Defense Department Invests $42 Million to Awardees in Manufacturing Engineering Education Program

August 2020 - DoD News Release

Arlington, VA – The Department of Defense, through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, is pleased to announce the selection of nine awardees for the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP).

These distinguished educational and industry partners will receive more than $42 million over a three-year period to establish or expand educational opportunities for Americans to acquire manufacturing skills critical to sustaining the defense innovation base.

“We are particularly pleased with the breadth and depth of this year’s awardees, with programs for middle schoolers up to workforce retraining – including those focused on military veterans – and spanning the country from coast to coast,” said Dr. JihFen Lei, principal deputy and acting director, defense research and engineering for research and technology, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “These programs expand opportunities in cutting-edge manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing and robotics, and strengthen important shop floor skills like welding and machining.”

The goal of MEEP is to establish programs to better position the current and next-generation manufacturing workforce to produce military systems and components that assure technological superiority for the DOD.

“The Manufacturing Engineering Education Program plays an important role in developing and maintaining the advanced manufacturing workforce our nation needs to maintain our technological superiority for years to come,” said Lei.

The nine awardees are:

  • Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), Knoxville, Tennessee: IACMI and collaborators will establish a national learning network, based on the best-in-class program at Davis Technical College (Kaysville, UT), to develop a skilled composites manufacturing workforce.
  • Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), Detroit, Michigan: This venture will expand Operation Next, a manufacturing-focused training and credentialing program for soldiers in their last six months of active duty, to nine new locations nationwide.
  • Lorain County Community College, Elyria, Ohio: This consortium of educational insitutions and companies will address near- and long-term needs for production and technician workers at Ohio companies serving the defense industry.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The initiative will develop a Virtual Manufacturing Lab that offers guided or autonomous online learning for three advanced manufacturing audiences: design engineers, fabrication engineers, and technicians.
  • Monroe Community College (MCC), Rochester, New York: MCC will enhance the nation’s optics workforce via improved curricula, apprenticeships, and high school recruitment and outreach.
  • NextFlex, San Jose, California: NextFlex and its partners will expand FlexFactor, a proven middle and high school outreach program for growing the talent pool in manufacturing engineering, to 30 labor markets nationwide.
  • Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Cleveland, Ohio: SME will develop an online, broad-based advanced manufacturing curriculum, delivered through Augmented and Virtual Reality, that aligns with industry-recognized credentials.
  • University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, Texas: A consortium of partners will cultivate an educational ecosystem to draw young talent to additive manufacturing, smart manufacturing, and innovations in lightweight materials, structures, and systems.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia: The school will create university and continuing education curricula to develop engineering talent for advanced manufacturing of structures and integration with lightweight composites for electromagnetic applications critical to U.S. military superiority.


The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) is responsible for the research, development, and prototyping activities across the Department of Defense. OUSD(R&E) fosters technological dominance across the DoD ensuring the unquestioned superiority of the American joint force. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter: @DoDCTO.