Howard University

Howard University Awarded $90M Air Force R&D Contract

Season's Greatings
Season’s Greatings

WASHINGTON—Howard University, Washington, D.C., will be awarded a $90,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract for research and development (R&D). This new contract establishes a Historically Black Colleges and Universities-led University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) consortium to execute research focused on tactical autonomy that will aid in the transition of research into practical applications. According to the Department of the Air Force (DAF), work will be performed at the awardee’s facility and consortium members’ campuses. Work is expected to be completed by January 31, 2028.

A New Defense Contract

This award is the result of a publicly posted broad agency announcement (BAA). DAF reports only four (4) offers were received. Funds will be obligated on individual task orders placed against the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. Fiscal 2023 research and development funds in the total amount of $2,967,271 are being obligated at time of award with the first task order (TO).

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (FA9550-23-D-0001). AFRL leads the discovery, development and delivery of warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace forces.

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., on Dec. 17, 2019. (Senior Airman Haley Stevens/U.S. Air Force)

Commander’s Intent: Tactical Autonomy

DAF is creating the first HBCU-led UARC and the first DAF UARC. The UARC’s core competencies will focus on advancing the deployment of tactical autonomy for DAF missions.  The success of this effort is built upon strong partnerships between the DAF, USD(R&E), USD(A&S) and USD(P&R) under the overarching guidance of the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF).

This initiative will enable the DAF to establish and maintain essential research and development capabilities to advance the field of Autonomy and deliver operationally relevant autonomy for national security requirements.  Desired outcomes are to:

  • Advance the field of Autonomy by focusing on key DAF operational imperatives.
  • Grow and diversify the available pool of Scientists and Engineers to support the DAF and grow organic technical excellence.
  • Increase capacity accessible to the DAF by fostering HBCU R1 Research Classification.
  • Seed a unique ecosystem of small and large businesses around the UARC to further above listed outcomes.


Dr. Victoria Coleman is the Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, Arlington, Virginia. The DAF Chief Scientist (AF/ST) is the UARC sponsor with a Management Office responsible for UARC implementation and oversite; and an Executive Steering Board (ESB) which will be populated with members from DoD community partners.

Dr. Coleman serves as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF), Air Force Chief of Staff, and Chief of Space Operations. She provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the department’s mission. In this role, she identifies and analyzes technical issues, bringing them to the attention of department leaders. She interacts with other principals, operational commanders, combatant commands, acquisition, and science and technology communities to address cross-organizational issues and provide solutions.

Dr. Coleman also interacts with other services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense on issues affecting the Department of the Air Force’s technical enterprise. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and is the Principal Science and Technology Representative of the Air Force to the civilian scientific and engineering community and to the public at large.

Prior to accepting her role of Chief Scientist, Dr. Coleman served as the 22nd Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where she oversaw a large suite of disruptive and innovative programs. Dr. Coleman’s career also includes senior leadership roles with BDPA mission partners Samsung and Hewlett-Packard (HP), as well as Nokia and Yahoo.

Department of Defense (DOD) UARCs and FFRDCs

DoD-supported UARCs are all non-profit research organizations affiliated with a university and have a set of core competencies—areas of domain expertise or specialization – that are tailored to the long-term needs of the Department. DoD’s long-term strategic relationship with UARCs requires them to provide and maintain advanced and sophisticated engineering, research, and/or development capabilities essential to the Department’s mission and operations.

DoD-supported Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) are independent, not-for-profit, private-sector organizations that are established and funded to meet special long-term engineering, research, development, or other analytic needs that cannot be met as effectively by government or other private-sector resources. FFDRCs are operated, managed, and/or administered by universities, or privately organized not-for-profit corporations, through long-term Government contracts.


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