The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has been awarded a $3.7 million Department of Defense (DoD) grant under the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program (DMCSP) by the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). As part of the Alabama Defense Advanced Manufacturing Community (ADAMC), UAH is tasked with utilizing this grant to undertake a $6.2 million project to focus on the visibility, workforce training and adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies in the region, with an emphasis on the modernization of aviation, missiles and ground vehicle systems.
This award follows a competitive selection process culminating in Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s designation in August 2020 of six Defense Manufacturing Communities (DMC). UAH served as the lead for proposal development and grant funding and will act as the spokesperson presenting the consensus opinion of the consortium, as well as coordinating strategy implementation for the ADAMC that has just been designated as a DMC.
The ADAMC comprises 22 counties that will focus on supporting and growing the capabilities of the defense industrial base (DIB) in Alabama. UAH will lead the ADAMC to pull together existing programs throughout the region, as well as establish a facility for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Integration Center (AMIIC) in Huntsville.
A key objective of this strategy will be to support visibility, awareness, technology adoption and workforce development and education in advanced manufacturing technologies that are vital both to current needs and future requirements to enhance the readiness and modernization of U.S. Army aviation and missile weapon systems. This DMC encompasses the majority of aerospace and defense manufacturing, defense installations and associated industries in the region.
The implementation strategy to achieve these goals consists of two Enabling Activities, including:
- The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) will establish the initial operation of the AMIIC facility.
- UAH will be responsible for examining needs, gaps and barriers to effective workforce development and technology adoption.
The implementation will be further supported by three Thrust Areas, each with a lead organization:
- UAH will develop new and enhance existing education and workplace development programs.
- Auburn University will conduct pilot technology adoption projects with industry.
- The University of Alabama will be responsible for initiating a technology development program.
These efforts are designed to strengthen the innovation and manufacturing base in designated DMC Communities, a consortium composed of members of academia, defense industry, nonprofit organizations and State and local government organizations. This presents a revolutionary step forward for the region with regard to positioning the DoD presence within a rich environment of industry, academia and DIB Small-to-Medium Manufacturer (SMM) expertise, benefitting Army Modernization priorities through product, process, human capital and the STEM educational experience.
The combination of achieving DMC status and the subsequent enhancement of advanced manufacturing capabilities will strengthen Alabama’s DIB and further contributions to the DoD, positioning Alabama for continued growth and retention of its defense installations. The State has a strong history in manufacturing and is growing exponentially in advanced manufacturing-related jobs.
To achieve these program goals, the ADAMC will implement an execution model that drives interaction and collaboration amongst partners. The educational process will begin early in K-12, with a focus on STEM needs and manufacturing education, and carry forward through both two-year and four-year academic career paths.
Industry will have the opportunity to engage prospective students and employees at multiple levels, while demonstrating product and process advancement on key technologies. The existing, displaced and military veteran workforce, in collaboration with local and state programs, will be able to undergo retraining, skills enhancement or continuing education/certification to reenter the workforce or obtain position advancement.
By working collaboratively with government, industry and academia, existing education programs will benefit as new workforce development programs are created to supply a pipeline of qualified and capable individuals.
This award is one of six DoD grants announced across the country totaling $25 million made by the OEA. The awards derive from Fiscal Year 2020 appropriated funding and leverage an additional $12.6 million in non-Federal funding for a total investment of $37.6 million to enhance critical skills, research and development and small business support.
The OEA works with states and communities to help them respond to changes driven by the DoD throughout the U.S. Some are home to military bases, while others manufacture the products and provide the services necessary for national defense. The Office leverages the capabilities of state and local partners through grants and technical assistance to enhance readiness of installations and ranges as well.