UGA Partnership with Department of Defense Gets $5 Million Boost

Margaret Blanchard

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

The University of Georgia has received $5 million in federal funding for its work with the state’s defense installations and nearby communities.

The funding will benefit the Defense Community Resilience Program (DCRP), building on the strong, collaborative partnership between the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems (IRIS) at UGA. The program partners with military installations and their surrounding communities to share UGA expertise in innovative nature-based engineering, infrastructure planning, governmental policy, economic development and community engagement to strengthen military and community resilience.

Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (GA-01) submitted the project for funding.

“The University of Georgia is already doing a great job connecting our friends in the military with communities across the state,” said Rep. Carter. “This funding will boost these efforts and help build a better Georgia for today and the future.”   

“I want to express my deep gratitude to Rep. Carter for procuring these funds,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “His advocacy is helping Georgia’s flagship university address the important priorities of our nation, state and local communities. We are grateful for his strong support.”

The funding builds upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering With Nature® (EWN) initiative and will allow the Defense Community Resilience Program to expand its reach to support more installations and communities.

“People who live on military installations benefit from the social and physical infrastructure of the wider community. With the Institute of Government’s deep knowledge of local government as well as economic and community development, we are natural partners for addressing potential impacts in land use and sustainability,” said Scott Pippin, Institute of Government faculty and program leader.

The combined interdisciplinary expertise between the university units creates a robust alliance, said Brian Bledsoe, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Resilient Infrastructure and founding director of IRIS.

“The challenges our communities face transcend individual disciplines and require localized solutions. By joining forces, IRIS and the Institute of Government can provide strong technical assistance and outreach to engage communities and build long-term resilience,” Bledsoe said. 

Based in Athens, UGA’s Defense Community Resilience Program employs resilience professionals based in partner defense communities to serve as liaisons with the installations, adjacent communities and UGA’s network of researchers and technical experts from academic, government, private and nongovernmental partners. Currently, the program is engaged in Georgia communities surrounding Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Air Field, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, and Fort Moore, the U.S. Army installation formerly known as Fort Benning. Work also extends into coastal South Carolina and Florida.

The Defense Community Resilience Program helps communities and military installations explore mutually beneficial opportunities for economic growth. A recent example of the Institute of Government’s defense community work is the River Valley Community Compatible Development Plan, which provides a regional roadmap for creating vibrant downtowns, investing in infrastructure and promoting outdoor activities in the rural communities surrounding Fort Moore.

The program also considers natural solutions to restore and protect existing environments. For example, DCRP experts have proposed ways to redirect stormwater runoff on roadways into retention ponds that support native plants and habitats, thereby enhancing the landscape and reducing flooding. 

These efforts reflect the military’s commitment to strengthening communities that share borders with its installations.

Core aspects of the Defense Communities Resilience Program align with the Network for Engineering with Nature (N-EWN), which was co-founded by IRIS and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop innovative natural infrastructure solutions to address community and installation vulnerabilities.

“Nature-based solutions are a smart investment,” said Shana Jones, Institute of Government faculty member and environmental policy expert. “They not only can save installations money but they also can provide other benefits such as recreational opportunities and habitat protection.”

The $5 million in federal funding will allow the Defense Communities Resilience Program to hire additional staff to deepen engagement with existing communities and expand its scope.

“This is exactly the kind of project that highlights what the University of Georgia, through its land-grant mission, is designed to do,” said Jennifer Frum, UGA’s vice president for public service and outreach. “Working with defense communities creates real and actionable steps that will have a long-lasting economic impact on this region.”