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Black History Month

Every February, we celebrate Black History Month and honor the exceptional contributions Black Americans make to the United States and the Department of Defense. The story of America’s incredible innovations and achievements cannot be told without honoring the legacy of Black Americans in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As we wrap up this year’s Black History Month, we should all take a moment to think through how best we can honor Black Americans’ contributions to the Department and the Nation.

The Department is working every day to ensure that we are able to draw on the talent and perspective of Black Americans. Just last month, we established the Department’s newest University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) at Howard University, our first at historically Black university (HBCU). This Air Force-sponsored UARC will focus on tactical autonomy, an area of research central to U.S. security. Howard University will lead a consortium of other HBCUs supporting this effort. This was a very exciting, but long overdue, accomplishment. We were fortunate to have Secretary Austin speak at the announcement ceremony and I recommend you listen to his remarks. We would like to thank our HBCU/MI and FFRDC/UARC teams for their hard work in support of this effort.

Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick, left, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall hold a proclamation announcing the partnership of Howard University as an Air Force university affiliated research center during a ceremony at the university in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2023.


Derick Buckles works in the lab at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The Department of the Air Force is seeking the identification and selection of the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities-led University Affiliated Research Center. The UARC will be the 15th in the Defense Department and it will focus on tactical autonomy.


Secretary Austin also spoke this month at the Black Engineer of the Year STEM Conference, where he encouraged the next generation of Black engineers to dedicate themselves to the same spirit of service that has animated Black engineers’ contributions to science and engineering in years past. That commitment to service, the Secretary said, is “how we'll expand opportunities for all of our people. It's how we'll tackle our biggest challenges. It's how we'll defend our democracy.” Our DoD STEM team is hard at work supporting this vision, building talent pipelines so that the Department is able to tap into the best our nation has to offer, regardless of race.

Black History is American history. This month and every month we honor the contributions of Black Americans and those who have broken down barriers such as Air Force Col. Guion Bluford Jr., the first African American to fly in space, or Sec. Colin Powell, the first African American to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We build enduring advantages and sharpen America's technological edge by drawing on the strengths of all people.

R&E continues in this tradition as we work for equitable opportunities and inclusion, which are anchored by our three strategic pillars: mission focus, foundation building and succeeding through teamwork. I believe that tomorrow's technology dominance relies on investments not only in science, but also in people, and investments in people must reflect the diversity of the United States. That diversity is our competitive advantage.

To look back at the wide-ranging Department of Defense activities over this month to mark Black History Month, please visit the Black History Month page on the DoD website at

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense,
Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E))
3030 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-3030