The United States Department of Defense (DoD) plays an essential role in the U.S. science and technology (S&T) ecosystem, in addition to its vital national security responsibilities. It is one of the nation’s largest funders of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research at institutions of higher education and is its largest employer of STEM talent. DoD’s priorities, as articulated by the Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in March 2021, include defending the nation through innovation and modernization, developing civilian and military talent, and reinforcing teamwork with allies and partners.1 Achieving these priorities calls for DoD to invest in research and development (R&D) today and cultivate a diverse pool of U.S. STEM talent for a strong workforce in the future. Yet, while DoD and other federal agencies recognize that a racially and ethnically diverse workforce and research base is in the national interest, little progress has been made in turning intentions into measurable results.
One way to accomplish this goal, as recommended in previous studies conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and many other organizations, is to make intentional and strategic investments in the nation’s more than 400 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority institutions (MIs), including Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).
Although they represent a small percentage of the nation’s institutions of higher education, these institutions have shown disproportionate success in producing students of color who earn STEM baccalaureate degrees and have gone
1 See https://media.defense.gov/2021/Mar/04/2002593656/-1/-1/0/SECRETARY-LLOYD-J-AUSTIN-III-MESSAGE-TO-THE-FORCE.PDF) (accessed April 20, 2022).
on to earn STEM graduate degrees, which include many fields of relevance to DoD. With their focus on intentionally supporting student success, these institutions make strong and uniquely important contributions to the defense research enterprise, offering DoD an opportunity to widen its talent pool, diversify STEM research, and ultimately strengthen its ability to support national security.2 Social justice norms would also argue that DoD—the nation’s largest agency in terms of funding and employees—should demographically look more like the nation as a whole, which is projected to be “majority minority” within 25 years. But beyond percentages or a social justice perspective, defense-related STEM research requires diversity of thought, perspective, and background. It requires an understanding of how new technologies will be viewed and used in the United States and globally. The persistent lack of underrepresented minorities in STEM limits the wider R&D views that DoD needs.
In June 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order No. 13985 to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the federal government. However, for decades, Congress has recognized the need to develop a diverse STEM workforce to support national security and bolster innovative thought, explicitly asking DoD to take fuller advantage of HBCU/MIs, among other potential solutions. The 1987 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) specified that DoD direct funding to HBCU/MIs. In 2010 and 2016, Congress released NDAAs that directed DoD to further support HBCUs and minority-serving institutions in developing capacity to conduct defense-related research, development, testing, and evaluation. More recently, the 2020 NDAA (Section 229) called for “diversification of the research and engineering workforce of the Department of Defense” through, among other mechanisms, “contracts, agreements, or other arrangements with . . . historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions . . . to enable easy and efficient access to research and researchers.”3
The fiscal year (FY) 2020 NDAA (Section 262) also required the Secretary of Defense to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to conduct a study of the status of defense research at HBCUs and MIs. Therefore, in June
2 For a greater discussion on the underutilization of STEM talent at HBCU/MIs, see www.nas.edu/25257 (accessed April 20, 2022).
3 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Public law 116-92 C.F.R. 2019. 133 Stat. 1198. https://www.congress.gov/116/plaws/publ92/PLAW-116publ92.pdf.
The 2020 NDAA specified the study focus on “minority institutions,” which the NDAA defines as HBCUs and other institutions of higher education with at least 50 percent minority enrollment. This stands in contrast to earlier NDAAs that specified a focus on the more widely known term “minority-serving institutions,” which are either historically defined or enrollment-defined with varying threshold requirements for minority enrollments and institutional expenditures. Thus, MIs are a subset of the larger group of minority-serving institutions, and research on minority-serving institutions cannot necessarily be applied to MIs.
2020, DoD requested that the National Academies examine the status of DoD research at HBCUs and MIs (also referred to in the tasking and in this report as “covered institutions”), including the methods and means necessary to advance their capacity to conduct defense research. Specifically, the National Academies was asked to identify the following:
- The degree to which covered institutions are successful in competing for and executing DoD grants and contracts for defense research
- Best practices for advancing the capacity of covered institutions to compete for and conduct research programs related to national security and defense
- Recommendations for strengthening and enhancing the programs executed under Section 2362 of Title 10, United States Code4
- The effectiveness of DoD in attracting and retaining students specializing in STEM fields from HBCU/MIs for the department’s programs on emerging capabilities and technologies
The Board on Higher Education and Workforce convened the Committee on Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions, tapping into university, nonprofit, and industry members with expertise in DoD grant and contract processes; research capacity at institutions of higher education, including HBCUs and MIs; and related areas. The committee gathered information through public workshops, commissioned papers, a literature review, and information requests from DoD and representatives of institutions of higher education. The committee also commissioned two external nonprofit research organizations to fill significant research gaps. The American Institutes for Research conducted a series of focus groups with faculty and administrators at 13 HBCU/MIs. The Institute for Defense Analyses’ Science and Technology Institute accessed publicly available datasets to analyze longitudinal data on DoD investments in HBCU/MIs. In August 2021, in response to a congressional request, the committee issued an interim report titled Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions: Interim Report.5 The interim report presented preliminary findings related to the methods and means necessary to advance research capacity at HBCU/MIs and serves as a foundation for this final report.6
4 Section 2362 of Title 10, United States Code authorized the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to provide assistance to HBCUs and MIs in defense-related research, development, testing, and evaluation activities. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/2362.
5 NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine). 2021. Defense research at historically black colleges and universities and other minority institutions: Interim report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/26315/.
6 Due to the study’s FY 2009-2020 budgetary focus, the funding totals discussed in this report do not reflect more recent appropriations.
Key to the committee’s task was a clear understanding and assessment of research capacity. While this is a core tenet of the study charge, the committee was unable to identify a DoD-issued definition of the term. Therefore, the committee developed its own framework to guide its approach. For the purpose of this report, the committee determined that capacity to conduct DoD-related research consists of three mutually enforcing areas:
- A strong institutional research grant and contract base, including appropriate physical research facilities and skilled research support to enable competitiveness
- Research faculty support, including an articulated vision and support for a research climate and culture by institutional leadership, faculty teaching workloads that allow time for research pursuits, and department/college-based research staff and administrative support
- Ancillary services, including effective human resources processes, legal/contracting assistance, and robust government relations teams
The committee deemed these three areas necessary for an institution of higher education to most effectively compete for DoD research funding, successfully carry out the funded work, and position itself to build on that success to compete for additional awards in the future.7
Another challenging task was to fully comprehend and describe the research-relevant variations within HBCU/MIs. While these institutions share a commitment to supporting student success, especially for students of color, they vary greatly in terms of size, history, affiliation, location, resources, Carnegie classification, and other characteristics.8 Their research portfolios range in activity and objectives, as do their research capacity, interest in pursuing DoD-related research, and level of experience in securing and managing sponsored research. With these variations in mind, the committee developed a spectrum to categorize these institutions:
7 There are other factors or indicators specific to each program announcement or solicitation that could be considered in assessing research capacity. The committee’s framework suggests three overarching areas to support the capacity to conduct DoD-related research.
8 Carnegie Classification System, which categorizes U.S. colleges and universities into seven groups: doctoral universities, master’s colleges and universities, baccalaureate/associate’s colleges, special focus institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. The groups have sub-categories. Most notably for this study, within the doctoral universities, institutions are designated as R1 (“very high” research activity) and R2 (“high” research activity), again with specific criteria attached to each designation. Of the 282 doctoral universities in the United States, less than 10 percent are HBCU/MIs, and of those, almost all are R2. For more information, see https://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/2010/methodology/basic.php.
- Baseline HBCU/MIs that focus primarily on students and teaching, as well as creating a culturally strong ecosystem
- Research-engaged HBCU/MIs that, in addition to this baseline of prioritizing students and teaching, engage in some limited activities to secure grants and contracts from federal and private sources, including DoD
- Research-active HBCU/MIs that, in addition to the baseline, identify as research institutions and are actively securing federal and other private grants and contracts, including through DoD
- Highly research-active HBCU/MIs that, in addition to the baseline, are very active in securing grants from federal funding sources, including DoD, and may be interested in obtaining an R1 Carnegie classification
The committee made no attempt to place any specific institution(s) within this spectrum, but instead offers it as a tool for institutions to consider where they might fit in the research ecosystem in higher education. It is important to note that the committee is not suggesting that all HBCU/MIs should aspire to become “highly research active.” However, understanding the range of HBCU/MIs’ interests and skills, rather than assuming a one-size-fits-all group, presents an opportunity for DoD to invest according to its different needs and priorities. As an example, although not all HBCU/MIs offer graduate programs in STEM, nearly all offer STEM majors or individual courses (e.g., physics, computer science). DoD programs that engage students at the beginning of their undergraduate pathways (including at two-year institutions) in research or internships can potentially reap tremendous benefits in building interest in defense-related work.
While the committee considered approaches to address the institutional focus of its statement of task, it also acknowledged a broader and more complex picture related to the contributions of and pathways to success for individual students of color in STEM research. It is worth noting that students of color who attend non-HBCU/MIs also play an important role in increasing the number of underrepresented minority individuals in defense-related research and the STEM workforce. As DoD seeks to improve the diversity of the science and engineering workforce that will address defense technology challenges, it is important to consider the methods and means to support these students as well. Investments in underrepresented individuals and their home institutions can help to support pathways to success.
DOD R&D FUNDING LANDSCAPE
The committee examined opportunities for greater research investments at HBCU/MIs with a focus on DoD’s S&T activities (categorized within the DoD budget as 6.1, Basic Research; 6.2, Applied Research; and 6.3, Advanced Technology Development). In FY 2020, these S&T areas were appropriated $2.6
billion, $6.1 billion, and $7.4 billion, respectively.9 S&T funding is about 2 percent of the total DoD budget.
These funds are managed and executed across DoD, including the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; defense-wide program offices within the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Program Office and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Each office has one or more programs that offer support to HBCUs, TCUs, and/or HSIs, and the committee heard from representatives and/or reviewed documents from most of them.
PROMISING PRACTICES TO EXPAND THE DOD RESEARCH CAPACITIES OF HBCUS AND MIS
The committee was tasked with examining “best practices for advancing the capacity of covered institutions to compete for and conduct research programs related to national security and defense.” To address this principal charge, the committee collected expert opinions through commissioned papers and perspectives from representatives of DoD, other federal agencies, and a broad representation of institutions of higher education through public testimonial and confidential focus groups. Ultimately, the committee determined that it could not prescribe one particular route as a best practice, because of the broad spectrum of HBCU/MIs (including their varying size, location, affiliation, priorities, levels of experience and expertise in securing federal grants and contracts, and capacity to conduct research), and the lack of a rigorous evidence base to inform best practices. Instead, the committee identified promising practices for expanding research capacities at HBCU/MIs interested in pursuing defense research in four areas: establishing critical infrastructure, increasing proactive communications and relationship-building, forming true partnerships with institutions, and considering other agency programs and practices for DoD adoption/adaptation.10
Different stakeholder groups will have different roles to play in implementing these practices. As a starting point, we outline the following roles.
- Define research goals aligned with institutional and DoD priorities
- Proactively shape partnerships to achieve prioritized goals
9 DoD’s annual budget request is organized into five appropriation categories: operations and maintenance; procurement; research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E); military personnel; and military construction. The RDT&E appropriations category, in turn, is composed of eight categories, each with corresponding numerical/budget activity identifiers. The first three (6.1, Basic Research; 6.2, Applied Research; and 6.3, Advanced Technology Development) are referred to as S&T.
10 The committee’s consideration of what constitutes a true partnership is described below.
- Develop true partnerships with non-HBCU/MIs, government and quasi-government entities and industry, and other HBCU/MIs
- Increase the consistent, coordinated engagement of HBCU/MIs in defense research, including regular outreach; early engagement in the structure, requirements, and focus of funding opportunities; and support in grants and contracts proposal development, administration, and management. This might include timely communication about available opportunities to engage in the DoD network, guidance for competitive proposals, and constructive feedback on unfunded DoD proposals to inform future efforts.
- Build relationships with HBCU/MI researchers, such as increasing opportunities for faculty to sit on program, peer-review, or advisory boards for research sponsors or through institution-government exchange programs, such as Intergovernmental Personnel Act-type arrangements
- Review select programs and practices from other government agencies that may be suitable for adoption and/or adaptation
Other stakeholders (e.g., university-affiliated research centers, DoD-industry partners)
- Establish and evaluate true partnership opportunities with HBCU/MIs that are mutually beneficial
- Co-develop proposals and co-report research outcomes so that HBCU/MIs play an active, appropriately resourced role
- Create and sustain long-term relationships with HBCU/MIs that transcend discrete research projects
The committee recommends a number of actions that can be taken by DoD and entities partnering with HBCU/MIs to advance defense research capacity.
Increasing Funding for Capacity-Building at HBCU/MIs
The committee’s analysis of funding data from FY 2010 through FY 2020 indicates that there has not been a significant expansion in the funding for research projects or research capacity awarded to the vast majority of HBCU/MIs, despite legislation and departmental efforts with this stated intent. More specifically, in terms of levels of funding, HBCU/MIs receive a disproportionately smaller share of DoD R&D-related funding than non-HBCU/MIs.
These disparities point to a clear disconnect between the expressed direction by Congress and DoD to improve capacity and increase the participation of
HBCU/MIs in defense-funded research versus what has actually occurred over the past decade.
To address these gaps, a strategic commitment and long-term targeted investments are needed, well above current levels, from within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering to increase research capacity at HBCU/MIs in order to allow them to more effectively compete for and execute DoD grants and contracts. Addressing specific gaps in capacity will allow HBCU/MIs to be more competitive not only for targeted funding but also for the non-targeted national security research funding that is often for larger, longer-duration research.
RECOMMENDATION 1A: DoD entities (i.e., Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, military departments, and defense agencies) with responsibilities to establish or increase DoD-relevant research capacity at HBCU/MIs should provide long-term institutional support in one or more of the following areas:
- Physical research infrastructure (e.g., equipment, facilities);
- Institutional research support and personnel (e.g., sponsored program offices, tech transfer offices, administrative and technical support);
- Programmatic support to research faculty and students (e.g., reduction of faculty teaching loads, training in DoD grants and contracts, incentives to conduct DoD-relevant research); and/or
- Business information technology support (i.e., establishment or updates in grant management systems).
Note: “Long term” refers to the time required to make lasting change (i.e., on the order of at least a decade).
RECOMMENDATION 1B: Annual increases in congressional allocations notwithstanding, the DoD S&T Basic Research budget (Budget Activity BA1) has largely remained flat in terms of purchasing power. To achieve DoD’s goal to increase the nation’s competitiveness, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should seek to be an exemplar in advancing the research capacity of HBCU/MIs to help address the national security and defense needs of the nation. Recommended actions include to do the following:
Request real growth in the S&T Basic Research budget to help fund HBCU/MI capacity-building:
- In the short term, request at least a doubling of the FY 2020 HBCU/MI targeted funding (DoD Program Element 0601228D8Z) and dedicate it to capacity-building in DoD interest areas. In addition, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the military departments/defense agencies should be granted
- means to increase their capacity to manage the recommended increase in DoD Program Element 0601228D8Z.
- In the longer term, DoD should strive to meet or exceed the funding levels of other mission-focused agencies that are also continuing to improve their engagements with HBCU/MIs. For example, in consideration of HBCU/MI R&D expenditures relative to agencies’ total R&D expenditures in FY 2019, DoD’s expenditures for HBCU/MIs constituted 1.1 percent of the total ($72.5 million within $6.65 billion total R&D expenditures), in contrast to the Department of Energy’s 1.9 percent ($36.6 million within $1.94 billion total R&D expenditures) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s 2 percent ($34 million within $1.64 billion total R&D expenditures).
Identify new allocations of non-S&T funds to help build certain aspects of institutional capacity over the longer term. Alternative funding sources worthy of investigation include but are not limited to the following:
- Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Management Support (6.6) funds (currently used to support DoD management costs);
- Operations and maintenance funds (currently used to support personnel incentive costs and training/education programs); and
- Select procurement accounts (e.g., Other Procurement, Army; Other Procurement, Navy; Military Construction) that support non-research project defense capabilities.
Should these potential, alternative funding sources become available, the funds should be carefully tracked by the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and by the recipient HBCU/MI for use in research capacity-building efforts.
Note: “Short term” refers to action within two to three years, allowing for DoD financial programming, budget request formulation, and congressional authorization and appropriation. “Long term” refers to the time required to make lasting change (i.e., on the order of at least a decade).
RECOMMENDATION 1C: Additional funds requested and appropriated for HBCU/MI institutional capacity-building should be deployed to put military departments’ S&T program offices in more direct contact with HBCU/MIs (e.g., using the Military Department Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative competition process as a model). These additional funds, with more discretionary authority on allowable institutional costs, would be generally aimed at long-term capacity-building (not discrete short-term research projects). Examples include
- supporting the buy-out of teaching time to enable focus on research;
- developing or enhancing HBCU/MI institutional grant/contract administration capabilities to facilitate DoD proposal development and submission;
- providing tailored government support to HBCU/MIs (on-site, if practical) to assist with building capacity;
- supplementing expenses usually covered by overhead rates; and/or
- upgrading research infrastructure.
Strengthening Program Coordination and HBCU/MI Engagement
In addition to examining funding for research and infrastructure at HBCU/MIs, the committee assessed DoD program coordination and engagement with these institutions to identify areas for growth. While DoD has sponsored a number of outreach efforts to these institutions, the committee determined that there is a need for DoD to build stronger relationships with researchers and leaders at HBCU/MIs with interests aligned with those of the military departments. This could encourage the cultivation, monitoring, and tracking of HBCU/MI relationships with the groups responsible for dispersing and monitoring funding. The Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program could serve as a possible model to strengthen program coordination between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military departments in order to strengthen HBCU/MI capacity. (See Recommendation 1C above.)
RECOMMENDATION 2: To improve capacity-building at HBCU/MIs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense HBCU/MI program office should have policy and oversight over DoD HBCU/MI targeted funding, but the development and execution of HBCU/MI programs should reside primarily in the military departments and defense agencies.
Improving Data Collection and Evaluation
The committee requested data from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military departments related to level of investment and measurable impact on the advancement of HBCU/MI research capacity. The data were insufficient to meet the committee’s needs. Specifically, the type, detail, organization, and completeness of data submissions varied greatly across DoD, which ultimately challenged the committee’s ability to formulate research questions.
The committee concluded that there is insufficient data collection and interdepartmental program coordination, and a lack of quantitative evaluations to appropriately assess these critical areas. The committee offers the following recommendations to address these deficiencies in data collection, including those related to proposal data and research capacity.
RECOMMENDATION 3A: Data Collection and Evaluation
All military departments and defense agencies should collect and analyze data on HBCU/MI research and research capacity to inform decision making and assess the impact of DoD investments. Data collection and analysis should be continual and consistent across military departments and agencies so that the data can be analyzed and, to the extent practical, be compatible with and included in national databases.
RECOMMENDATION 3B: Proposal Data Collection and Evaluation
To increase the coordination of data collection, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering—in collaboration with the military departments, defense agencies, and the director of the Defense Technical Information Centers—should develop guidelines for data collection on defense research and institutional capacity at HBCU/MIs.
A directive should be issued by the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering to ensure the coordination of data collection and codify the guidance. Whenever possible, existing databases (e.g., www.grants.gov and www.usaspending.gov) should be used to provide access to DoD proposal data, so that funding trends for HBCU/MIs can be compared with other institutions of higher education in a systematic and ongoing manner. In addition, there are areas for data collection specific to HBCU/MIs which are not currently in place but should be considered, including the following:
- HBCU/MI proposal submission rates, success rates, and reasons for not funding;
- Total number of applications as a proportion of total HBCU/MI eligibility; and
- Formal feedback mechanisms for rejected proposals from first-time applicants from HBCU/MIs.
The military departments and defense agencies should collect, maintain, and analyze data and disseminate analyses to the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering for all institutions of higher education.
RECOMMENDATION 3C: Research Capacity Data Collection and Evaluation
The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should work with the military departments and defense agencies and institutions of higher education to do the following:
- Define the components of research capacity for institutions of higher education (including HBCU/MIs) that are of greatest interest to DoD;
- Determine areas for data collection on institutional research capacity (e.g., administrative support, research infrastructure, teaching loads);
- Develop metrics to help evaluate, track, and improve institutional growth and competitiveness; and
- Support future data analyses that assess the impact of DoD investments on building research capacity at HBCU/MIs.
Data collection and analyses should be performed on a continual basis for all DoD grants and contracts across all institutions of higher education and should result in a formal annual report to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Congress (namely, the Defense Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees) early in the calendar year to inform the development of future National Defense Authorization Act and appropriation bills.
Fostering True Partnerships
True partnerships—those that are mutually beneficial and grounded in mutual respect, meaningful engagement, and equity in funding and resources—can present opportunities for joint research and collaboration, workforce development, and transition and commercialization, and can help HBCU/MIs build and advance their own capacity to conduct DoD-funded research.
Congressional reports, legislative language, and federal agency research solicitations have encouraged partnerships between HBCU/MIs and other universities, government entities, and industry, yet the committee found no examples in which partnerships were incentivized or directed by DoD. Incentivized true partnerships would allow other universities and industry to access the STEM research talent and capabilities at HBCU/MIs, while enhancing the defense research capacity and capabilities of these institutions.
RECOMMENDATION 4A: The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should move beyond encouraging partnerships to incentivize mutually beneficial true partnerships by adding an element to award evaluation criteria that assigns value (or some other metric) for including HBCU/MIs as true research partners. Weighted grant or contract solicitation evaluation criteria for proposals that include true HBCU/MI research partnerships could serve as a sample incentive.
RECOMMENDATION 4B: Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering contracts with true partnerships should include increased funding to support the partnership and longer performance periods to allow for capacity-building at the HBCU/MI.
RECOMMENDATION 4C: The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should examine opportunities to incentivize the defense industry to support HBCU/MI capacity-building. For example, it could encourage the use of the Independent Research and Development (IRAD) mechanism to support HBCU/MI research capacity-building and direct additional funding to Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research incentives for partnerships with HBCU/MIs.
RECOMMENDATION 4D: The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should establish a data descriptive tool as a resource that regularly captures the STEM research capabilities and technical disciplines of HBCU/MIs, as this can aid in developing research and educational collaborations between DoD-funded entities (e.g., university-affiliated research centers [UARCs], federally funded research and development centers [FFRDCs], industry) and HBCU/MIs. Such information will help match research needs with available HBCU/MI talent and facilities.
RECOMMENDATION 5: To further highlight opportunities to partner with HBCU/MIs, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should examine and highlight HBCU/MIs with close proximity to DoD R&D centers and other DoD entities. It should also look to Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) and Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) programs, which may serve as models to expand research capacity in areas with potential for increased DoD research participation, as is the case for many Tribal Colleges and Universities.
RECOMMENDATION 6: To identify HBCU/MIs with STEM research capabilities that are relevant to DoD research, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should compile a list of HBCU/MI institutions that have received STEM funding from other federal agencies, including, but not limited to, the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology), and Department of Education. This list should include data on HBCU/MIs’ graduate programs, majors offered, and research capabilities. The information should be updated regularly.
Incorporating Promising Practices and Programs
The committee examined programs at DoD and other federal agencies related to HBCU/MIs that demonstrated success in attracting and retaining students specializing in STEM, including from HBCU/MIs, workforce development, and increased research capacity at HBCU/MIs. The committee identified select DoD programs that should be expanded and practices from other government agencies that may be suitable for adoption and/or adaptation.
RECOMMENDATION 7: By FY 2024, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, with the military departments and defense agencies, should review the programs and practices of other government agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health) relevant to increasing research capacity at HBCU/MIs. The results of the review should be shared widely within DoD, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Congress. In addition to examining the practices of other federal agencies, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should identify opportunities to strengthen collaboration with those agencies and seek interagency leveraging opportunities to build capacity at HBCU/MIs.
RECOMMENDATION 8: The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should immediately direct current workforce development programs, such as the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship Program and other scholarship and fellowship programs, to increase HBCU/MI representation in the DoD S&T workforce, with a goal to increase proportional representation in these programs by FY 2025. DoD should also examine opportunities through and in collaboration with other federal agencies to expand HBCU/MI representation in the federal STEM workforce. Specifically:
- The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should collaborate with the National Science Foundation to expand the DoD Awards to Stimulate and Support Undergraduate Research Experiences (ASSURE) program to two- and four-year HBCU/MIs in order to attract more students into graduate degree programs. The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and military departments should also expand the ASSURE program to make it possible for HBCU/MI principal investigators to obtain research supplement awards for adding undergraduate student researchers to current DoD grants.
- The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering should examine opportunities to leverage or collaborate with the National
- Science Foundation to expand its Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) to promote STEM research and accelerate capacity-building at these institutions.
A PATH FORWARD
It is time to move from well-intentioned statements to actionable outcomes. There are HBCU/MIs that have demonstrated an ability and interest to carry out DoD research, while others stand just at the cusp of becoming long-standing DoD performers. Current DoD programs, practices, and investments, targeted to HBCU/MIs or otherwise, are insufficient to enhance the capacity and competitiveness of HBCU/MIs. New, additional investments in infrastructure support and research funding can increase these institutions’ effectiveness as performers. However, simply allocating a larger share of the small and stagnant DoD S&T budget to HBCU/MI projects is not sufficient to gain relevant capacity. Rather, a more strategic and comprehensive approach is needed to meet this objective. DoD has an opportunity to increase funding, strengthen capacity, and incentivize partnerships at HBCU/MIs. The recommendations above are offered to guide DoD, Congress, HBCU/MIs, and partnering entities in supporting and strengthening the role of these institutions in defense research. A strategic commitment will translate into increased opportunities for HBCU/MIs to diversify the future American academic, industrial, and government STEM workforce upon which DoD will depend.
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