Rep. Tom Cole, Guest Columnist
Editor's Note: This column is submitted by a candidate running for election. Its publication does not constitute The Oklahoman's endorsement of the candidate or his views. The Oklahoman does not endorse candidates for public office.
Congress has no greater responsibility than to provide our military with the training and resources it needs to confront mounting security challenges and threats. Indeed, the U.S. military and its defense industrial base are the backbone of international stability and order. And in this era of unprecedented turmoil around the world, both must be strengthened.
For decades, thousands of Oklahomans have played critical roles in supporting our national defense and security needs. Notably, in the district I represent, this includes both military service members and civil servants supporting the world-class training, sustainment and operational missions at Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill.
Academia in Oklahoma is increasingly proving an important partner. Our state is uniquely situated to continue growing into one of the leading defense and national security research states by focusing on four critical areas: radar innovations, sustainment and modernization, advanced technologies and international security policy. Great strides have been made thanks to the strategic investment of the Fourth District’s own University of Oklahoma in aerospace, defense and global security research.
Specifically, the Oklahoma Aerospace and Defense Innovation Institute (OADII) was established late last year and designed to leverage OU’s research capabilities with our state’s network of industry and government partners. To lead this innovative program, OU made the excellent decision to hire outgoing Commander of Tinker Air Force Sustainment Center, Lieutenant General Gene Kirkland, who brings first-class, real-world experience and decision making to the already capable team in Norman. Additionally, the Advanced Radar Research Center, which is the largest university-based radar center in the nation, recently became a Community Instruments and Facilities center of the National Science Foundation.
Last month, OU signed the first-ever academic partnership with the 448th Supply Chain Management Wing, which is the single Air Force Wholesale supply chain wing with $7.2 billion in total requirements and 106,000 items managed at an inventory value of $56.6 billion. OU researchers will help our military use cutting-edge manufacturing processes and equipment to solve supply chain problems as well as use artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to better predict supply chain risks in advance.
OU’s focus on aerospace and defense research equips students with the skills and expertise to obtain lucrative jobs and meet a significant need for this important workforce. Aerospace and defense industries make up the second-largest sector of Oklahoma’s economy, with more than 1,100 companies and 120,000 employees.
This week, OADII will host a distinguished group of national defense experts on campus in Norman for its inaugural research symposium, examining more ways OU can work together with partners in government, industry and other academia to meet America’s national defense priorities today and in the future.
Oklahoma receives billions in federal defense spending every year, and I will continue to advocate for more dollars to support our fantastic research, development and training enterprises. The men and women who volunteer for our Armed Forces deserve nothing less. I look forward to the future of the Oklahoma Defense Industrial Base and its incredible contributions to our national defense.
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