WASHINGTON — The Army’s under secretary hopes to “harness the energy” of entrepreneurs in the Austin area and across the country, as the Army Futures Command plans to officially open its doors later this month.
Ryan D. McCarthy held a roundtable with business leaders last week in the Texas capital to discuss how the Army can work closer with industry to more quickly bring the latest technology to Soldiers.
“They’re very excited about the Army’s willingness to embrace and to take a big step forward into the business and academic space,” McCarthy said Monday.
The meeting occurred two weeks before the command’s scheduled activation ceremony on Aug. 24, where Army senior leaders as well as other stakeholders, members of Congress, and the Texas governor are expected to attend.
“In business and in government, everything is relationships,” McCarthy said. “We’ve taken this step to try to better understand them and to help us become a better customer and make better informed decisions.”
In July, Army officials picked Austin to be home to the Army’s newest command — the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973 — mainly because of its innovative environment.
With a sprawling University of Texas campus and a bustling tech industry, Austin will eventually host about 500 Soldiers and civilians when the command reaches full operational capability next summer.
The command will be spread out over about 75,000 square feet at three different locations in the city. Its footprint will include a 20,000-square-foot incubator hub, where 100 personnel from the command will work with small and large companies as well as entrepreneurs to develop technology to help modernize the Army.
“It’s an opportunity for companies to get access to capital, share ideas and work together to solve problems,” McCarthy said.
The under secretary and Gen. James McConville, the Army’s vice chief of the staff, have overseen the growth of the command since its inception last fall. Its focus is to streamline modernization efforts to quickly get new equipment and capabilities out to Soldiers.
Under the command, Cross-Functional Teams have since stood up to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.
The fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed by the president Monday, earmarked $10.2 billion to help fund those efforts.
“The technology that we’re developing and the priorities we’re going after are all aligned in making our Army the strongest army in the world,” McConville said. “We want to make sure we have a strong Army that can deter anyone who would have other ideas.”
In long-range precision fires, for instance, the general said the Army is pursuing three levels of weapons systems. At the tactical level, the Army is developing extended range cannon artillery that will give a significant boost in range to hit targets.
A precision missile capability with a much longer range than current systems is being developed at the operational level. At the strategic level, there is a joint interest among the military services for hypersonic weapons, which can travel at speeds of Mach 5 and above.
“We’ve done good work in hypersonics and the other services have, too,” McConville said. “We’re coming together and collaborating on the best, sharing that and moving forward.”
Futures Command will also work closely with Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. The Defense Department organization, which is based in Silicon Valley and with offices in Austin, Boston and in the Pentagon, helps the U.S. military make swifter use of emerging commercial technologies.
“DIU has been great and we intend to partner with them all across the country,” McCarthy said.
The recent roundtable discussion served as a building block in establishing relationships with business leaders in Austin and elsewhere. Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, the command’s integration management officer, also attended.
In the discussion, they spoke of authorities and contracting strategies with entrepreneurs that have good ideas but are historically challenged with doing business with the military.
“A lot of it was about how to do business with each other,” McCarthy said. “In particular with entrepreneurs and small businesses, they want to get a better understanding of how you’re going to make it easier and faster to do business. They can’t afford, from a cash flow standpoint, to hang on for long sales cycles.”
The command will not only be searching for material solutions. It will also bring future warfighting concepts involving multi-domain operations into fruition, McConville said.
Wesley will lead the command’s futures and concepts sub-organization after the four-star command receives a commander. Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff for programs, G-8, has been nominated for the position, which is currently awaiting Senate confirmation.
“We’re recognizing that the future fight is really going to be contested domain warfare,” McConville said, “and we want to make sure we define that environment and how we participate in it as part of the joint fight.”
Pictured above: Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, left, talks to Shawn Victor, an electrical and computer engineering student at the University of Texas, about the automated tank Victor designed, Aug. 8, 2018. The tour of the Cockrell Engineering School was a lead up to the U.S. Army Futures Command activation later in August.