here at Howard. And you can see why it’s called “the Mecca.”

Howard has always made history.

It’s always been dedicated to scientific discovery and innovation. 

Howard was home to the first Black female physician to receive a medical patent. It was home to chemists who worked on the Manhattan Project, to mathematicians who helped our country reach the heavens in the Space Race, and to the surgeon whose research on blood transfusion saved countless lives on and off the battlefield. 

And today, Howard steps up yet again—and stands proud. 

Howard becomes the first HBCU to host a Department of Defense university-affiliated research center. 

So Howard, once again, you’re making history.


This partnership between Howard and the Air Force has been a labor of love for so many people here today. 

You heard us talk about Victoria, so congratulations. I especially want to thank President Frederick, Secretary Kendall, Under Secretaries LaPlante and Cisneros, Deputy Under Secretary Honey, and Dr. Coleman. 

And it’s great to see General Lyles here as well. For those of you who don’t know retired four-star General Lyles, he is a true hero. So if you don’t know him, you probably ought to get to know him.


And it really is great to be here with members of the Howard community, colleagues from across the government, and friends and neighbors from here in the District of Columbia.

I just left a meeting with President Biden and Vice President Harris, and they both send their congratulations and warm wishes.

You know, America’s scientists, engineers, and researchers have always helped to keep our country safe. 

They’ve developed medical treatments that protect our troops in combat. They’ve produced prosthetics that give hope to so many veterans and their families. They’ve tackled 21st-century security challenges, like global pandemics and the climate crisis. And they’ve helped create technologies from supercomputers to semiconductors—the innovations that made our modern world and that still drive American leadership.

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. 

And 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 our people. 

You know, 30 percent of African American STEM professionals graduate from an HBCU. 

And they’re the talent that our country needs. They’re leaders who can strengthen our national security. But as Secretary Kendall noted, only a tiny fraction of the Defense Department’s research funding goes to HBCUs. 

You know, that just doesn’t add up. 

And as Secretary of Defense, I’m determined to change that. 


So 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. 

And today, we’re taking that commitment to a new level.  
Howard’s new research center will focus on tactical autonomy. 

That’s central to U.S. security in our changing world. 

Responsibly used autonomous systems make our military faster, smarter, and stronger. They can identify threats to our troops in real time. And they can help our technical crews conduct maintenance more safely. And they can equip our commanders with the best available information to make life-and-death decisions. 

So Howard’s new research center will protect our most precious asset—and that most precious asset is our men and women in uniform. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States has the strongest fighting force in human history. And thanks to new partnerships like this one, we’re going to keep it that way. 

That’s the American way. 

And it’s the Howard way. 

You know, scientific advancements don’t just happen in a vacuum. 

Each breakthrough paves the way for the next one. Each advance opens up new avenues of discovery. 

And that’s why our university-affiliated research centers are so important. These institutions have driven incredible feats of science and engineering—feats that have strengthened the U.S. military and, quite frankly, built a better world. 

And we couldn’t be more excited for the work that we’ll do with Howard. 

The new research center is full of potential for the Department, and especially the Air Force. 

Every experiment, every new idea, every innovation worked on here will lay the foundation for further scientific progress. 

And because this new center is a consortium, a total of nine HBCUs will work with the Air Force, under Howard’s leadership. And that will help us build an even bigger, more diverse bench of next-generation STEM professionals—and give them new opportunities to serve their country.  

As you heard Bria say, I served in the United States Army for a brief 41 years. 


And there are so many different ways to give back to America.

You know, some of the noblest, most enduring acts of public service have come from scientific experts who have used their ideas and knowledge to make our country safer. 

President Harry Truman made that same point when he visited Howard some 70 years ago. 

He reminded the crowd of Charles Drew, a Howard faculty member. Dr. Drew’s research revolutionized the way that blood was stored and shipped. And that saved the lives of untold numbers of Allied troops in World War II.

In President Truman’s words, “Every soldier and every civilian who receives the lifesaving gift of a transfusion from a blood bank can be grateful to this university.”

And President Truman added, “Talent and genius have no boundaries of race, or nationality, or creed. The United States needs the imagination, the energy, and the skills of every single one of its citizens.”

And we still do.

Ladies and gentlemen, with today’s announcement, we’re tapping into those skills, that imagination, and that energy.  

You know, America is at its best when we knock down barriers, when we search for great ideas wherever they reside, and when we draw on the full talents of the American people—all of the American people. 

So to Howard and the other schools in the consortium: Thank you for lifting up the next generation. 

Thank you for all that you do for our outstanding men and women in uniform.

And thank you for making our democracy more secure. 

Together, we will harness the talent, the curiosity, and the passion that you can feel when you walk onto this campus, or to any other HBCU campus.

We’ll build a 21st-century STEM workforce and a diverse, vibrant innovation ecosystem. 

And we will make sure that every patriotic young coder, mathematician, and scientist who wants to serve their country has that chance. 

And we’ll face the future in the time-tested American way, and with the power and the purpose of Howard University.

We’ll move forward together with confidence that we can tackle any challenge.

We’ll move forward together to expand opportunity for every patriot who seeks it.

And we’ll move forward together to defend the democracy that we all love.

Again, congratulations, and thank you very much.

[Standing ovation]