As the Army progresses toward a force as diverse as the country it defends, senior leaders are also increasing its diversity of researchers tasked with developing scientific breakthroughs, said the service’s top civilian official Feb. 19, 2021.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, or ASA (ALT), in coordination with Army Futures Command, held a virtual event with the intent of fostering relationships with historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, by sharing beneficial tools.
The event, which had at least 48 of the 101 HBCUs register for it, allowed Army leaders, including acting Secretary of the Army John E. Whitley, to link up with HBCU educators and students to pitch various opportunities for them to partner with the Army, such as assistance with completing research grants and outreach programs.
ASA (ALT) officials also announced a new Army Faculty Immersion Program and an upcomingxTech|HBCU prize competition for HBCU researchers set for later this year, with specific details planning to roll out next month. Details on the prize competition will be made available at https://www.xtechsearch.army.mil.
Officials say efforts like the contest is only the beginning of a growing partnership with HBCUs.
Whitley said that he and other senior leaders are committed to seeing the long-term effort through. The real hope, he said, is to expand the relationship with the academic institutions with more internships, partnerships, immersion programs, and recruiting.
“We’re here to reduce the barriers for entry for these programs,” said Phil Perconti, the Army’s chief scientist, “by explaining some more challenging aspects of the work [to submit a research proposal], which can often seem like an insurmountable bureaucratic process. The Army simply cannot accomplish its mission without the skills, dedication, and contributions of all of our society.
“America’s strength is derived in its ability to bring together a diverse group of people, their thoughts and their ideas,” he added.
The Army is no exception to that statement, as the force continues to bring together people who have common values, like duty, honor, selfless service, loyalty and respect, he said.
Later, Whitley added that research is a vital part of the Army’s future, despite people commonly associating the force with its infantry, armored, and artillery formations.
Scientific research is “the fourth part of the Army, because it will fight on the battlefield of tomorrow,” he said, adding that some key battles will be waged in the cyber realm.
To make the technology work, “it will require a tremendous amount of activity that extends across a tremendous number of fields of study, research, and job categories,” Whitley said. “[The Army is] focused on cyber, writing code, and have several initiatives,” but need to establish partnerships with colleges to build on its cyber capabilities, because “cyber is embedded in everything we do.”
That’s why the secretary is hopeful its academic partnerships will grow. “This is a deep commitment, and it’s very important,” he said. “We’re changing the way we do research.”