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Warren, Brown, Adams, Colleagues Raise Concerns Over Inadequate DoD Science and Engineering Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions

DoD Provides Over $4 Billion in STEM Funding Annually to Universities, Yet HBCUs Receive Only 0.4%

Washington, December 19, 2019
DoD is the largest employer of scientists and engineers in the nation and the second largest funder of academic research and development. While colleges and universities nationwide received over $4.1 billion in DoD science and engineering funding in Fiscal Year 2017, HBCUs received a mere 0.4% of those funds despite graduating nearly 30 percent of all African-American STEM professionals.

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Representatives Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and Alma Adams (D-N.C.), member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, along with 21 of their Senate and House colleagues, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper regarding the importance of strategically investing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) mission. 

Senator Warren and Representatives Brown and Adams are all members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, which was founded and is co-chaired by Representative Adams.

DoD is the largest employer of scientists and engineers in the nation and the second largest funder of academic research and development. While colleges and universities nationwide received over $4.1 billion in DoD science and engineering funding in Fiscal Year 2017, HBCUs received a mere 0.4% of those funds despite graduating nearly 30 percent of all African-American STEM professionals. Additionally, in 2018, the National Science Foundation found that African Americans are underrepresented in the science and engineering labor force by 62 percent.

In their letter, the lawmakers argued that in addition to increasing funding for HBCUs and other MSIs generally, investing in research and development at these institutions is necessary to maintaining America’s dominance in science and engineering.

“HBCUs and MSIs must be a central component of our national defense strategy,” the lawmakers wrote. “By leaving significant segments of intellectual capital untapped, we will fail to realize the full potential of military readiness in the future.”

The lawmakers noted that Congress has acted in a bipartisan manner over a decade to address this issue—such as establishing a program to enhance defense-related research and education at minority institutions and directing a national study on the state of defense research at minority institutions—and asked DoD to answer a series of questions regarding its plans and strategies to strengthen and invest in STEM programs at HBCUs and MSIs. The lawmakers requested a response to their inquiry by January 31, 2020.

This letter comes just days after Congress passed the Foster Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act, which restored critical funding for HBCUs and other MSIs after funding had expired in September.

Joining Senator Warren and Representatives Brown and Adams are Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Representatives Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.), William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.).

Text of the Letter (PDF)

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