Navy grants unfunded extension to UH for lab contract

The dollar value of the research conducted through the UARC ARL – $7.9 million – is barely 1/5 of the $44.7 million that University officals promised back in 2005.

Ikaika M Hussey
UH President MRC Greenwood has signed an extension on the 2008 Navy research contract. The University released the following statement today:

The University of Hawai‘i and the U.S. Navy have approved the extension of the contract between the U.S. Navy and the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at the University of Hawai‘i until July 2018. There were no other modifications to the existing $44.7-million contract except for its duration. Had it not been extended, the contract would have expired on July 14, 2013.

The Navy had been in discussion with the Vice President of Research, under whom the ARL falls, for several months about the extension. The contract comes with no funding and provides a cost effective way for the Navy and other federal research entities to conduct research on a “task order” basis with researchers at the university.

The ARL did not have a permanent administrator when it was first approved by then interim President David McClain in 2008. In March 2012, the Navy notified the university that a stronger commitment to utilizing the contract needed to be demonstrated or the Navy would not extend it. In September 2012, the university hired retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Mike Vitale as Executive Director. Since Vitale’s hiring, the ARL has actively begun to help the Navy understand the significant world-class research conducted at the university and has satisfied the Navy's concern about the future use of the contract. Since 2008, the ARL has conducted about $7.9 million in unclassified research, consistent with areas of research expertise at the University of Hawai‘i.

President M.R.C. Greenwood said, “The ARL is very important to Hawai‘i’s economy. We are working hard to build the ARL’s capacity so it will reach its full potential to help build the state’s research industry and to create more jobs and opportunities. We expect to take research funding there to the next level, under Mike Vitale’s superb leadership.”

Vitale said, “It's a great honor to be working at the University of Hawai‘i and directing the ARL. There is significant and important research being conducted here, and it's exciting to be able to start matching the work of outstanding UH researchers with the needs of the Navy and our country.”

There are only four other universities in the nation that have this type of contract with the Navy. They are John Hopkins University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington. Each university is known for its areas of expertise and contracted to conduct research in specific areas. For the University of Hawai‘i, those areas are: ocean sciences, astronomy, advanced electro-optical systems and remote sensing, and engineering support for sensors, communications, and information technology. The ARL is currently conducting an assessment in conjunction with Pennsylvania State University which, when completed this summer, will add alternative energy to this list.

What's most fascinating about this development is that it's a no-funds extension to the existing contract. This press statement is remarkably clear in stating that the University almost lost the contract. And the dollar value of the research conducted through the UARC ARL – $7.9 million – is barely 1/5 of the $44.7 million that University officals promised back in 2005.