The University of Nebraska announced today that it has entered into a long-term partnership with the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) at Offutt Air Force Base to create a University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC). The UARC will serve as a primary research and development center that supports USSTRATCOM’s missions to deter and detect strategic attacks against the United States and its allies, and to defend the nation as directed.
Through the UARC – housed in the university’s National Strategic Research Institute, which the Board of Regents approved in May – the university will provide research and development services for USSTRATCOM in areas in which NU faculty have demonstrated significant strength. These areas, which are critical to national security, include: 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.
The UARC is a university-wide initiative, drawing on a broad range of expertise from all four NU campuses. Faculty will have the opportunity to participate if their research aligns with federal funding opportunities. Their work will be solutions-oriented, geared toward meeting – and ultimately anticipating – USSTRATCOM’s needs.
The initial contract award from the Department of Defense to the university provides for up to $84 million over the next five years to support the early research activities of the National Strategic Research Institute. Research opportunities through the UARC are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and the university anticipates additional funding in the future.
Only 14 U.S. institutions, including the University of Nebraska, host a UARC. All UARCs are affiliated with leading research universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Penn State University and others. Those universities are among the national leaders in research and development expenditures financed by the Department of Defense; the top tier also includes prestigious institutions such as the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the University of Illinois.
“The UARC is a tremendous distinction for the University of Nebraska which recognizes the outstanding capabilities of our faculty,” NU President James B. Milliken said. “The impetus for the university’s participation in the UARC is much like that of our other university-wide initiatives, such as water and food security, early childhood education and rural futures: that a 21st-century land-grant university should be addressing in a significant way the great challenges facing the world. This new UARC and the research it supports will be good for the university, the state and our nation.”
Milliken added, “I am very pleased that the University of Nebraska’s unique combination of strengths will be leveraged for the benefit of our neighbor and partner, USSTRATCOM.”
Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of the United States Strategic Command, said that “this UARC will create an important strategic relationship between DoD and the University of Nebraska, and will provide STRATCOM and the DoD essential engineering and research.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, who is chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, praised the selection of the University of Nebraska to host a UARC. “The university has demonstrated its desire, capacity and expertise to conduct important research and development in areas relating to national security and defense,” Nelson said. “The UARC will provide one-stop, close-to-home services to USSTRATCOM that will serve our country well.”
Robert Hinson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force at the rank of Lieutenant General after serving for 33 years, is the founding executive director of the National Strategic Research Institute. Hinson is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours who has previously served as deputy commander at USSTRATCOM and, most recently, vice president of government programs and corporate lead executive at Northrop Grumman Corp. Hinson has degrees from the University of Tennessee and Arkansas State University and has completed the Program for Senior Officials in National Security at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“It’s not often one gets the opportunity to be on the leading edge of such an exciting new venture as the National Strategic Research Institute,” Hinson said. “I’m very excited about being involved in this UARC, promoting the exceptional research capabilities of the university, and delivering potential solutions to some of the most challenging missions of USSTRATCOM.
“I believe the University of Nebraska, through this UARC, is well-positioned to grow as one of the best research and development programs in the country.”
Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said, “I’m thrilled to support USSTRATCOM and the United States on important issues related to national security. Through the UARC, we look forward to leveraging UNL’s tremendous research strengths in science and engineering and the social sciences.”
UNL faculty are eager for the opportunities UARC will offer.
Donald Umstadter, Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Chair of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, said, “Research at universities is often considered to be complete at the time of publication of an article in a scientific journal describing the research results. But fundamental research occasionally points toward solutions to pressing national security or defense problems. The UARC will give NU scientists like myself the opportunity to take the next step toward translating their academic research into real-world technologies.”
Mario Scalora, professor of psychology, said, “The UARC is particularly exciting because it allows our researchers to provide support for STRATCOM’s missions of developing strategies for the deterrence and dissuasion of our evolving adversaries. While the university has engaged in numerous defense-related projects over the years, the UARC opens more doors for collaborative opportunity – helping Nebraska to become that much more competitive for DoD funding against other universities and private firms in the D.C. beltway.”