Austin Chosen to Host New Army Futures Command
Austin, Texas, won the hard-fought competition among American cities to be the home of the Army’s Futures Command, service officials announced July 13.
The new organization is being established to drive the Army’s top modernization efforts including: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift family of helicopters, air-and-missile defense, command, control, communications and intelligence network, and soldier lethality.
Elected officials across the country have been lobbying hard to host the command so that their districts can reap the economic benefits and prestige associated with it. The Army initially looked at 150 options and eventually winnowed the list down to five finalists: Austin, Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Service leaders wanted a location that offered easy access to a major technology hub that could help the Army rapidly develop and acquire cutting-edge equipment.
“Meeting the purpose of the Army Futures Command requires us to move from behind the walls of traditional posts and forts and place ourselves in the middle of an urban center,” Undersecretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. “This is where collaboration, networking and innovation is happening daily at rates that cannot be duplicated on an Army post or an industrial park.”
Proximity to STEM professionals and industries, private sector innovation, research and development investment, quality of life, cost and assessment of civic support all factored into the decision of where to locate the new command, he noted.
Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said Austin won out among the finalists “because it not only possessed the talent, the entrepreneurial spirit and access to key partners we are seeking, but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and a cost of living they can afford.”
The state of Texas also offered financial incentives, McCarthy said, adding that officials were not yet ready to disclose the details.
In addition to hosting high-tech commercial firms, the Texas capital is home to major academic research institutions including the University of Texas-Austin. It is one of the few cities to host a Defense Innovation Unit – Experimental office, which the Pentagon established to better connect the department with the private sector. The Air Force also recently established an AFWERX facility there to leverage innovation from nontraditional partners.
A small number of officials have already been sent to Austin to begin the process of setting up Futures Command. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the organization will be fully operational next summer. It is expected to be staffed by upwards of 500 personnel.
Officials did not provide a cost estimate for the new command, which Esper described as the biggest organizational shakeup for the Army since 1973. However, McCarthy said it would be on par with other major commands such as Training and Doctrine Command.
Esper said the new organization will establish unity of command and unity of effort by consolidating the Army’s entire modernization process under one roof. In addition to tapping into private sector innovation, the service aims to streamline the acquisition process.
“It will turn ideas into actions through experimenting, prototyping and testing,” he said. “Most importantly it will directly incorporate requirements from the warfighter and provide soldiers the weapons and equipment they need when they need them.”
Army leaders have decided who they want to lead the new command, but they are not ready to make that decision public yet, Milley said. The nominee would have to be confirmed by the Senate before taking the helm.