As the state capital in my home state, Austin is the 11th-largest city in the U.S. and the fourth-largest city in Texas. Known for its city motto, “Keep Austin Weird,” Austin is diversity personified with an eccentric, eclectic live music scene, a world-class university, bats that live under the Congress Avenue Bridge, and is one of America’s hottest cities for tech and startup industries. Many Texans consider the Austin-based computer company Dell as the flagship firm that gave birth to an entire tech ecosystem in the city.
Now, it is home to the U.S. Army Futures Command. Fifteen cities were considered, and the five finalists were Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, North Carolina. With the cultural merger of industry, academics, and innovation, as well as a reasonable and affordable cost of living and quality of life, Austin is the perfect choice for the U.S. Army Futures Command to develop the innovation and synergy required to lead the Army’s modernization efforts.
Why is There a Need for a New Army Futures Command?
In an official directive released by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, Army Directive 2017-33 (Enabling the Army Modernization Task Force) spelled out the purpose. In that directive, the language was telling.
As stated in that directive, the problem is as follows: “The Army’s current requirements and capabilities development practices take too long. On average, the Army takes from 3 to 5 years to approve requirements and another ten years to design, build, and test new weapon systems. The Army is losing the near-peer competitive advantage in many areas: we are outranged, outgunned, and increasingly outdated. Private industry and some potential adversaries are fielding new capabilities much faster than we are. The speed of change in warfighting concepts, threats, and technology is outpacing current Army modernization constructs and processes.”
What is the Futures Command and What is Their Mission?
The U.S. Army Futures Command will concentrate on modernization priorities while streamlining the process for getting requirements met. This is the first time in decades that the U.S. Army has added a high-level, new headquarters command. The last most significant reorganization of the institutional Army was in 1973 when it created the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
“The establishment of the Army Futures Command is the best example of our commitment to the future readiness and lethality of the force,” said Secretary of the Army Hon. Mark T. Esper. “Army Futures Command will help fulfill the Army Vision by addressing the key shortcomings of the current acquisition system, providing unity of command, effort, and purpose to the entire modernization enterprise.”
Army Futures Command will “identify and develop new prototypes and technologies, and deliver them to warfighters faster than ever. While the modernization cross-functional teams are already aligned under Futures Command, three sub-organizations are scheduled to be established over the next several months before the command is fully established in 2019.”
The Futures Command has a four-star general in the lead, with a staff of about 500 civilian and military personnel. U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley promoted Lt. Gen. John M. Murray to the rank of general during a ceremony held at the newly-appointed headquarters location for Army Futures Command in downtown Austin, Texas, August 24. Together, this team will ready the U.S. military for future warfare that could include laser weapons for missile defense, hyper-sonic missiles, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
“This is a big year for the Army because we believe that we need to significantly reform the way the Army does research and development, testing and evaluation, procurement, and everything else that contributes to the modernization process,” said Gen. Mark A. Milley.
Austin Texas and Army Futures Command—A Successful Partnership
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released the following statement after the United States Department of Defense announced that Austin had been selected as the site for the Army Futures Command: “The legacy of America’s freedom depends in part on the ability of our Armed Forces to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, expand our military’s power to assess threats, and modernize our defense. The State of Texas is proud to partner with the US Army in establishing the Futures Command to harness the cutting-edge technologies needed to build an innovative, research-based foundation for our national defense. This sweeping reorganization of the Army’s military efforts adds to the historic connection between Texas and the US military, and I am proud of their presence in the Lone Star State.”
Further support came from The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents, who voted to provide the Army with space in its high-rise building in downtown Austin. Gov. Greg Abbott and Army officials appeared at the Austin Chamber of Commerce and praised the university system for getting involved.
“This announcement brings groundbreaking research in the area of national defense to our state capital, and I look forward to the military’s advancements in protecting our nation being made possible by the great minds in the UT System of higher education,” Abbott said.
“The Texas A&M System is ready to support Army Futures Command,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said. “This is a great day for the state of Texas. Government and academic leaders came together to offer an unbeatable combination of talent and resources.”
Members of Texas’ congressional delegation said they’ve been working tirelessly in lobbying efforts to convince the Futures Command to choose Austin as its new headquarters location. In one of several letters written to the Army by the congressional delegation, at least nine U.S. representatives whose districts include portions of Central Texas sang the region’s praises.
In their letter, the delegation noted that Austin is a renowned hub to a diverse and highly educated technology workforce, employing 130,000 in the high-tech sector. “The city also hosts companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Texas Instruments, Facebook, Oracle, Dell and many others which are potential partners for the Army Futures Command. The command would also benefit from the hundreds of dynamic midsize and smaller startups that drive innovation and continue to grow each year.”
“We’re looking at the best of what America has to offer when it comes to technology and industry and education,” Army Col. Patrick Seiber, spokesman for the Army Futures Command Task Force, said last month. “That means we need to get to where these folks are.”
The Army took into consideration the people they need to draw, and selecting a place where people would want to live was a top requirement. “Austin fits the mission as a city of innovation and a community that promotes creativity, entrepreneurship, and diversity,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D-TX), said in a statement. “We will now play a leading role in ensuring our national security. Together with our supportive neighbor, San Antonio, already known as Military City, we have a partnership that will help our local economies by helping to secure our country.”
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce touted the city as a place where its many entrepreneurs, college students, and military reservists could offer the command new ideas.
Texas is already home to 15 active-duty military installations. The new Army Futures Command will be the only active duty military organization in Austin.
At Army Futures Command, “we believe in utilizing the best expertise, whatever the source, to create innovative solutions faster and better. We’re on a quest to modernize the way the Army does business by creating a space of endless possibilities to explore, develop, and test new methods, organizations, and technologies. Above all else, we want to make sure Soldiers have what they need, before they need it, to defend tomorrow…today.”
As a native Texan, a former defense contractor, mother of a son that graduated West Point, and the wife of a veteran I happily say to the new Army Futures Command, “Welcome to Texas, y’all.”