Let me begin by wishing you a very Happy New Year. While challenges persist, I am grateful to each of you who dedicate your expertise, energy and optimism to creating a safe future for our nation and, specifically, our warfighters and first responders. It is my honor to enter 2021 as the interim executive director of the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska — your University Affiliated Research Center.
With tremendous gratitude and unending respect, NSRI and NU celebrated the successful leadership of NSRI’s founding executive director, Lt. Gen. USAF (Ret.) Robert Hinson, who retired December 31. With General Hinson at its helm since 2012, this institute and NU delivered research and scientific solutions to more than 40 customers across the Department of Defense and federal government in support of a broad range of important national security missions.
Bob was employee No. 1, and he went on to grow the NSRI team to more than 50 scientists and strategists at five locations. An initial investment of $600,000 in 2012 from the University of Nebraska has led to nearly $300 million in total research contract awards. The team executing this important work includes hundreds of NU researchers and students capitalizing on the capabilities available across our NU system. Together with our NSRI employees, this team is built to last and will no doubt make important contributions to our national security for decades to come.
NSRI and NU’s most recent awards include:
- $10.3 million to investigate chemical, biological threats, countermeasures with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a long-term NSRI sponsor
- $140,000 for monitoring soldier readiness from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (CCDC SC), the newest sponsor of NSRI/NU work
- $150,000 to streamline personnel databases for USSTRATCOM, NSRI’s UARC sponsor
Another of Bob’s legacies is a relentless commitment to deliver to the DOD and federal government. He set the stage for NSRI with its NU colleagues to continue to support the warfighters and first responders of our country with capabilities and expertise to deter, counter and respond to chemical, biological, nuclear and infectious disease threats.
As our medical workers, first responders and most vulnerable residents continue to receive the vaccine for COVID-19, we must start looking ahead for what’s next — thinking beyond this most immediate threat to our health, our safety and our national security. As NSRI has stated in the past, we must always be focused on the next threat and the next solution.
With more than 35 years in the DOD, I understand many of the needs, constraints and opportunities of our national security leaders. My last seven years at U.S. Strategic Command showed me that the threats to our nation are diverse and ever-changing. And my prior experience as a member of the Nebraska National Guard solidified my belief that partnerships and innovation are important to staying ahead of these threats.
I see NSRI’s pursuit of the several initiatives in the coming months as particularly significant to meeting our mission for the long-term.
NSRI and NU’s public support of Nebraska’s campaign to lure U.S. Space Command to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha will remain aggressive. I know Nebraska has the infrastructure, education system, workforce, community and experience U.S. Space Command needs. As I have said, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Nebraska to continue to do what it has done for decades — be an incredible home to the men, women and families of the DOD, so they can accomplish their critical missions.
NSRI has begun reviewing nearly 20 proposals from NU researchers and students for its first independent research and development funding opportunity. Our institute has proudly served as a catalyst and convener of major deliverables from NU researchers to DOD and federal government sponsors, and through NSRI IRAD, we are inviting our NU colleagues into our mission in a new way. It is an important part of how we add value to the NU system and engage faculty and student researchers interested in national security work.
Soon, NSRI will welcome an initial group of fellows from the NU campuses. Through this new fellows program, NSRI will optimize, empower and connect the expertise that exists across disciplines for mission deliverables to DOD sponsors. This is yet another way NSRI will stay linked to the excellent talent available within the university.
Drawing in the next generation of the DOD workforce is a cornerstone of our national security mission. We must not only provide opportunities for students, but we must invest our time through mentorship. Along these lines, summer 2021 NSRI internship recruitment will begin in the coming weeks.
I have always been of the mindset that you cannot guide a missile to a target if it never gets launched. NSRI understands its target and has been relentlessly pursuing it for years — enable deterrence of, preparedness for and response to strategic national security threats across multiple domains through research and support.
As I guide our attack going forward, my job is simple — empower action, build strong and resilient teams, remove roadblocks to progress and encourage creativity. We will get the job done by prioritizing collaboration across the spectrum of our work and relationships across the university campuses.
Nebraska has a great asset in hosting one of the DOD’s 14 UARCs. Its value will only increase if we use it to the maximum extent possible. With that in mind, I call upon you to join us and double down on this important mission in support of our nation’s national security. We are YOUR UARC!