NU enters major defense partnership with Stratcom

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October 11th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The University of Nebraska has entered into a major partnership with the Department of Defense and U.S. Strategic Command. The initiative was announced Thursday at a press conference at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

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At a press conference loaded with dignitaries, NU President J.B. Milliken announced the University is entering a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with the DOD. It will create a University-Affiliated Research Center that will be housed at the National Strategic Research Institute, which the NU Board of Regents approved in May. Faculty from all four NU campuses will conduct research and development for Stratcom, headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue.

University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken, left, introduces Gen. C. Robert Kehler at a press conference at UNMC Thursday. (Photo courtesy University of Nerbaska)

NU joins an elite club of 13 other universities that have similar UARC partnerships. They include prestigious schools like Stanford, MIT and Johns Hopkins University. Milliken said the partnership is new but similar to other initiatives NU has undertaken like the Water for Food Institute and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. Each, he said, serves a higher purpose.

“All of these initiatives and the UARC are grounded in the same basic principle,” he said, “that a 21st Century land-grant university should be addressing in a significant way some of the great challenges facing our world.”

“All will leverage the talents of our faculty and the wisdom of our partners for much broader benefit,” he continued. “All will enable us to expand our research focus and attract new talent to Nebraska. All will serve Nebraska, and will ultimately serve our country and our world.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson attended the press conference, along with Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry, and a representative for Sen. Mike Johanns, who was unable to attend. Nelson said the UARC is clearly the result of a team effort. (Photo courtesy University of Nebraska)

Milliken said NU faculty will assist in five primary research areas that Stratcom has identified including nuclear detection and forensics, detection of chemical and biological weapons, passive defense against weapons of mass destruction, consequence management, and space, cyber and telecommunications law. One hundred faculty members have already been identified, he said, and there will likely be more opportunities in areas like nano science, physics and engineering, among others.

Stratcom Commander Gen. Robert Kehler said this is the first UARC of its kind to focus on combating weapons of mass destruction, which is the primary mission of Stratcom. “The new National Research Institute will help us fulfill the responsibilities that we have been given by the President,” he said, “to combat weapons of mass destruction as part of a very broad and extensive mission set of responsibilities that we have been given at Strategic Command.”

Kehler said UARCs provide access to rapid and innovative thinking that are the hallmarks of academic institutions but not typical in government. The Department of Defense has pledged up to $84 million to support the UARC over the next five years. But it will be up to the University to fulfill enough tasks to earn that full dollar amount.

After the press conference, Milliken answered whether he had any reservations of aligning a public university so closely with a military branch. “Faculty have the choice of whether to participate,” he said. “Those faculty with an interest…see this as a way to advance their work on behalf of the creation of knowledge and the good of mankind.”

“They also see it as a mission supporting a branch of the military that is focused on protecting this country and protecting its allies from weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “So I do think this is an appropriate way for the University of Nebraska to contribute.”

Milliken said NU has been conducting DOD-sponsored research for several years. He added each task order from Stratcom will be looked at individually to see whether the University can or should contribute.

Much of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation also attended the announcement. U.S. Senator Ben Nelson was there and said bringing such a prestigious project to Nebraska was “clearly a team effort.”

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