AUSTIN, Texas — In empty office space on the 19th floor of a University of Texas System building here, Friday, the Army unveiled the location for the headquarters of its new Futures Command, which has the monumental task of modernizing the service’s future force.
For the first time, the Army will place a major command within an urban setting instead of on a military base. The goal is to bring itself closer to technology innovators and researchers in one of the nation’s top growing technology cities.
“We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “We searched for a location that had the right combination of top-tier academic talent, cutting edge industry and an innovative private sector.”
The Army announced in October 2017 its intent to create a new command that would be responsible for modernization. Initially, some 150 cities were considered as possibilities to house the new command’s headquarters. Eventually, that number was pared down to five, including Austin.
Ultimately, Austin scored the highest among those remaining five cities. Criteria for the final selection included density of industry and academic talent and proximity to private sector innovation. Austin boasts a growing number of professionals in the science and tech industries and hosts academic institutions with thousands of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career fields.
“Austin’s already a hub of innovation,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “And [it’s] a business-friendly environment … this will allow our military Department of Defense personnel access to the countless startups and emerging technology entrepreneurs already at work here.”
The Army Futures Command is tasked with, among other things, developing future warfighting concepts, generating innovative solutions through research and development, and building the next generation of combat systems.
Gen. John M. Murray, who served previously as the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-8, has been named director of the new command.
“Our Futures Command will have a singular focus: to make Soldiers and leaders more effective and more lethal today and in the future,” said Murray. “This must be a team (effort). It’s about working together to ensure our Soldiers have the capabilities they need when they need them, to deploy, fight and win on the modern battlefield against an incredibly lethal enemy.
“We will bring the best talent we can — inside and outside the capital to address the Army’s most pressing problems,” Murray continued. “And deliver solutions at the speed of relevance — at the speed our Soldiers deserve. For too long, we have focused on the cost schedule or performance. We must now focus on value.”
For now, the Army Futures Command will lead eight cross-functional teams that are responsible for furthering the Army’s pursuit of six modernization priorities, including long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and Soldier lethality.
Army leadership said it will take about a year before Army Futures Command reaches full operational capability. The new command is expected to eventually include about 100 military positions and 400 civilian roles.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley credited the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona with helping spur development of the new command. “He planted the seed,” Milley said.
The Army’s chief of staff said that the character of war is changing, and that private sector innovations in both robotics and artificial intelligence will eventually find their way onto battlefields in the hands of enemies. Army Futures Command will ensure U.S. Soldiers also have the best technology.
“We know there’s a multitude of emerging technologies that are going to have, whether we like it or not, impact on the conduct of military operations,” Milley said. “It is this command … that is going to determine victory or defeat.”
Pictured above: Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.