To protect our national security, and to lead the world in the development and deployment of new technology, we need to nurture and support American talent and innovation.
It’s why the Defense Department is one of the biggest funders of critical STEM research at American universities. And there’s a large, mostly untapped pool of talented students and researchers and engineers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Central State and Wilberforce Universities right here in Ohio.
Right now, barely any DoD research funding goes to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
It’s why I’m introducing the bipartisan Building Equitable Access to Contribute to Our National Security Act, or the BEACON Act, to expand defense research opportunities at HBCUs like Central State and Wilberforce.
Congressman Anthony Brown from Maryland introduced it in the House with Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner, and we expect similar language to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which we’re going to pass this month.
In 2018, the Defense Department invested more than $4.6 billion in science and engineering funding in colleges and universities. But less than half a percent of that money was awarded to HBCUs.
We need to build a strong research base at all our universities if we want to remain competitive. And we need to ensure that HBCU students get the research opportunities they need to gain experience and succeed in STEM careers.
Our bill would direct the Secretary of Defense to establish the Minority Institute for Defense Research – a consortium of HBCUs and Minority Institutions, that would execute leading defense research and development.
It would also establish a grant program to build HBCU defense research capacity. And it would require existing research centers to work with HBCUs, to ensure these schools can build up their capability to do this important research.
Our national security and our economic security depend on us recognizing and nurturing American talent – including Black talent.
That’s what the BEACON Act will do. And we know we have so much of that talent here in Ohio. I’m hopeful we’ll get this passed into law this month, and that this will mean more opportunities at Central State and Wilberforce Universities.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.